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OPINION: How do we measure adaptation?

How do we effectively measure and enhance adaptation? Saleemul Huq, Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, looks at possible alternative answers, all of which will be further discussed at the 9th International Conference on Community Based Adaptation. 


As the amount of funding to support adaptation to climate change reaches billions of US Dollars, there is a growing interest in measuring, monitoring and evaluating adaptation to climate change.

The main challenge is whether to distinguish investments in – and results from – adaptation only, or integrate it with development. And if so, how to make the distinction between adaptation to climate change and development?

Another dimension to this line of inquiry is who is asking the question (since this often has a bearing on the answer) ? At the moment that question is being asked primarily by the providers of adaptation funding, both at global as well as national levels. Hence the paradigm of inquiry is one of “value for money” and “results based monitoring”.

Some efforts, such as the Tracking Adaptation and Measuring Development (TAMD) take a hybrid methodology of tracking adaptation funding on the inputs side while measuring development benefits on the output side.

Another aspect of the issue is the lack of completed adaptation investments, actions and projects to effectively evaluate at present. Hence for the time being a greater focus on “learning” as opposed to “evaluating” may be warranted.

Hence, for now the emphasis may be better focused on M&L  (Measuring and Learning) rather than Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E).

Another way of looking at the question is to ask who is asking it? For now the answer is primarily the providers of funding, but their’s is not the only valid perspective. For the large and rapidly growing community of practice working with the most vulnerable (and generally also the poorest) communities under the paradigm of Community Based Adaptation (CBA) there is an alternative bottom-up framing of the question which has nothing (or very little) to do with value for money. These communities are already suffering the adverse impacts of human induced climate change and are already adapting themselves. They ask the question: what are the polluters doing to to stop their pollution? The answer, unfortunately, is “not enough”.

This alternative framing of how to “measure and enhance the effectiveness of adaptation” will be the theme of the 9th International Conference on Community Based Adaptation (CBA9) to be held in Kenya from 27th to 30th April this year. It is expected that over two hundred participants will gather from around the world to share experiences and speak to the theme of measuring adaptation and produce a statement at the concluding session for the upcoming negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which is expected to lead to an agreement in Paris, France in December this year.

The message from the most vulnerable communities is that any agreement that fails to address the concerns of those most affected, will not be acceptable to the many millions of poor and vulnerable people in all countries.

For more information on CBA9 contact Saleemul Huq, IIED: and Hannah Reid

We occasionally invite bloggers from around the world to provide their experiences and views. The views expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of CDKN.

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