Mainstreaming adaptation to climate change within governance systems in South Asia: An analytical framework and examples from practice - October 2017

Originally published


Executive summary

This paper focuses on the governance challenge of adapting to the impacts of climate change.
Adaptation requires a shift in how governments ‘do’ development: they now need to consider the impacts of climate change when making investment, planning and policy decisions. This idea of ‘mainstreaming’ adaptation to climate change within development is well established, but the governance dimension of this mainstreaming process is often side-lined in practice. In contexts where governance is already a challenge, the capacity to effectively adapt to climate change is particularly limited. Governments across the world are experimenting with different approaches to tackling climate change, supported by technical consultants, donors and civil society, but often with a piecemeal approach to addressing the governance dimensions.

The Action on Climate Today (ACT) programme, a UK Aid-funded programme, is focused on climateproofing growth in five South Asian countries at the national and subnational levels, and is designed to transform systems of planning and delivery for adaptation to climate change. This paper is based on lessons from the experience of ACT on strengthening governance systems to deliver adaptation.

The paper introduces a general analytical framework for mainstreaming adaptation to climate change within governance systems. This has been developed on the basis of a review of existing literature and analysis on the governance dimensions of tackling climate change, as well as experience from the ACT programme. It covers both the process of mainstreaming and the context, and is based on three dimensions that are relevant at multiple levels: 1) entry points for mainstreaming climate change into the planning and policy process; 2) the enabling environment or ‘system’ that supports mainstreaming; and 3) political economy drivers within the system.

These dimensions are then illustrated by means of a summary of the current state of play, in terms of which entry points have been leveraged, the strength of the enabling environment and some of the political economy drivers, at different governance levels: global; regional; national; subnational and local; and community. There are a number of common challenges and clear deficits in good governance of adaptation to climate change, as well as opportunities to build on best practices.
The paper then puts forward ACT experiences in supporting entry points for mainstreaming and strengthening the enabling environment at the national and subnational levels in the region. It explains how the programme is informed by, and monitors and reports on, the political economy drivers that influence success. The paper outlines whether and how the programme is operating within each dimension of the proposed governance framework, but also highlights where there are gaps and where the programme has faced challenges delivering impact.

The paper concludes by offering the climate change governance framework as a flexible and adaptive decision support tool for examining the opportunities for integrating climate change adaptation in governance processes, and key considerations necessary to achieve this.