Building Resilience Together: UNDP Climate Change Adaptation Impact

Intiqab Rawoof

June 9, 2022


As the world grapples with the climate crisis, UNDP and our strategic partners are supporting vulnerable nations to adapt to the life-threatening impacts of climate change.

The climate crisis could drive an additional 120 million people into poverty by 2030. That’s 120 million men, women and children left behind, 120 million dreams dashed, 120 million more people caught in never-ending traps of displacement, hunger, conflict and inequality.

According to the recent IPCC Report, over 3 billion people are highly vulnerable to climate change. Africa and Small Islands in particular are facing relatively severe challenges.

There is a rapidly narrowing window of opportunity to enable climate-resilient development, achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and reach the targets outlined in the Paris Agreement.

“UNDP’s forward-looking strategy is to accelerate climate action by building the coalitions necessary for transformative change at national, regional and global levels, and assisting countries and communities to invest in adaptation priorities including through access to various sources of climate finance. We need to accelerate adaptation action, leaving no one behind, by engaging civil society, NGOs, women, youth, and vulnerable and marginalized communities, building on science and data to inform policy and investments, catalyzing local knowledge, technologies, and innovations, and leveraging partnerships across the public and private sectors.” – Srilata Kammila, Head Climate Change Adaptation, UNDP.

Building resilience together
Over the past two decades, UNDP has supported developing countries, including Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States to implement their adaptation priorities – from enhancing food security, to increasing the protection of ecosystems, to rolling-out vital early warning systems.

Since 2002 UNDP has successfully completed 157 adaptation projects across 75 countries. Through these efforts, UNDP has supported vulnerable countries in accessing more than $562 million in international finance and leveraging an additional $2.2 billion from partners.

Two decades of impact

  • Through 100 completed projects over 23 million people total have benefited from climate information and early warning systems interventions. That’s more than the total population of Belgium and Bolivia combined.
  • Through 75 completed projects more than 15 million people across 50+ countries have benefited from enhanced food security and climate-smart agricultural practices.
  • Over 1.3 million smallholder farmers have benefited from improved access to agricultural practices with over 103,000 hectares of land brought under improved agricultural practices and 470 farms established.
  • More than 700,000 people have experienced an average increase in their incomes through UNDP-supported climate change adaptation initiatives.
  • Through the coastal resilience and water projects undertaken to date over 1.6 million hectares of land and 74,000 ha of marine land has been made resilient to climate shocks – that’s bigger than Brunei and Gambia combined. In addition, more than 8,700 km of coastline has improved its resilience, and over a quarter of a million people have increased access to water.
  • Institutional mainstreaming and planning. Over 300 National/Sectoral plans are being formulated and institutional mechanisms have been established. Together with UN Environment with the financial contribution of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), UNDP supported 28 LDCs in navigating their national adaptation planning process. UNDP has also facilitated access to financing. 20 LDCs have been supported in accessing the GCF NAP readiness and 7 in accessing the GEF LDCF.
  • Over 96% of the 120 developing countries that UNDP has supported with its Climate Promise have enhanced their adaptation ambitions in their Paris Agreement pledges. The countries have increasingly embedded their adaptation priorities in NDCs pointing to the issues of food, water and nutrition security, safeguarding economic assets from extreme climate events and disasters, and protection and regeneration of natural capital.

Scaling-up ambition
Now is the time to take that impact to scale. UNDP’s current climate change adaptation portfolio has facilitated access to over $1.6 billion in resources from the vertical funds including the Adaptation FundGreen Climate Fund and Global Environment Facility, along with bilateral donors. An additional $3.8 billion is being leveraged from partners, allowing us to build resilience for a total of 126 million people.

