Three Challenges in the Adaptation Process That Are Opportunities for Vertical Integration

By Mauricio Luna Rodríguez, Policy Advisor, Climate Change Adaptation Governance, NAP Global Network, IISD

While efforts are urgently needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C—a goal that is moving further from reach according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—the impacts of climate change are already intensifying across the world, with more than 3 billion people currently living in contexts that are “highly vulnerable” to climate change.  

Scaling up climate change adaptation in 2023 is therefore critical. And adaptation actions taking place at different levels, from the local to the national and international, are critical for countries to move their adaptation process from planning to implementation.  

NAP Expo is an outreach event that aims to advance the development and implementation of effective National Adaptation Plan (NAP) processes across the world. To better prepare for our event on March 29, we take a closer look at vertical integration and its contributions to the NAP process at different levels. 

Skyline of Santiago, Chile: NAP Expo is taking place in Latin America and the Caribbean region for the first time.
What is vertical integration in the NAP process?  

In a nutshell, vertical integration for climate change adaptation is the process of creating intentional and strategic linkages between local, subnational, national, transboundary, international, and global levels during the planning, implementation, and monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) of adaptation. Vertical integration is therefore involved in all stages of the adaptation process and at all levels of governance.  

In practice, vertical integration can help solve several challenges that create bottlenecks in the NAP process. While exploring three main challenges in this article, we consider how they can be turned into opportunities for vertical integration to help advance the adaptation process at different levels of governance.

Challenge and opportunity #1: Multilevel coordination   

Countries use different structures to integrate adaptation plans across levels of government. There are diverse multilevel mechanisms in place based on the type of national government (e.g., federal in Brazil or unitary in South Africa).  

Existing multilevel structures are not always prepared to address climate impacts, and there is a lack of coordination across levels due to the absence of an articulation process that connects national and subnational adaptation planning. In this context, vertical integration enables multilevel coordination as it forms connections among stakeholders that operate at different levels of governance.  

For example, the Regional Climate Change Nodes of Colombia is an adequate system, helping articulate national adaptation policies with subnational actors.

Challenge and opportunity #2: Financial flows to subnational levels 

One of the major challenges for the effective implementation of NAP processes is the insufficient mobilization of finance to subnational levels at the speed and quantity needed to scale up adaptation action. Support from international actors and national governments is needed to mobilize existing and additional funding to subnational levels from public and private sources.  

Vertical integration can facilitate budgeting processes at subnational levels that align with countries’ adaptation priorities. It can also channel additional funds from national and international sources to subnational levels in coordination with local needs and priorities.    

For example, the Eswatini Environment Fund (EEF) aims to promote environmental sustainability at the grassroots level by providing small investments in adaptation projects at the local scale in the Kingdom of Eswatini. 

Challenge and opportunity #3: Capacity of subnational stakeholders 

The capacity development of diverse actors, especially at subnational levels, is another key element to implementing adaptation actions. Increasing capacity and knowledge at the individual, institutional, and systematic levels is a priority in strengthening resilience at subnational governance levels.  

Climate change adaptation is knowledge intensive, and subnational actors do not always have the skills and capacities necessary to tackle the challenges climate adaptation presents. Vertical integration involves making resources and capacities easily accessible to a larger pool of stakeholders that operate at different levels. 

For example, as part of the NAP process, The Gambia built local capacities to integrate gender considerations and adaptation through a training of trainers targeting actors at subnational and local levels.

Summary of three main opportunities for vertical integration in the adaptation process

Related Resources: