Four Ways to Link Climate Risk Assessments With the Evaluation of National Adaptation Plan Process

By Julie Dekens, Principal Researcher, NAP Global Network, IISD

Assessing the risks of climate change impacts is an essential step in National Adaptation Plan (NAP) processes. At the NAP Global Network, we have observed that while countries are advancing the evaluation of climate risks as part of NAP processes, their experience using climate risk assessments (CRAs) to inform the evaluation of adaptation efforts at the national level is limited.

Now that countries have more experience with CRAs as well as monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) systems for national adaptation, it is time to create stronger linkages between them to ensure that they inform each other.

Repeating national CRAs over time can help identify if climate risks and their determinants—such as exposure to climate hazards and vulnerabilities—are changing, for whom, and within which sector, region, or ecosystem. This information can then be used as a basis for evaluating the effectiveness of adaptation measures in terms of understanding their impact and adequacy by exploring the following questions:

  • Why have climate change risks, exposure, and vulnerabilities changed over time (or not)?
  • How have adaptation interventions contributed to the changes (or not)?
  • Are the adaptation priorities and targets still relevant, considering the evolving context?
Linking National CRAs with the Evaluation of the NAP Process

As illustrated with the orange line, national CRA is a continuous process that occurs throughout the NAP process.

During the planning phase of the NAP process, the national CRA helps to assess the risks of climate change impacts to inform the identification and prioritization of climate adaptation measures.

During the implementation phase of the NAP process, knowledge gaps related to climate risks and vulnerabilities can be further identified. Additionally, new information and knowledge for understanding climate risks and vulnerabilities (such as new climate and socio-economic scenarios or a new definition of vulnerability) may be available.

During the monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) phase of the NAP process, national CRA can be updated to track changes in climate risks and vulnerabilities compared with the previous CRA. This information can also serve as a basis to evaluate the effectiveness of adaptation measures by assessing their contribution to the changes in climate risks and vulnerabilities. The updated national CRA will then inform the revision of prioritized adaptation measures as part of the next planning phase of the NAP process.

Four Key Avenues

In a new report Using Climate Risk Assessment to Measure Adaptation Success at the National Level, I explore the potential for national CRAs to support the evaluation of adaptation efforts by analyzing how 12 countries are undertaking (or plan to undertake) regular national CRAs as part of NAP processes: Austria, Finland, Germany, Nepal, New Zealand, Peru, Rwanda, South Africa, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Zambia.

Based on my findings from desk-based research and key informant interviews, I identified the four key avenues below that countries should use to strengthen the links between their national CRAs and the evaluation of NAP processes.

  1. Be explicit about how the national CRA will contribute to the MEL of your country’s NAP process. For example, CRAs can identify priority adaptation actions that should be tracked in countries’ MEL systems and measure changes in vulnerabilities over time, which can help to assess the effectiveness of the NAP’s implementation. Countries should explicitly clarify these links and address their implications for the design or revision of CRAs, priority adaptation actions, and MEL systems, ideally early in the development of the NAP process.

  1. Ensure that CRAs and the NAP document—two important milestones in the planning phase of the NAP process—are informing and building on one another. Ultimately, NAP documents should address the climate risks identified in the CRA, while CRAs should address the data and knowledge gaps identified in NAP documents. Both should be regularly updated based on new information and learning as part of the iterative nature of the NAP process. Importantly, strong links between the CRAs and the NAP document in the development phase of NAPs will likely facilitate links between CRAs and the MEL of national adaptation.
  1. Clarify how national adaptation priorities are expected to reduce climate risks and vulnerabilities in the short and long terms. This process could help to reinforce the link between national CRAs and NAPs. It requires the identification of well-defined adaptation objectives, targets, and outcomes—possibly by using an explicit Theory of Change for each national adaptation priority theme, sector, region, or a combination thereof, depending on the country’s approach to its NAP process. The Theory of Change would highlight how these priorities and the associated sequence of adaptation measures (or “adaptation pathways”) are expected to reduce climate risks and vulnerabilities at the national level. This process could clarify how countries think that change will happen, including what success looks like, for whom, and how to get there. It would also shed light on the country’s assumptions about risks, vulnerabilities, and adaptation and it’s underpinning values, interests, and knowledge sources (such as local, Indigenous, and academic).
  1. Consider the possibility of repeatedly using the same approach for some but not all components of a previous national CRA. To support the comparison of results over time, CRAs should follow a standardized approach. However, they also need to be flexible enough to integrate new elements when needed. For example, parts of the reporting template could be standardized to ensure that some issues are being continuously tracked despite changes in approaches and the addition of new questions. Similarly, a core section can be standardized to collect data from the same variables over time while the rest of the CRAs adapt to emerging needs and trends.

For more information and detailed findings, read the report Using Climate Risk Assessment to Measure Adaptation Success at the National Level.

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