Framing and tracking 21st century climate adaptation: Monitoring, evaluation and learning for Paris, the SDGs and beyond

Evaluation and Lessons Learned
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Climate adaptation monitoring, evaluation and learning systems, or CAMELS, can help to frame and inform countries’ adaptation planning, design, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and learning, and support reporting at the global level.

We have created a framework for developing CAMELS based on the adaptation principles embodied in Article 7 of the Paris Agreement, viewed through the lens of relevance, quality, effectiveness and adequacy. The approach used ensures that adaptation addresses the potential magnitude of warming, and that adaptation actions are linked to specific risks, impacts and needs. It also ensures that adaptation is inclusive and transparent, is based on sound data and methods, and actively supports development needs, priorities and goals.

The Paris Agreement explicitly frames adaptation in terms of a set of actions required to address the impacts of a 1.5–2°C global warming relative to the pre-industrial period.

Warming of 1.5°C is likely before 2040, possibly as early as 2030. A 2°C warming is likely by the 2040s or 2050s in the absence of strong emissions reductions in the very near term — something not currently on the horizon.

In the near to medium term, countries will need to adapt to a warming of 1.5–2°C while simultaneously delivering and securing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and implementing their immediate successors.
Supporting the delivery of the SDGs and wider development goals should be a key aim of adaptation.
In the medium to longer term, countries should be planning for a warming of 3°C. This is likely to occur by the 2060s or 2070s based on current policy trajectories and the lack of adequate action to mitigate emissions.
A warming of 4°C or more as a result of direct unmitigated anthropogenic emissions would require a high reliance on coal after 2050, which may be unrealistic. However, a warming in excess of 4°C before 2100 is a distinct possibility under weak-to-moderate mitigation regimes, as a result of feedback mechanisms associated with tipping points in the climate system.

We recommend a phased approach to adaptation that addresses the Paris mitigation and adaptation goals while planning for warming significantly in excess of 2°C. ‘Paris-compliant’ adaptation actions to address a warming of 1.5–2°C must be compatible with the actions needed to address a subsequent warming of 3°C or more and must avoid locking in ‘maladaptation’ that creates obstacles to further adaptation and exacerbates risks beyond 2°C of warming. Countries need to move beyond generalised vulnerability reduction and resilience building (although these are important activities) and pursue adaptation in relation to the impacts of specific levels of warming over specific timescales.

Current incremental approaches to adaptation seek to preserve existing systems and practices at their current locations. Over time, these are increasingly likely to give way to transformational approaches. This will involve fundamentally altering or replacing systems and practices that are no longer viable in the face of larger climatic and environmental changes.

Article 7 of the Paris Agreement provides us with six principles for designing and implementing adaptation actions and processes. These can be made more robust when they are mapped to the criteria of relevance, quality, effectiveness and adequacy, and viewed in light of likely rates and levels of global warming and their potential impacts.

Countries will need to track their adaptation activities to determine what does and does not work, identify good practice, and capture lessons that can inform subsequent adaptation planning, design and implementation. They will also need to report on their adaptation activities at the global level through the mechanisms emerging from the Paris Agreement and the Katowice climate package for implementing the Agreement. Guidance for reporting on adaptation under the Paris Agreement’s Enhanced Transparency Framework (ETF) for climate action identifies eight information areas on which countries should report.

Integrating the Article 7 adaptation principles, the criteria of relevance, quality, effectiveness and adequacy, and the ETF information areas provides us with a framework for planning, designing, implementing and tracking adaptation.

Based on this framework, we propose a model for developing climate adaptation monitoring, evaluation and learning systems, or CAMELS, which can support countries in (i) designing and implementing appropriate adaptation responses, (ii) tracking their effectiveness and delivering valuable learning, and (iii) reporting on their adaptation activities through global mechanisms, principally the ETF.
CAMELS should perform seven key functions:

  1. Validate the climate-risk and adaptation needs assessments on which adaptation actions are based, ensuring that these address actual and likely vulnerabilities, risks and impacts associated with projected levels of warming

  2. Assure the quality of adaptation actions to confirm they are relevant to and adequate for risks and needs, support the most vulnerable, are gender sensitive, are grounded in relevant science and knowledge, and are sufficiently inclusive, participatory and transparent

  3. Track adaptation implementation to ensure that outputs are being delivered as intended, that quality is maintained throughout implementation and that lessons from implementation are captured

  4. Monitor and evaluate adaptation actions to track their effectiveness in reducing vulnerability and building resilience at the outcome level and deliver development benefits in the face of climate change at the impact level

  5. Assess the impacts of adaptation on development performance by explicitly examining the effectiveness of adaptation in supporting delivery of the SDGs and other development goals

  6. Capture lessons and identify good practice, including what works and what does not, how to ensure that adaptation benefits women, the most vulnerable and the marginalised, and the most effective ways of supporting/delivering adaptation, and

  7. Disseminate information and learning horizontally and vertically within a country to inform policy, planning and programming and via international mechanisms, such as the ETF.

Based on these seven functions, and taking into account the Article 7 principles, the ETF information areas, the four criteria (relevance, quality, effectiveness, adequacy) and the scientific context of likely future warming under different scenarios, we present a template for the development and assessment of CAMELS. It addresses each of the Article 7 principles through a few questions on each of the seven key functions.

A review of existing and emerging national adaptation monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) systems reveals a diversity of starting points and pathways for developing CAMELS. The framework and template presented here are intended to be sufficiently flexible to accommodate this diversity, while ensuring national-level consistency that will facilitate coherent reporting at the global level. The framework and template are intended to support countries in developing nationally appropriate MEL systems that help them address emerging and projected climate-change risks and impacts associated with warming beyond the Paris temperature thresholds.