Article / 06 Nov, 2017
Adaptation Fund at 10 Years: Pioneering Action, Innovation and Learning

Ms. Matu Gwala, a small-scale South African farmer in the village of Swayimane, saw her crop production fall in recent years due to unpredictable and heavy rainfalls, droughts and pest problems associated with climate change.

With support from a project funded by the Adaptation Fund through the South African Biodiversity Institute, she integrated climate-smart farming techniques and maize seeds that improved production and earned enough to cover her children’s school fees. Meanwhile a fellow villager, Mr. Joseph Ncube, increased his maize and bean production through the same project after learning to use night mist to grow crops.

Across the globe in the Cook Islands, local youth are replanting 10,000 native trees to protect the coastline from disasters due to climate change, as well as turtle nesting sites that are at risk. It is part of a community-driven Adaptation Fund project implemented by the World Bank to enhance water and food security across 11 outer islands.

A couple of oceans away in Jamaica, Mr. Alton Hall has learned land use management techniques through another Adaptation Fund project implemented by the Planning Institute of Jamaica that transformed his once parched, fallow fields into lush, green cultivation and earned him competitive returns to support his family. “I love it because this is something we as farmers needed for years now,” he said. “It helped us a lot as young farmers. There are not a lot of farmers who can buy a bag of fertilizer or a tin of onions, so this programme has been a help to us.”

These are just a few examples of the heart of the Adaptation Fund’s work – funding concrete, localized projects that help the most vulnerable communities in developing countries adapt and build resilience to climate change.

Since its operations were launched 10 years ago, the Fund has allocated more than US$ 460 million to 70 concrete projects in 58 countries -- directly benefiting nearly 5.5 million people. Many of these projects are breaking ground in adaptation and producing invaluable experiences that can be replicated or scaled up by others, which has already happened in several instances including in Pakistan and Maldives. Senegal’s Centre de Suivi Ecologique and Morocco’s Agency for the Development of Agriculture have also designed larger projects with other resources following experiences with the Adaptation Fund in which they innovated new adaptation actions.

In addition to its concrete projects that produce tangible results, the Fund pioneered a climate finance modality called Direct Access, which continues to serve as a model in empowering developing countries to build their own capacities to adapt to climate change. Accredited National Implementing Entities (NIEs) have the opportunity in these cases to design projects and access funds directly. With the accreditation of Tanzania’s National Environment Management Council in October, the Fund now has 26 NIEs with the capacity to design and carry out adaptation projects in their own countries (including 42% in small island developing states or least developed countries) and a growing network that shares its lessons, best practices and experiences.

Since the Fund was created in a decision by the UNFCCC’s 7th Conference of Parties in 2001 and its Board and structure established by the 3rd Meeting of the Conference of Parties Serving as the Meeting of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol in 2007, it has clearly delivered. In fact, an independent evaluation showed it to be efficient, effective and relevant.

It has adopted forward-thinking environmental and social policies that foster human rights, gender equality, vulnerable groups and biodiversity conservation, which have been singled out as a potential model for a similar mechanism in the Paris Agreement.

It has received high marks for its transparency in ensuring local stakeholders, civil society, communities and countries take ownership of projects.

At its meeting in October, the Board affirmed and strengthened the Fund’s strategic pillars emphasizing Action, Innovation, and Learning and Sharing, and took concrete steps to enhance coordination and complementarity with the Green Climate Fund.

As adaptation needs have grown with rising seas, increasing floods, droughts and intense storms, demand for the Adaptation Fund has risen rapidly with record numbers of proposals received the last couple of years.

This year alone the Fund received 54 funding proposals totaling over US$ 350 million, a one-third increase from the previous year. In March, the Fund approved a record US$ 60.3 million in new project funding.

With a strong project pipeline and a highly functioning and flexible structure that adapts to country needs, the Fund is growing and well-positioned to continue to deliver positive results.

“As we look back on 10 years, the Adaptation Fund has not only produced many valuable experiences from its concrete projects, but helped build national capacities to adapt to climate change from the ground up involving local actors, stakeholders and the most vulnerable,” said Adaptation Fund Board Chair Michael Kracht. “We hope to continue to build on this important work for many years to come and reach many more vulnerable communities with urgently needed adaptation solutions.”

The Fund has additionally gained strong support and momentum at the last two UN climate change conferences, where Parties decided initially in Paris that the Fund ‘may’ serve the Paris Agreement and later in Morocco that it ‘should’ serve it – pending final decisions that address governance, institutional arrangements, safeguards and operating modalities.

At the same time, the Fund nearly reached or surpassed its yearly resource mobilization goals in both 2015 and 2016.  

However, as the high demand for the Fund shows – it raised US$ 81.4 million in 2016 but approved US$ 104.6 million in new projects during the following year – it is imperative that its financial sustainability is secured.

The Fund initially relied on an innovative market mechanism that produced steady revenue through the sale of Certified Emission Reduction credits for adaptation, however that has slowed to a trickle since the carbon market dropped in 2011-2012 and the Fund has since increasingly depended on generous developed country government contributions.

The Adaptation Fund is already serving to operationalize the Paris Agreement by contributing to close the global adaptation gap through continuing to fund its portfolio of adaptation projects, so a final decision to formalize this would confirm and welcome the value of the Fund’s concrete actions to the most vulnerable.

The Adaptation Fund Board also approved three new projects in small island developing states (SIDS) in October to enhance resilience to climate change and disasters among vulnerable communities in Fiji and the Solomon Islands and another to scale up climate-smart agriculture in Guinea-Bissau. It has supported 17 SIDS countries to date. With Fiji serving as the COP 23 Presidency and a special focus on SIDS and countries that are highly vulnerable to climate change, it is only fitting that the Fund’s 10th anniversary will take place in Bonn during the time of the conference.

The Adaptation Fund will have an active presence at COP23, including a November 9 side event on applying environmental and social principles to projects, a photo and anniversary exhibit, and special 10th anniversary event on November 16th. Please visit the Fund’s COP23 website for a full list of the Fund’s goals and activities at the conference, and its 10th anniversary site for more information.