Locally led adaptation (LLA) is increasingly recognized as important in redressing the predominantly top-down approaches to channeling climate finance. LLA is a framework that facilitates devolution of finance and decision-making power into the hands of local actors, including local governments, traditional authorities, and community members. In doing so, it can enable more effective and equitable adaptation solutions and processes. Existing efforts at LLA are mostly focused on the roles that nongovernmental stakeholders, such as local nongovernmental organizations and civil society organizations, can play; meanwhile, the role that local governments can play in facilitating LLA is relatively less advanced.

The Local Climate Adaptive Living Facility (LoCAL) is a local government–focused mechanism that advances LLA. LoCAL does this by combining provision of performance-based climate resilience grants to local governments with technical and capacity-building support, to enable local-level adaptation action. LoCAL works in LDCs and developing countries across Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and the Pacific. It specializes in contexts characterized by extreme fiscal constraints (especially at the subnational level) and high levels of poverty and climate vulnerability.

This paper provides insight into how LoCAL equips local governments with the tools they need to play a key role in LLA and touches on what constrains LoCAL’s contribution to LLA. The examples of applying the LoCAL mechanism in-country show how working with local governments can be a powerful way to devolve adaptation finance and decision-making power to the local level, and therefore improve the efficiency and reach of climate funding, as well as the effectiveness of adaptation investments.

This paper begins with an overview of what LLA is, the LoCAL mechanism, and the research methodology undertaken. The LoCAL mechanism is implemented in 34 countries worldwide, but this paper draws from case studies of three of them: Niger, Lesotho, and Cambodia. Given this, the paper is not an evaluation of the LoCAL mechanism and is not intended to provide a comprehensive assessment of whether LoCAL is effectively enabling LLA in all the countries where LoCAL operates. The authors use the three case studies to consider how the LoCAL mechanism has facilitated LLA in these three countries, which forms the basis for recommendations to the broader community supporting LLA to inform their own efforts to meaningfully engage local actors in adaptation.

Key Findings:

1. LoCAL meaningfully advances LLA by providing performance-based climate resilience grants to local governments. These grants, along with the capacity building and awareness raising supported by LoCAL, enable local governments to make meaningful decisions on adaptation. Doing so also sets the stage for them to mainstream climate change into local government planning. LoCAL highlights how local governments can be a powerful set of actors to advance LLA in a way that is institutionalized within existing country systems and structures.

2. The LoCAL mechanism demonstrates that local governments can and should be recognized as key actors to advance LLA. Local governments are in a unique position to connect climate finance, national climate policies, and community-level adaptation action—and have untapped potential that can benefit from additional focus within the LLA discourse.

3. However, local governments often mirror the power dynamics of higher levels of government and have their own exclusionary politics. Local governments are not always representative of all community members, highlighting the need for broader engagement across a range of local actors. Local governments can be inclusive of other local actors’ adaptation needs and priorities, but the LoCAL mechanism alone cannot shift entrenched power dynamics that are inherent in government systems, even while it contributes to advancing LLA through local governments.

4. LoCAL can improve the participation of communities and vulnerable groups in subnational planning and budgeting processes. The LoCAL mechanism includes several opportunities for non-state actors to engage in the LoCAL process. LoCAL is also linked to existing subnational planning and budgeting processes, particularly those that open doors for devolution of power and centralization of decision-making. By engaging with the LoCAL mechanism, local governments can truly take the lead in adaptation action, and make it possible for nongovernmental local actors to also meaningfully participate.

Image source Idrissa Moussa, UNCDF