Mainstreaming National Adaptation Plans

Saleemul Huq and Mizan Khan discuss why it is imperative that National Adaptation Plans of Action be fully integrated into national development strategies.

Saleemul Huq is Director of the Climate Change Programme at the International Institute for Environment and Development, London, United Kingdom, and Chairman of the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Mizan R Khan is Chair in the Department of Environmental Studies, North South University, Dhaka, Bangladesh, and a member of the Least Developed Countries Expert Group of the UNFCCC.

The international community, through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process, has approved the preparation of National Adaptation Plans of Action (NAPAs) by the Least Developed Countries. Funding for undertaking this process will come from the Least Developed Countries Fund, established under the Framework Convention.

Human-induced climate change is regarded now as the most serious environmental problem the world over. In response to this, various measures, both for mitigating climate change and adapting to its negative impacts, are being initiated. However, the impacts and vulnerabilities resulting from climate change are not the same across different countries. The 49 Least Developed Countries would be the most affected because of an overwhelming dependence of their economies on nature, as well as their low adaptive capacity.

The Seventh Conference of the Parties, held in Marrakech, Morocco, in November 2001 (Tiempo, Issue 42, December 2001) adopted guidelines that contained the guiding elements and a set of criteria for selection and implementation of “immediate and urgent” measures, “whose further delay could increase vulnerability, or lead to increased costs at a later stage.” The consequent National Adaptation Plans of Action would be guided by, amongst others, the principles of sustainable development and complementary approaches in the national development strategies of the Least Developed Countries. Though the National Adaptation Plans of Action are meant to identify immediate and urgent needs, they should be considered as a first step in a long-term adaptation process and be fully integrated as part of any national development strategy.

Before discussing how this integration might be achieved, it should be noted that adaptation is no substitute to mitigation of climate change through committed reduction of greenhouse gases by the industrial countries. Greenhouse gas emissions, though, have significantly increased in industrial countries compared to 1990, the base year under the Kyoto Protocol. To a nation such as Bangladesh, adaptation is an option not by choice, but by compulsion, as insurance to its efforts in achieving sustainable development. Even with the envisaged mitigation as under the Kyoto Protocol, adaptation would be necessary because of the impending effects of the already accumulated greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Rationale for mainstreaming/integration

The development approach has traditionally focused on implementing projects to realize specific objectives, rather than on looking at their macro-linkage and addressing the underlying issues that improve policy frameworks and governance structures. In a similar manner, policies and institutions focusing on the short-term exploitation of natural resources, often to maximize immediate benefits, has led to maladaptation of different kinds.

Past experience also indicates, though, that adaptive capacity and resilience are closely associated with effective governance, economic well being, human and social capital, sustainable resource management and participatory disaster preparedness. So a sustainable development strategy that promotes improved governance, economic growth, poverty reduction and improved resource management is key to the adaptation to climate change.

As is well known, climate change impacts impose added stress to the vulnerabilities of the poor in terms of security of their livelihoods, health and economic opportunities. This in turn will impact the achievement of the Millennium Developments Goals. Most of the eight Millennium Development Goals, including poverty reduction and environmental sustainability, are directly affected by climate variability and change.

There is a clear need for development and poverty reduction strategies to work in concert with climate policies. The latter need to be seen not merely as an environmental, but very much as a development issue. National Adaptation Plans of Action guidelines clearly specify poverty reduction as a criteria for the selection of adaptation measures.

The ultimate goal is to ensure societal, not merely technical, adaptation through enhancing the resilience of the larger society against climate shocks. Planned adaptation also requires harmonization of sectoral goals, among which there are conflicting provisions. These aims can only be successfully achieved through Mainstreaming adaptation into the national development strategy.

How to ensure integration?

The challenge is for societies that are still weak in governance, policy, institutional and coordinating structures to integrate adaptation to climate change into national development.

Historically, societies have adopted a variety of formal and informal mechanisms to cope with the impacts of climate variability. Addressing climate change requires building on these existing mechanisms. The process must increase the adaptive capacity and resilience of people, institutions, systems and natural resources thus enabling them to cope with increased variability and the medium- to longer-term impacts of projected change.

In the context of National Adaptation Plans of Action, a roadmap can be suggested with two phases.

1. Integration during the Preparation Phase

The main tasks under the Preparation Phase for a National Adaptation Plan of Action would be as follows.

