Progress and gaps in adaptation M&E: reflections from an international conference

What progress have we made on adaptation M&E and which gaps remain? Impressions from the 2nd International Conference on Evaluating Climate Change and Development.

The Second International Conference on Evaluating Climate Change and Development took place from 4–6 November 2014 in Washington DC, and brought together the climate change and evaluation community around the essential question of how to assess adaptation and mitigation responses to climate change. These are my impressions from the conference on progress made on monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of adaptation.

In comparison to 2008, when the First Conference on Evaluating Climate Change and Development took place in Alexandria, Egypt, certainly a lot of progress has been made. Several guidebooks on how to monitor adaptation interventions have been published, including by UKCIP and GIZ, and a very useful overview report of the various methods and approaches has been compiled by UKCIP and the SEA Change Community of Practice (pdf, 6.6 MB).

In recent years, numerous countries have started developing national adaptation M&E systems. A comparative analysis of ten of them illustrates their diversity in terms of purpose, scope and methods being used. Whilst most of them employ some form of quantitative indicators, Norway has adopted a more informal, participatory and learning-oriented approach.

A similar development was noticeable at the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience (PPCR). The PPCR M&E system is based on five core indicators that are measured in each partner country through scorecards. At the conference, a new initiative by the PPCR was announced called Evidence-based learning which aims to strengthen in-depth learning throughout the project cycle by supplementing formal indicators with tailored learning and evaluation approaches.

Whilst the search for the holy grail of standardised adaptation indicators may not be over yet, it was telling that none of the around 90 presentations suggested a global set of standardised indicators to measure progress on adaptation. On the contrary, there was a widely shared agreement that the context specific nature of adaptation does not allow meaningful measurement of its progress through a small set of global indicators. As argued on Climate Change TV, such an attempt would not fulfill the purpose of learning from adaptation practice.

The close interlinkage between adaptation and development was, of course, an important topic at the conference. Some argued that the additionality of adaptation in comparison to business as usual development interventions need to be strengthened. This might be connected to what I perceived as the largest gap on adaptation M&E: the lack of progress on how to measure adaptation results beyond simple outputs.

Indeed, the majority of indicators used by climate change funds as well as by national adaptation M&E systems are still limited to measuring outputs rather than outcomes. Whilst this is partly due to the challenges of measuring adaptation, more work on demonstrating the actual benefits of adaptation is needed. GIZ is piloting two approaches in this regard namely repeated vulnerability assessments and the quantification of avoided losses and health impacts.

Overall the Second International Conference on Evaluating Climate Change and Development has really featured a rich collection of insights and ideas on measuring progress on adaptation and mitigation. If you are interested in learning more about, for example, the theory of no change, measuring resilience or the effectiveness of climate change funds, I encourage you to browse through the programme and explore the various sessions (click on “Presenters” to see the talks and abstracts of each session).

The conference was supported by a group of international organisations, bilateral aid agencies, research institutes and think tanks and hosted by the Climate Eval Community of Practice. On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), GIZ has co-organised and co-sponsored the conference through the project “Effective Adaptation Finance (M&E Adapt)”.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of GIZ or BMZ.

Posted: 1 December 2014