Journal Article

IDS Bulletin Vol. 39 Nos. 4

Evaluating Climate Change: Pro?Poor Perspectives

Published on 1 September 2008

Global efforts on adaptation are likely to be significantly scaled up with considerable additional funds from Official Development Assistance (ODA), innovatory finance such as the Adaptation Fund, earmarking of emissions trading auctioning revenues, and increased flows from private foundations. The funding of adaptation and modes of delivery has been a critical area for discussion within the negotiations surrounding the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and this will continue within the Bali Action Plan and in the evolution of the post-2012 climate change agreement. As these developments take place, it will be vital to ensure that evaluation is included from the outset so that funds are spent equitably, efficiently and effectively in ways that are sustainable. We need to learn from what we have done so far.

There is as yet no agreement about how far the global community will go to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions, or how that might be achieved, and therefore how much adaptation to climate change will ultimately be necessary. Because of the causes of climate change, the key drivers for action and resources are likely to be resolved with reference to the international context, principally the UNFCCC. However, adaptation is delivered within local contexts and matters ultimately at the household level, particularly from the perspective of poverty alleviation. There is therefore a need to develop integrated frameworks for the evaluation of climate change adaptation interventions (CCAIs) from international, through national to community level.

This new interest in the evaluation of climate change can add reflection to ongoing changes within the ‘evaluation industry’ and also to support some broad innovations in development finance, which is already interacting with climate change adaptation funding. With increasing volumes of international development assistance a more coherent approach has been stimulated to deliver the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). There is also a new momentum to integrate global funding mechanisms with mainstream support to national agendas. There is a greater interest in ensuring country-led poverty reduction processes become the focus of evaluation effort and greater engagement in developing country partners. Following high-level meetings, the Paris Declaration was agreed (2005) with a set of principles to improve the harmonisation of development assistance and alignment with national development objectives. These have been adopted by the leading aid agencies which has led to increased concerns about the quality of the evidence base on what works and what does not. With commitment to development goals in the form of the MDGs and other internationally agreed development targets, there is now renewed pressure to improve the rigour of evaluation and to incorporate lessons effectively. Accompanying this trend is a move to larger scale, sector-wide thematic country level and synthesis evaluations.

At the same time, the development of new aid instruments – notably investing in Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) through direct budget support – has opened fresh challenges in assessing aid impact. In many ways, the changing context and trends in evaluation in international development can support and integrate the needs for CCAI evaluation. Evaluation is increasingly being recognised as a critical need, which requires stronger collective commitment and the use of innovative institutional partnership arrangements to share the burden of providing rigorous evaluative evidence of significant common interest.

However, analyses of the National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) by the least developed countries (LDCs), associated with the UNFCCC, have shown the challenges of integrating climate change into PRSPs (McGray et al. 2007: 34). Mainstreaming adaptation into development agendas has not yet penetrated the world of PRSPs, and there has been a general disconnection between NAPAs and PRSPs. UNFCCC workshops have identified that crucially little work has been undertaken to integrate adaptation into development plans or within existing poverty alleviation agendas (UNFCCC 2007). Therefore, moves to streamline development aid and deliver it straight into national budgets could mean that aims to account for CCAI for the poor and vulnerable may actually be more difficult to achieve and be regarded as new conditionalities. Concerns have already been expressed within the UNFCCC process that funds for climate change are new and additional to existing aid.

OECD’s Development Assistance Committee agreed a standard set of international criteria to guide all evaluations of development assistance in 1991 which are widely used. These are: relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact and sustainability.1 However, in view of the causes and outcomes of climate change, it is crucial to include equity as a fundamental criterion. Adaptation aims to reduce vulnerability to climate change shocks and stresses. However, vulnerability also depends on socioeconomic factors, which implies that any given adaptation may reduce vulnerability inconsistently across groups. Adaptation can reinforce existing inequalities, or it could be designed in such a way as to protect especially vulnerable groups. Adaptation interventions that are inequitable may well undermine the potential for welfare gains in the future, and are unsustainable.

Frameworks for evaluating the success of climate change adaptation must recognise that CCAIs occur at all scales, forcing reflection on what constitutes success at each level. Each of the following scales is relevant for developing adaptation evaluations:

  • globally and system-wide (e.g. effectiveness of global markets for risk transfer; adaptation in global commodity markets)
  • global finance delivery mechanisms (e.g. effectiveness of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) adaptation funds or the Adaptation Fund in promoting adaptation)
  • national scales (e.g. efficacy of legislative and institutional arrangements)
  • across adaptation policies and programmes (e.g. implementation framework for NAPAs or programme-wide mechanisms like the Department for International Development (DFID)/International Development Research Centre (IDRC) Climate Change Adaptation in Africa programme)
  • at the community-based project level (e.g. effectiveness of adaptation interventions on household vulnerability reduction)

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This article comes from the IDS Bulletin 39.4 (2008) Evaluating Climate Change: Pro‐Poor Perspectives

Cite this publication

Hedger, M., Greeley, M. and Leavy, J. (2008) Evaluating Climate Change: Pro?Poor Perspectives. IDS Bulletin 39(4): 75-80


Martin Greeley

Research Fellow

Merylyn Hedger
Jennifer Leavy

Publication details

published by
Institute of Development Studies


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