  • First, establish a National Team. The selection of members should ensure that: the team is sufficiently high profile, so that its voices are heard; the team leader or its deputy comes from the Finance or Planning Ministry, which usually has strong clout in any planning or budgetary process; the focal points of related multilateral environmental agreements are included so that coordination and synergistic implementation of measures under the multilateral environmental agreements becomes easier; and, a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment is included in the team.
  • As the National Adaptation Plan of Action guideline suggests, the process has to be based on public and community consultation, so as to ensure that all the stakeholders are engaged in the entire exercise.
  • The second step in the preparation of a National Adaptation Plan of Action is to review all national plans and policies. In the process, it should become clear whether these documents have adaptation to climate impacts as an element of action at the policy level. The Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers should contain these considerations. For example, after the devastating floods of 2000-01, Mozambique has included adaptation as a prominent element of policy and action in its Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper.
  • Coordination among national and local levels in policy planning and implementation.

2. Integration during the Implementation Phase

Two kinds of interventions are likely to facilitate the process of developing National Adaptation Plans of Action. The first are interventions to reorient policies and practices that already integrate current climate variability. For example:

  • designing and enforcing appropriate construction codes, coastal and physical structures;
  • disaster management practices to focus on ex-ante, not ex-post, coping mechanisms;
  • integrated management of land and water systems; and,
  • ensuring synergies in implementing the measures under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.

The focus of these interventions is to incorporate changes due to increased vulnerability to projected climate change impacts. Here, the emphasis should be on knowledge management based on best practices, its dissemination and institutional strengthening.

The second group of interventions focuses on filling the policy gaps to address current climate variability. Achieving this would also enhance the resilience of the poor to expected increases in vulnerability to climate change. They should include:

  • provision of (micro) insurance to cover assets, not only loan and life, of the poor so that they are able to build with micro-credit or savings against climate shocks;
  • appropriate pricing of water and other natural resources to improve their management and efficiency, as well as to ensure sustained access to these resources by the poor;
  • land management and agricultural practices that improve productivity and protect the soil and water;
  • land use planning that avoids marginalizing the poor and forcing them to live in hazard zones;
  • community-based forest management and watershed protection that improves yields, provides benefits to the poor, protects habitats and reduces flood hazards;
  • strengthening health services of the poor; and,
  • budgetary provisions for adaptation programmes and projects.

Most of these interventions are win-win options that serve immediate needs as well as contributing to long-term structural changes.

However, there are many barriers in the way, such as the lack of capacity and coordination at different levels and sectoral agencies and the lack of enabling policy and institutional structures. Removing these and other barriers is a function both of commitment and resources. For example, the institutional structure may be improved by establishing Environment Cells in each of the development ministries or agencies to ensure promotion of institutional reform, the strengthening of civil society organizations and promoting social capital.

Resources for integration

Many of these measures depend on the level of international resources, which currently is in no way sufficient. The level of overseas development assistance is now at its lowest in real terms in the last two decades. Achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 will require at least doubling the overseas development assistance, which even if committed, will only bring the level of aid to less than half a percentage of the Gross National Product of the OECD countries. This is still far below the internationally accepted goal of directing 0.7 per cent of OECD Gross National Product as overseas development assistance (see Tiempo, Issue 46, December 2002).

International financing is needed to support the Mainstreaming of climate concerns into any national development strategy.

Article 4.4 of the Climate Convention stipulates that the richer nations will assist the particularly vulnerable developing country Parties in meeting their adaptation costs. The funds so far committed to the Least Developed Country Fund, which is the main source of funding for the adaptation agenda, about US$16 million, is only enough to fund the preparation of National Adaptation Plans of Action.

What about the implementation of the National Adaptation Plans of Action, which will require much more in the way of resources from the Least Developed Countries? This is one of the most important of the questions to be addressed at the Ninth Conference of the Parties to be held in Milan, Italy, in December 2003.

Further information
Saleemul Huq, International Institute for Environment and Development, 3 Endsleigh St, London WC1H 0DD, UK. Fax: +44-20-7382826. Email: Web: www.
Mizan R Khan, Department of Environmental Studies, North South University, 12 Kemal Ataturk Ave, Banani, Dhaka 1213, Bangladesh. Email: Web: