Super typhoons, higher rainfall and rising temperatures – all symptoms of a changing climate – have wreaked havoc in the Philippines, bringing increased flooding, decreased rice yields and even the loss of life, while hampering development efforts in poor communities. To address these challenges, which are projected to intensify in the coming years, adaptation to climate change has to be a priority for the national government.

This can be a costly priority. Between 2009 and 2013, the Philippines received over $ 430 million in climate adaptation funding from donors and spent an additional estimated $614 million of its own money in 2013, according to the World Bank. As other countries seek to adapt to rising seas, more severe storms and other changes, countries will spend an increasing amount of funding on adaptation. But the question is: are these funds really reaching the most vulnerable?

To answer this question, Oxfam and WRI launched guidelines to help civil society organizations track climate change adaptation finance to determine whether it is reaching the communities most vulnerable to climate change. The guidelines are based on the work of the Adaptation Finance Accountability Initiative (AFAI), which brings together Oxfam, ODI, WRI, Clean Energy Nepal, the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (iCSC) in the Philippines, Climate Action Network Uganda and the Zambia Climate Change Network in an effort to make adaptation finance more accountable and transparent.

The new publication aims to guide civil society groups to:

  • Help vulnerable communities realize their rights to seek support for climate adaptation
  • Teach communities and citizens about adaptation activities and climate adaptation finance
  • Press the government to improve its efforts to address climate change
  • Hold donors and governments accountable for their use of climate adaptation funds
  • Support government agencies, particularly those with oversight functions, to carry out their mandate of supporting climate adaptation efforts

The guide provides essential background information and describes a five-step process for tracking adaptation finance:

  1. Analyze the national climate change adaptation context
  2. Compile and analyze international climate adaptation finance flows
  3. Map climate adaptation funding flows
  4. Set tracking objectives and select climate adaptation funds for detailed national tracking
  5. Design tailored tools for local climate adaptation finance tracking

More Transparent and Accountable

The AFAI partners used this approach to encourage greater transparency and accountability of climate adaptation finance. In the Philippines, for example, the Congress was unaware that in 2010, $175 million in international adaptation funding had flowed into the country. The AFAI project demonstrated that Congress needed better oversight of climate adaptation funds, and in 2014, the Philippines House of Representatives responded to this by creating the Oversight Committee on Climate Change to monitor climate change interventions, programs and budgets.

Through this committee, the principles of AFAI are being introduced to legislators who aim to integrate climate finance into the budget process. Thanks to the oversight committee, the House of Representatives, with support from civil society organizations, will have better information about whether adaptation finance is actually reaching vulnerable communities.

Beyond the Philippines, other countries are struggling to ensure that funding reaches those who need it most. For instance, Clean Energy Nepal, an AFAI partner, found that the Himalayan nation received $538.24 million for adaptation from international public sources from 2009 to 2012. To increase awareness of adaptation finance at the local level and advocate for greater transparency, AFAI partners organized a public discussion to bring community members together to hear their woes.

Reaching the Most Vulnerable

“Climate change adaptation projects in our village are yet to reach the most vulnerable communities affected by changing climate,” a Nepalese woman said. “How can we address the gaps that need to be filled?” The experiences in Nepal helped craft the toolkit and will give civil society organizations in Nepal the guidance to continue their efforts to bring transparency and accountability to the national level.

Civil society organizations are just beginning to track adaptation finance to ensure the accountable use of donor and government funding. This process will strengthen countries’ abilities to target and spend climate adaptation finance effectively. The guidelines are a first step toward building this capacity.