How can we measure our path towards adaptation to climate change?

GlobalCAD experts support Costa Rica’s Ministry of Environment and Energy and the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Policy (MIDEPLAN) to design an M&E system for its National Climate Change Adaptation Policy.

When we think of climate change, the first thing that comes to mind is usually GHG emissions and global warming. This is to a great extent because media and the public debate often concentrate on these crucial issues, especially in Europe and other industrialised subregions or countries that are responsible for most of the world’s emissions. While it is extremely relevant to take measures to mitigate climate change by reducing GHG emissions, the other side of the coin is much less present: adaptation to its consequences.

While the industrialised world is still debating how to stop global warming, countries in different parts of the world already have to cope with the effects. One example is Central America; where rising temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns are affecting agricultural production; extreme weather conditions cause damages and losses with high social, economic and environmental costs; and, rising sea levels and warmer temperature in the oceans pose threats to marine and human ecosystems. Decreasing food security and water availability in turn increase diseases and cause health problems, and finally, the huge economic losses due to infrastructure damages and the disruption of productive activities and public services hit the countries’ economies.

That is why in 2018, Costa Rica launched its National Climate Change Adaptation Policy, which contains a series of guidelines aimed at setting the right institutional framework and creating the necessary conditions for tackling these issues country wide with the adaptation lenses on. That is, understanding when and where climate change poses a threat to any social, economic or environmental dimension of Costa Rica and how it can be dealt with in a way that builds resilience in the system and takes advantage of opportunities created by the new normal.

Now, there is one big challenge: how can Costa Rica’s government know if the plan works and the country is really advancing towards reducing its vulnerability to climate change? While on the mitigation side, it is relatively easy to sum up all actions in terms of how countries reduce GHG emissions, measuring adaptation is a much more complicated thing to add up.

First of all, there is no internationally applicable indicator that could serve as a benchmark. Adaptation is a highly localized issue, as each country suffers from climate change impacts differently and needs to find specific approaches to deal with them. This is not only true at the national level, but even in different regions within a country: while one community might be faced with increasing drought and heat waves, another one might suffer from frequent inundations due to extreme rainfalls, and yet another one might need to cope with land degradation and erosion due to sea level rise.

 In addition, different sectors need to find their specific adaptation approaches: agriculture and fishing, infrastructure, tourism, health, water and sanitation, biodiversity and forestry for example are the six sectors identified in Costa Rica’s Climate Change Adaptation Policy that will be most affected by climate change and will have to play a key role in implementing adaptation measures.

In order to know how adaptation to climate change will be mainstreamed in the different sectors and in different regions of the country, and what results will be achieved in the short, medium and long term, GlobalCAD experts are currently supporting Costa Rica’s Ministry of Environment and Energy and the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Policy (MIDEPLAN) to design a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system for the Climate Change Adaptation Policy. The project is financed by the International and Ibero-American Foundation for Administration and Public Policies (FIIAPP) in the context of the EUROCLIMA+ programme and will be implemented from March to October 2019. It includes a participatory process with key actors from ministries, academia and civil society organisations.

The first step towards establishing an indicator framework was done in the week from June 10-14 where GlobalCAD experts travelled to Costa Rica to facilitate a workshop at the Climate Change Directorate (DCC) of the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) to co-create a Theory of Change (ToC) for the policy based on The Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation Methodology. An approach that helps teams be systematic about planning, implementing and monitoring their initiatives so they can learn what works, what does not work, and why — and ultimately adapt and improve their efforts.

Nina Retzlaff
Nina Retzlaff
Nina works as a program manager and senior consultant at CAD in promoting, managing, monitoring and evaluating partnerships for CSR, the base of the pyramid approaches, financial inclusion and sustainable private sector development. LinkedIn