How do we measure adaptation?

How do we effectively measure and enhance adaptation? Saleemul Huq looks at some possible answers, all of which will be discussed at the 9th International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation (CBA).

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11 March 2015

Saleemul Huq is senior fellow in IIED's Climate Change Group, and director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD)

Ruth Nguli looks at her crop of drought-tolerant beans in Makueni County, Kenya. Developing and sharing climate-smart farming techniques can help communities adapt to climate changes (Photo: Cecilia Schubert/CCAFS, Creative Commons via Flickr)

As the amount of funding to support adaptation to climate change reaches billions of US Dollars, there is a growing interest in measuring, monitoring and evaluating adaptation to climate change.

The main challenge is whether to distinguish investments in – and results from – adaptation only, or integrate adaptation with development. And if so, how do we make the distinction between adaptation to climate change and development?

Watch Saleemul Huq discussing climate change adaptation in the video below or see it on IIED's YouTube channel:

Who is asking?

Another dimension to this line of enquiry is who is asking the question (since this often has a bearing on the answer)? At the moment that question is being asked primarily by the providers of adaptation funding, both at global as well as national levels. This means that the paradigm of inquiry is one of “value for money" and "results based monitoring".

Some efforts, such as the Tracking Adaptation and Measuring Development (TAMD) framework take a hybrid methodology of tracking adaptation funding on the inputs side, while measuring development benefits on the output side.

Another aspect of the issue is the lack of completed adaptation investments, actions and projects to effectively evaluate at present. 

As a result, for now, the emphasis may be better focused on M&L (measuring and learning) rather than monitoring and evaluation (M&E).

The perspective of the providers of funding is not the only one, however. For the large and rapidly growing community of practice working with the most vulnerable (and generally also the poorest) communities under the paradigm of Community-Based Adaptation (CBA) there is an alternative bottom-up framing of the question which has nothing (or very little) to do with value for money.

These communities are already suffering the adverse impacts of human induced climate change and are already adapting themselves. They ask the question: what are the polluters doing to to stop their pollution? The answer, unfortunately, is "not enough".

CBA9 conference

This alternative framing of how to measure and enhance the effectiveness of adaptation will be the theme of CBA9 which is being held in Kenya from 24-30 April 2015.

More than 200 participants are expected to gather from around the world to share experiences and speak to the theme of measuring adaptation and produce a statement at the concluding session for the upcoming negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is expected to lead to an agreement in Paris, France in December this year.

The message from the most vulnerable communities is that any agreement that fails to address the concerns of those most affected, will not be acceptable to the many millions of poor and vulnerable people in all countries.

More about CBA9: 
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Saleemul Huq ( is senior fellow in IIED's Climate Change Group, and the director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD). This blog first appeared on the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) website.

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