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Adaptation to climate change is vital in order to build resilience to, and reduce the impacts of climate change that are starting to happen now, and are predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to increase. Adaptation is one of the five key building blocks – together with shared vision, mitigation, technology and financial resources – needed for a strengthened future response to climate change.

The Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are most at risk from climate change, yet least able to cope with its effects. National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) were instituted as a means for LDCs to identify priority activities that respond to their urgent needs regarding  adaptation to climate change, and are seen as the basis for future adaptation.

NAPA Preparation and Implementation

The process of preparing and implementing NAPAs involves many stakeholders, and results in many proposed priority activities and projects. With this in mind, a NAPA Project Database was created last year on the UNFCCC website in order to facilitate the development of project proposals for implementation.

The steps involved in preparing NAPAs include assessing vulnerability to current climate variability and extreme events, identifying key adaptation measures and selecting a prioritized shortlist of activities.

After completion, the NAPA is submitted to the UNFCCC secretariat, and the LDC Party becomes eligible to apply for funding to implement the NAPA under the Least Developed Countries Fund, which is managed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

The LDC Party  requests an implementing agency of the GEF (currently there are 10 of them), to assist it in submitting a proposal for funding. The GEF agency works with the country to develop the concept into a full project. The agency works very closely with the country during each successive step, and ultimately supports the country in implementing the project.

The Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG) will soon publish a step-by-step guidebook describing the NAPA implementation process that will be used in regional training workshops on NAPA implementation. The first of these will take place in Tanzania from 19-23 October 2009.


It is encouraging that many countries are now moving into the implementation phase with their NAPAs, yet the issue of how to successfully match programmes and funding remains a challenge. Current climate agreements do not provide binding commitments for adaptation funding.

Funds available for adaptation through the GEF are relatively small, have been disbursed slowly, and will need to be increased substantially to make any meaningful contribution to climate change adaptation in developing countries.

Country examples:


Like other Least Developed Countries, Samoa is highly vulnerable to natural disasters.

The extreme events of tropical cyclones Ofa (1990) and Val (1991) caused damage with costs estimated at  approximately four times the gross domestic product (GDP) of Samoa. In the drought season, there are increasing risks of forest fires, which is particularly damaging since  forests play an important role in watershed management and environmental protection. Samoa experienced four major forest fires during the drought/dry periods of 1982-83, 1997-98, 2001-02 and 2002-03.

Climate change and rising sea levels are also serious concerns given that 70% of Samoa’s population and infrastructure are located in low-lying coastal areas.

The main objectives of Samoa’s NAPA are to implement immediate and urgent project-based activities to adapt to climate change; to protect people’s life and livelihoods; and to increase awareness of climate change impacts and adaptation activities. Its NAPA projects address six main areas: food security; early warning and disaster management; health; infrastructure; terrestrial ecosystems and water resources.

Samoa is an example of an LDC that managed to navigate the funding process in a relatively short space of time and has now begun implementing projects on the ground.


Benin has scarce water resources and a high incidence of climate-related diseases such as malaria. Climate change has a particularly strong impact on the country’s key sector, which is agriculture.

Among Benin’s urgent adaptation needs are: adapting agricultural production systems for food security; managing water resources; protecting the coastal zone from rising sea levels; and promoting renewable energy and the use of energy-saving stoves.

Benin’s NAPA projects address coastal and marine ecosystems, water resources, health and capacity-building. Its experience with the NAPA process has been fairly positive, with Its NAPA on the verge of implementation after twelve months.

Attendance at various regional and sub-regional workshops organized by the UNFCCC secretariat and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), as well as different sides events organized by the GEF, played a role in familiarizing Benin’s representatives  with the process of mobilizing the Least Developed Countries Fund. However, it would welcome improved and direct access to GEF funds through a simplified institutional framework.

 Benin is in the process of drawing up a national climate change strategy that includes the outcomes of its NAPA. 


Cambodia completed its NAPA in March 2007. Cambodia's NAPA consists of 39 proposed projects, of which 20 are high priority. They address key sectors such as agriculture, water resources, coastal zones and human health.

In recent years, the country has witnessed more frequent and severe floods and droughts, which have resulted in a significant number of fatalities and considerable economic losses.

Floods accounted for 70% of rice production losses between 1998 and 2002, while drought accounted for 20% of losses. Low-lying areas along the 435-km coastline, including settlements, beach resorts, seaports and mangroves forests, are in danger of becoming submerged as a result of rising sea levels.

In addition, climate change may exacerbate vector-borne diseases such as malaria. With some 800 deaths per year, Cambodia already has the highest fatality rate from malaria in Asia.

NAPA project examples include: the construction of community water reservoirs; improvement of community irrigation systems; construction of dikes and flood protection structures; and education about malaria.

One planned adaptation project on integrating water resources planning into agricultural development is about to enter the LDCF GEF Project pipeline. Another project proposal in the coastal zone is under preparation for potential funding from the LDCF. A number of small-scale projects on Water Resource Management to Adapt to Climate Change have been implemented under the UNDP/GEF Small Grant Programme.

The country’s experience so far has been that donors are more focused on mitigation, although some signs are emerging that they are beginning to pay more attention to adaptation. Cambodia is nevertheless concerned that its NAPA will remain a largely theoretical exercise unless donors commit to meaningful funding for adaptation activities in the country. 

Hopes for Copenhagen

The Least Developed Countries will be hoping for significant progress on adaptation at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December. This includes more concrete funding commitments by Annex-1 parties  for adaptation activities, especially for NAPA implementation, as well as improved access to funds.

The LDCs also hope that the lessons they have learned in preparing and implementing adaptation through the NAPA will inform plans for adaptation in future, and that any new adaptation planning processes will build on the strong basis of the NAPAs. In order to curtail the amount of adaptation needed in the future, they are also hoping that industrialized countries will take the lead in making a stronger and time-bound commitment to  deep emission cuts.

For more information on NAPAs and LDCs, click here.