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Making Adaptation Count

Concepts and Options for Monitoring and Evaluation of Climate Change Adaptation

This report aims to provide adaptation and development practitioners with a practical framework for developing monitoring and evaluation systems that can track the success and failure of adaptation initiatives in the development context.

Executive Summary

This report was made possible with support from the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Adaptation, Development, and Monitoring and Evaluation

The impacts of climate change increasingly threaten the achievement of poverty reduction and other development objectives, including the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Research suggests that impacts over the course of the 21st century, if unaddressed, could cause a 5–10 percent loss in global gross domestic product (GDP), with poor countries’ wealth declining in excess of 10 percent.1 Even more significant are the potential threats to human security – reduced agricultural production, heightened water scarcity, exposure to droughts, floods, storms, and diseases.2

As developing country governments and their international partners grow increasingly aware of these threats, they are turning to options for adapting to climate change in the development context. However, the national, sectoral, and project-based adaptation plans and policies now emerging are largely in their infancy and relatively untested. Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of such initiatives, as they are implemented across the developing world, will be critically important for judging their effectiveness and making decisions on which efforts to scale up as climate impacts intensify. Industrialized countries and donor agencies channeling billions of dollars into adaptation finance, including under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), will require such systems as an important dimension to the adaptation initiatives they support.


  1. Stern 2006. 

  2. UNDP 2008a. 

About This Publication

This paper aims to provide adaptation and development practitioners with a practical framework for developing M&E systems that can track the success and failure of adaptation initiatives in the development context. It is based upon a series of convenings, case studies, and interviews conducted by the World Resources Institute (WRI) in collaboration with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, with financial support from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). In particular, the authors reviewed M&E systems in the planning and implementation stages for several relevant GIZ and Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau Bankengruppe (KfW or German Development Bank) natural resource management and adaptation projects in India.

We expect adaptation M&E practice will evolve substantially in the years ahead. We offer this guidance in the hope that capturing early lessons in adaptation can propel future successful efforts. This paper addresses the planning, design, and early implementation stages of adaptation interventions. The key framework can also serve as a basis for funders and their partners to develop or analyse programmatic agendas, formulate evaluation questions, or supplement guidance on M&E in a specific sector or thematic area.

The core principles presented in this report center around the importance of M&E as a tool to shape successful adaptation efforts. We also recognize, however, that M&E can serve other useful purposes. For example, it can help identify positive synergies between efforts towards adaptation and other objectives, such as economic growth or climate change mitigation.

The guidance presented here is limited to the scope of our research and consultations and has not yet been substantially tested in the field. Practitioners will undoubtedly need to adjust their use of this paper to the unique needs of specific interventions, and to existing M&E systems and management standards. Furthermore, analysis of adaptation strategies and efforts beyond the intervention level are largely beyond the scope of this paper. Very different methodologies may be needed to assess, for example, large-scale, countrywide adaptation strategies, or sector-wide adaptation efforts. Finally, as practitioners, governments, and other development cooperation partners progress in this emerging field, much remains to be tested and learned about “what works” in adaptation and how to measure it.

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