This report introduces the National Adaptive Capacity (NAC) framework, a tool to help governments bring institutional capacity development into their adaptation planning processes. The NAC framework enables its users to systematically assess institutional strengths and weaknesses that may help or hinder adaptation. National adaptation plans may then be better designed to make best use of strengths or remedy weaknesses. The report describes three pilot assessments conducted using the NAC framework in Bolivia, Ireland, and Nepal.

Executive Summary

  • Effective institutions are at the heart of our ability to respond to growing climate risks. Governments and other institutions at the national level can play a critical role in increasing society’s capacity to adjust and readjust (i.e., “adaptive capacity”) as conditions shift and as new climate change knowledge emerges.
  • As national policymakers, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiators, international funders, and others develop methods and guidelines for adaptation planning, it is critical that they include a focus on building national institutions that can support ongoing adaptation.
  • The NAC framework provides a practical approach for understanding the institutional aspects of adaptive capacity. NAC assessments can support planning through the identification of specific gaps in capacity that can be filled through investment and action.
  • The NAC framework evaluates national institutions’ performance of five key functions critical to adaptation: assessment, prioritization, coordination, information management, and climate risk management. The NAC treats performance of these functions as an indication of a country’s overall adaptive capacity.
  • The pilot applications of the framework in Bolivia, Ireland, and Nepal suggest that the NAC framework is useful across a range of countries and that it can be tailored to specific country contexts. The pilots used the NAC framework in the following ways:
    • As a tool for monitoring and baseline setting. The NAC assessment in Bolivia led to the development of country-specific indicators and metrics for use in adaptation policy.
    • As a tool to catalyze action and fill key capacity gaps. The Irish NAC assessment identified gaps in capacity, helping to build an evidence base for targeting new research and development efforts. It also inspired the Irish Environmental Protection Agency to commission a national vulnerability assessment.
    • As a tool to gather and synthesize resources. The NAC framework can provide a practical structure for organizing a diverse and often scattered body of adaptation-relevant information and resources. This proved particularly useful in Nepal and Bolivia.
  • The country teams that applied the NAC framework in Bolivia, Ireland, and Nepal used distinctly different approaches to completing their assessments and also formatted their findings differently. This indicates that the NAC framework can be tailored for use in a variety of different planning or evaluation processes.

Use the NAC Framework

The NAC framework can be used to identify opportunities and priorities for building adaptive capacity and implementing key activities. After a period of time, it can be used again to evaluate progress. Planners, evaluators, and civil society advocates may find it useful in their adaptation efforts.

Learn more

The NAC framework is built on a wealth of experience developed by WRI and our partners during past work on helping countries assess their readiness to adapt.

Take a look at some of the work that has informed the development of the NAC: