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Pathways to a greener, more resilient recovery

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As we rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic, enhanced climate governance will protect our people and our planet from future shocks

“As the world responds to one crisis, we cannot let another crisis worsen… Climate change will continue to threaten the lives and livelihoods of our people after the pandemic has ended. Even during the pandemic, climate change continues to threaten the health and safety of our people in the Least Developed Countries.” - Mr. Sonam P. Wangdi, Secretary of the National Environment Commission of the Kingdom of Bhutan and Chair of the Least Developed Countries Group under UNFCCC.

COVID-19 has disrupted billions of lives and endangered the global economy. This is the deepest global recession since World War II, and the broadest collapse in per capita incomes since 1870. We are likely to see a $9 trillion cost to the global economy over the next two years, and a global loss of the equivalent of 400 million jobs. Sixty million more people will be pushed into extreme poverty, and hunger and famine will reach historic proportions. Two thirds of the SDGs are now under threat or may not be met.

To build back greener from the unprecedented impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, UNDP and its partners are enhancing support for climate governance across a network of interconnected programmes. Adaptation and building resilience is at the heart of these programmes, which focus on Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement (NDCs), National Adaptation Plans (NAPs), and integrated initiatives that cut across the realms of forestry, energy, environment and oceans. This focus on resilience is insulating vulnerable communities from the interconnected shocks of climate change and COVID-19, and rebuilding a pathway to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.


Progress on the local, national, regional and global level is well underway. Over the past 12 years, UNDP has supported countries all around the world to develop their adaptation plans at local, sectoral and national levels for immediate needs. In addition, over the past five years, 75 countries have advanced their National Adaptation Plans processes, providing a new generation of medium to long-term adaptation planning.

This work has resulted in the creation and mainstreaming of over 670 adaptation plans and over 200 inter-institutional mechanisms at national and local levels. The programmes have trained over 35,000 people in countries that often have limited capacity, limited resources, and myriad competing issues to deal with – not the least of which is a global pandemic.

Much of UNDP’s support for NAPs are made possible through the GEF-funded joint-UNDP/UN Environment NAP-Global Support Programme (NAP-GSP) and the Germany-funded joint FAO-UNDP Integrating Agriculture in National Adaptation Plans programme (NAP-Ag). Through the Green Climate Fund readiness window, UNDP is supporting over 20 countries at the national level to advance their NAPs.

“Nepal’s NAP process has a unique feature that emphasizes inclusiveness, to ensure no one sector is left behind… Climate action needs to start at the grassroots level, but there is a bottleneck: researchers and policy makers don’t speak the same language as grassroots organizations.” - Ajay Mathema, School of Environmental Science and Management at the Pokhara University in Nepal.

Nearly half of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement include mention of NAPs. Building strong institutions, policies and partnerships to plan for climate change will support increased ambition and cohesion of Nationally Determined Contributions. It’s a central spoke that drives the wheels of change and will help nations to recover from the current humanitarian catastrophe that has truly affected every person on the planet, while putting environmental and climate planning front and center of economic recovery plans.

“As the governments respond and make plans for recovery, it’s a prime opportunity for ambitious climate change action to guide those recovery processes in order to see a zero carbon, sustainable and just transition to a safer future for all. To make societies and economies more resilient, LDCs could benefit from investing in improved conditions for workers and get industries on the path to de-carbonization, clean energy, green jobs and sustainable climate-resilient investments.” Mr. Sonam P. Wangdi.


Still recovering from civil war and Ebola, and the onset of COVID-19 and all it brings with it, the Government of Liberia was among the first to build more effective climate governance through National Adaptation Plans.

“Improved planning through the National Adaptation Plans will promote coordination and synergies amongst the various interventions, and enhance the availability of capacity and knowledge for scaling up adaptation in the medium to long term.” - Madam Anyaa Vohiri, (RT) Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Liberia.

Financed through the Green Climate Fund, this work safeguards national assets, sectors and resources against the adverse impacts of climate change and disaster.

Taken from a 50,000-foot perspective, these well-laid plans create the enabling environment needed to successfully roll out larger climate actions, such as the Global Environment Facility-financed Coastal Defense Project, which will support 80,000 coastal dwellers in building climate resilient lives and livelihoods.


The German Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) through its International Climate Initiative (IKI) has funded a new 5-year joint programme with UNDP and FAO called Scaling up Climate Ambition on Land Use and Agriculture through Nationally Determined Contributions and National Adaptation Plans (SCALA). With a tailored lens on climate ambition in agriculture, SCALA will support 12 countries to develop, lead and meet their own targets set out in their National Adaptation Plans and Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement, and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

In Asia, with the support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) – and working in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) – UNDP is investing in building the resilience of health systems. This will enhance the capacities of ministries and communities to cope with climate change and scale-up support to address the co-vulnerabilities of these dual crises.


According to its 2019 Annual Report, 40 percent of UNDP’s global portfolio is invested in governance. Sectoral integration across agriculture, food security, energy and more will crowd-in resources, know-how and inputs to create holistic solutions and advance adaptation planning processes and the impact they can have on long-term climate and environmental actions.

