Even though climate change affects countries differently, all countries will need to perform many of the same adaptation functions, such as climate information management and public engagement in adaptation planning. At the end of 2008, the World Resources Institute convened a technical workshop in Bellagio, Italy to begin enumerating a shared set of critical adaptation functions. The resulting "Bellagio Framework" can help identify strengths and gaps in adaptation capacities in a given country, as a basis for prioritizing adaptation actions and investments.

Executive Summary

As climate negotiators, international funders, and national governments all begin to develop climate adaptation agendas, it is getting more urgent to have a shared approach to identifying priorities for action. A shared approach could help catalyze coordinated action among diverse funders, and could provide a common basis for assessing progress in different places. However, finding a systematic way of identifying priorities at the international level is hard because of the huge array of potential climate impacts, the different types of societies they will hit, and the wide range of potential adaptation strategies and measures.

The Bellagio Framework Approach: Identifying National Adaptation Functions

One approach to this challenge is to identify a set of fundamental functions that all countries must perform if they are to respond effectively to climate change. For example, these functions might include things like managing information needed for adaptation decisions, involving stakeholders in adaptation planning, creating incentives for the private sector to adapt, or integrating climate change into disaster risk reduction. Countries will all perform these functions differently, depending on their national circumstances, but the core of the function is the same. The capacities needed to perform key adaptation functions can be thought of as elements of a national “adaptation system” that will support society in the long-term, iterative process of adjusting as the climate changes. Unfortunately, few countries are fully equipped with the information systems, policy structures, and basic institutions that provide such capabilities. Moreover, to date there have been few systematic efforts even to enumerate key national adaptation functions or the activities and capabilities needed to perform them.

Why Do Adaptation Functions Matter?

Failure (thus far) to identify and clearly articulate a core set of national functions has contributed to widespread confusion about the overlap between adaptation and development. This confusion has made it more difficult to build the political will needed to generate truly additional adaptation funding, both within the UNFCCC and in funding decisions elsewhere. Perhaps more important, the lack of a concise, user-friendly articulation of key adaptation functions increases the difficulty of building robust, far-sighted national approaches to adaptation. Decision-makers are lacking:

  • a framework with which to identify strengths and gaps in adaptation capacities in a given country, in order to prioritize actions and investments, and
  • a reference against which to assess progress on adaptation, in order to adjust course if necessary.

A First Step: The Bellagio Framework Workshop

In November 2008, the World Resources Institute (WRI) hosted a small technical workshop to begin developing a broadly applicable framework of national adaptation functions. The workshop was held in Bellagio, Italy, with the generous support of the Rockefeller Foundation. The objective of the workshop was two-fold:

  • to identify a core set of major adaptation functions needed in a broad spectrum of countries, and
  • to explore options for building progress metrics to assess effectiveness in performing the functions. Criteria for the functions framework included:
  • Broad applicability
  • Flexibility to accommodate national circumstances
  • Logic and straightforwardness
  • User-friendliness and common sense
  • A top-down approach that empowers bottom-up action
  • Comprehensiveness with regard to key national adaptation functions
  • Compatibility with other tools, frameworks, and decision criteria

The table in the working paper lists the key adaptation functions identified by the workshop participants, which are now under further development by workshop participants and their partners.

Next Steps

Clearly, different stakeholders (e.g., planners, negotiators, funders, project implementers, NGOs, evaluators) who may use the framework will focus on different adaptation functions and will approach them from different perspectives. Moreover, countries will each build the capacities needed to perform the functions at different rates and in different sequences. To address these considerations, WRI is now exploring possible development of different assessment and planning tools, based on the functions in the framework. Options for further development include:

  • Function-by-function guidance to assist policy-makers and planners, including links to existing tools and relevant information sources
  • Development of assessment questions for each function, for use in establishing monitoring and evaluation programs
  • Institutional analysis to better link each function with the types of stakeholders or agencies likely to be responsible for it
  • “Sector-based” tools that translate the generic framework into functions specific to health, agriculture, water, and other issue areas

A key next step is to test the framework---or part of it---through a practical pilot assessment in a developing country.