  • 26 million. Will increase access to climate information and early warning systems. In Malawi, UNDP supports participatory climate services, advanced lightning detection, solar-powered weather stations and other advanced technologies to protect lives and build resilience through the M-Climes Project financed by the GCF. 
  • 6.2 million. Will enhance food security through climate smart agricultural practices. In Zambia, UNDP has partnered with FAO and WFP through a GCF-financed project to help farmers in 16 districts across five provinces to cope better with climate change threats through the use of modern technology, sustainable growing techniques, and better understanding of climate change. Since the project was launched in February 2019, over 170,000 small-scale farmers have become involved.  
  • 4.8 million. Will benefit from increased incomes. In Ghana, alternative livelihoods are helping women to become agents of change and build climate resilience through an Adaptation Fund-financed project supported by UNDP. In all, over 11,000 direct beneficiaries (60% women) were introduced to climate change adaptation activities through the project. These new income-generating activities included fish farming, dry season gardening, and honey production, among others.
  • 2.4 million. Will have increased access to water. In the Maldives, the GCF-financed “Supporting Vulnerable Communities in Maldives to Manage Climate Change-Induced Water Shortages” project targets 49 islands across of 13 atolls of the country that continue to experience water shortages. The project aims to provide safe and reliable freshwater to 105,000 people, roughly 30% of the island nation’s residents. Under the project, a 90-day reserve of clean water will be secured, reducing the exposure to health risks from untreated water.
  • Targeted ecosystems, habitat, land and coastal benefits. Over 850,000 hectares of agricultural land will be brought under resilient practices, 1.4 million hectares of land will be restored or reforested, over 2.2 million hectares of habitats/ecosystems/lands and over 100,000 hectares of marine habitat will be made more resilient, and over 14,000 km of coastlines will be made more resilient. When you look at scale, 1.4 million hectares is about the size of Timor-Leste. The coastal impact is roughly the length of the coastlines of India and Turkey combined. In Cuba, UNDP is supporting ecosystem-based adaptation as a cost-effective way to preserve and restore natural habitats and protect coastal communities. A recently closed Adaptation Fund-financed project restored 1,400 ha of mangroves, established 1,500 ha of red mangroves, and restored and enriched 4,300ha of woodlands. The impacts of the project are now being scaled-up with the GCF-financed Mi Costa Project.
  • UNDP is engaged with 50 countries in multi-year initiatives across Asia, Africa, Latin America and Central Europe on advancing National Adaptation Plans – aimed at reduction of vulnerability and mainstreaming of adaptation into development processes. In 2021 and early 2022, UNDP worked with vulnerable Least Developed Countries to finalize their first national adaptation plans including Central African Republic, Congo DRC, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, and Timor Leste. The Scaling up Climate Ambition on Land Use and Agriculture through NDCs and National Adaptation Plans (SCALA) programme responds to the urgent need for increased action to cope with climate change impacts in the agriculture and land use sectors. SCALA supports twelve countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to build adaptative capacity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to meet targets set out in their National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), as well as contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). UNDP and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are co-leading this 20 million euro programme (2021-2025) with funding from the German Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) through its International Climate Initiative (IKI). 

A brighter future
Commitments at COP26 in Glasgow called for doubling adaptation finance from US$20 billion to US$40 billion per year, and UNDP strongly supports the call by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres to ensure 50% of all climate finance is directed toward adaptation.

Investments in adaptation provide a significant return on investment. The Global Commission on Adaptation found that investing US$1.8 trillion globally in five areas – early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure, improved dry-land agriculture, mangrove protection and resilient water resources – from 2020 to 2030 could generate US$7.1 trillion in total net benefits.

The benefits continue across disaster risk reduction. According to UNDRR, every US$1 invested in risk reduction and prevention can save up to US$15 in post-disaster recovery. Every US$1 invested in making infrastructure disaster-resilient saves US$4 through fewer disruptions and reduced economic impacts, and spending US$800 million on early-warning systems in developing countries would avoid losses of between US$3 billion and US$16 billion per year.

World leaders need to step up to the challenge by putting adaptation finance and transformative action on top of the global agenda and rethinking the way we deliver climate actions globally. This means embracing The UN’s New Way of Working and Grand Bargain agreements, breaking down silos, working across sectors, following the localization agenda, and scaling up and accelerating climate resilience actions across the globe.