Supporting countries with the NDC process. UNDP’s NDC Support Programme began in 2017, building off the success of a similar programme that supported countries prepare and develop their Intended NDCs ahead of the COP21 in Paris. The programme works directly with 39 countries across the globe, offering support across five key themes: (1) leadership; (2) integrated governance; (3) NDC actions; (4) climate finance; (5) and private sector engagement. All of these focus areas help strengthen countries’ climate plans enabling them to become more resilient to the changes taking place around us. For example, in Costa Rica, UNDP supported the Climate Change Office to develop the National Decarbonization Plan. This long-term strategy to 2050 recognizes decarbonization and resilience as twin means to transform the current economic development model into one based on a bio-economy, green growth, inclusion and the enhanced well-being of all citizens. The programme is funded by the EU, Germany and Spain in partnership with NDC Partnership. Learn more about programme partners and supporters.

Renewable energy is critical for climate action. That's why boosting the energy transition and access to clean energy is at the heart of many countries’ national climate targets. In the COVID-19 recovery, renewable energy is key to building back greener and healthier and creating jobs amid the global economic downturn. UNDP is uniquely positioned to help countries achieve their ambitious renewable energy goals. Our work focuses on de-risking renewable energy investments in order to create an enabling policy environment for scaling up renewables – from strengthening the national grid in Mauritius with batteries to providing clean energy to remote communities through mini-grids in Bangladesh and supporting the shift to e-mobility in Egypt. The Climate Investment Platform, a joint initiative between UNDP, IRENA, SEforALL, and the GCF, helps to connect countries to the climate finance solutions they need to adequately fund their energy transition.

UNDP Climate Promise. Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, ambitious climate pledges are key to ensure a safe, sustainable recovery. The Climate Promise is the world’s largest offer on supporting countries to enhance their climate pledges. In collaboration with partners, UNDP provides support in five key technical areas to help countries take bold action to reduce their emissions, increase their resilience to climate impacts and support sustainable development priorities. UNDP has agreed on Climate Promise workplans with over 110 countries already.

Urban Resilience planning is a rapidly growing area of work as urban migration due to climate change is occurring across the globe. Urban resilience planning creates opportunities for cities to implement the New Urban Agenda.

Our ocean serves as a gigantic highway. Over 80 percent of global trade is carried out by sea. As a result, international shipping is a large and growing source of carbon emissions accounting for about 940 million tonnes of CO2 annually. Together with the International Maritime Organization and the Global Environment Facility, UNDP is helping to reduce the global shipping sector’s carbon footprint by improving vessels’ energy efficiency. The GloFouling Partnership tackles the problem of biofouling – the accumulation of microorganisms, algae, plants and animals on ships’ hulls – to reduce friction and thereby improve energy efficiency by as much as 10-20 percent. The recently completed Global Maritime Energy Efficiency Partnership, another partnership between the GEF, UNDP and IMO, supported ten pilot countries in implementing energy efficiency measures for the shipping industry. Both projects established Global Industry Alliances (GIA) which engaged the private sector in finding and sharing solutions to each of these challenges.

Small Grants Programme. As a trusted partner of local communities, the GEF-financed Small Grants Programme- SGP implemented by UNDP, brings the voices of local communities and indigenous peoples to national and regional dialogues on climate change, where they can raise their concerns, participate in larger-scale initiatives and share their invaluable traditional knowledge. Through its portfolio of low-cost bottom-up energy solutions, SGP supports the implementation of NDCs, builds infrastructure at the community level, and addresses the needs of rural, urban and remote communities; while also increasing resilience, reducing poverty, enhancing gender equality and achieving the sustainable development goals. SGP is grounded in the belief that the engagement of non-governmental actors – including civil society, youth, media, private sector, indigenous people and others – is critical to galvanizing support for more ambitious climate action by inspiring local action and pressing governments to act.

Climate & Forests. Deforestation and forest degradation account for more than 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. It is now clear that the stabilization of global temperatures cannot be achieved without reducing emissions from the forest sector. In fact, land use and forests provide a quarter of all emission reductions planned by countries in their NDCs. Through its Climate and Forests Programme, UNDP works with a range of partners, including the UN-REDD Programme, the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, the Green Climate Fund, the Central African Forest Initiative, and the Governors' Climate and Forest Task Force, to support countries and jurisdictions to put in place the institutional arrangements, policies, and measures to reduce emissions and enhance carbon stocks from the forest sector, while at the same time advancing equitable low-carbon development paths.


Global Commission for Adaptation. The UNDP contributes to the finance, locally led action and agriculture and food security tracks of the GCA with over 50 partners, building on its work to support countries’ capacities to plan and implement adaptation actions and to build a strong evidence base for adaptation.

African Adaptation Initiative. With a EUR1 million in new funding from the European Union, the grant will be implemented by UNDP and will work with countries in Africa to expand their knowledge base that will better inform climate change adaptation initiatives.