Skip to main content

Building better climate actions

UNDP team examining failure of sea wall on Kiribati outer island (Copyright: Bregje van Wesenbeeck, Deltares)

UNDP partners with Deltares to bridge knowledge gap to support nations in building bankable climate change funding proposals

31 October 2018, Bangkok - In a unique partnership, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is connecting experts on coastal and river management from Deltares, a Dutch knowledge institute, with vulnerable nations in the Pacific and Africa as they develop new proposals for climate finance and build ecosystems-based climate change adaptation plans.

“Understanding rivers, coastal areas, watersheds and their relationship to our ecosystem and our overall environment is a very complicated task. To support nations in the Pacific and Africa in building more effective climate actions – and support our global efforts to keep temperature rises below 2 degrees and protect our vulnerable men, women and children from the potentially catastrophic impacts of climate change – UNDP is working with a number of partners that connect know-how, technology, and innovative thinking to mainstream and accelerate climate resilience efforts in developing countries and small island developing states,” said Pradeep Kurukulasuriya, Executive Coordinator a.i., Global Environment Finance Unit, UNDP.

Through this partnership, Deltares has conducted a number of support missions over the past year that are providing government officials and project designers with the unique knowledge, data and methodologies they need to inform more effective project planning, and more effective proposals to vertical funds such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

Since the inception of the GCF, UNDP has supported nations across the globe to mobilize more than US$600 million in grant finance from the fund. Recent analysis indicates that UNDP-supported projects accounts for 44 percent of the total beneficiaries of GCF-financed climate actions, which are set to increase the resilience of 217 million people worldwide. With new projects approved for Comoros and India in the last GCF board, UNDP now supports 19 GCF-financed projects.

“By building partnerships between governments, the private sector, civil society, knowledge institutes such as Deltares, and donors, UNDP is serving as a broker to build momentum to protect the billions of people worldwide who are at risk from rising seas, droughts, and changes in extreme weather,” Kurukulasuriya said.

To support nations in creating bankable funding proposals for the Green Climate Fund, Deltares has taken part in scoping missions to Conakry, Kiribati, The Philippines and Tonga. These missions will support UNDP and government teams with the identification of adaptation needs and plans development priorities, quick assessments of present systems, and first scoping of suitable adaptation options.

“Coastal zone and river basin related adaptation projects are often highly complex. First, distinguishing between climate change and anthropogenic impacts is often difficult, especially in data-poor environments,” said Christophe Brière, Senior Advisor on Coastal Adaptation to Climate Change at Deltares. “Next, coming to suitable intervention strategies requires good understanding of the natural, institutional and socio-economic systems. Additionally, there is a rising call for ecosystem-based adaptation strategies. However, besides risk and vulnerability analyses these require additional system assessments and their integration with conventional engineering approaches is not always straightforward.”

To support nations in the Pacific and in Africa that often have limited technical capacity to sufficiently connect coastal and riverine systems into adaptation plans and proposals, UNDP formed the partnership with Deltares in 2017. The partnership was designed to build upon Deltares’ expertise in advising, developing and supporting the implementation of coastal zone and river basin-related adaptation projects, and its knowledge on nature-based solutions in an engineering context.

Recent experiences in risk reduction and climate change adaptation planning form the basis for the approach followed in this partnership to constitute a rationale for future climate change adaptation interventions in the region.

Main elements of Deltares approach and support for adaptation planning

  • Start from stakeholder needs and perceived main risks.
  • Analyse the natural system to identify main risks and climate change versus anthropogenic impacts
  • Define clear metrics for vulnerability assessment and evaluation of adaptation options including both green and grey interventions
  • Define and quantify the main drivers for adaptation, i.e. define scenarios on hazard trends and development trends, and a baseline investment strategy without climate change adaptation
  • Apply a collaborative approach to identify adaptation actions, also in line with adaptation to climate change, erosion and flood risk management plans such as outlined in the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and NAS
  • Apply an indicator-based quantitative assessment of the baseline risks under the current situation and future scenarios and cost-effectiveness of adaptation actions compared to the baseline investment
  • Make sure the evaluation outcomes and preferred strategy connect well to funding agency requirements on additionality and paradigm shift potential


“From our missions, a few consistent trends emerge across the Pacific countries. Several governments struggle with coastal erosion and flooding. A clear systematic evaluation showing where to implement hard and soft engineering options yet needs to be developed,” said Bregje van Wesenbeeck, Specialist in Ecosystem-Based Adaptation at Deltares. “In several recent GCF proposals multiple ecosystem-based adaptation interventions are proposed spanning a wide range of ecosystems. Improving management of marine and coastal ecosystems and wise management of fluxes of freshwater, nutrients and sediment are considered key elements for coastal resilience under climate change. The efficiency of ecosystem management and restoration is not always clear cut and what interventions will work best under certain contexts requires tailor-made approaches, high-end knowledge and adaptive management. Adaptive management requires continuous monitoring of project progress and interference once targets are not met.”

Through this partnership, training has been provided to technical advisors and experts from the climate change adaptation unit of UNDP. This training focused on providing UNDP staff with a holistic understanding of coastal, riverine and groundwater dynamics and processes. This system-wide understanding provides the basis for defining suitable intervention strategies consisting of a wide-portfolio of both green and grey measures.

“The end goal is simple. By connecting with the smartest thinkers in the world, we are building capacity on the ground to protect people from rising seas, ensure families that depend on water for farming have enough to eat and drink, and protect economies and societies from the vast and unprecedented impacts that climate change is already bringing,” Kurukulasuriya said.


The Kiribati proposal focused on coastal adaptation for all inhabited outer islands. The Deltares team visited the outer island of Abaiang, where they studied existing “hard” adaptation options that had already been implemented but were failing to achieve strong results. In addition, a baseline study of present ecosystems and their health was done both for marine and coastal systems and for island vegetation. In interaction with the local community the objective and description challenges of potential climate actions were further narrowed down and preferences for adaptation options were tested. Given the local context, ecosystem-based adaptation options were the only proposed intervention. These will be linked with strong localized capacity building programs and local job creation through community-based monitoring and management.


The team worked with the Tonga Government in scoping objectives for a GCF proposal. Coastal adaptation at multiple sites was targeted. Site visits were executed to look at feasible adaptation options. A mix of green and grey coastal adaptation options was proposed based on present coastal intervention strategies, perceived risk and available infrastructure.

The Philippines

Together with the Government of the Philippines the team mainly focussed on reduction of vulnerability of coastal communities of the Philippines’ East Board. Deltares executed a vulnerability analysis to inform site selection. In addition, the portfolio of ecosystem-based adaptation options was broadened to multiple coastal ecosystems, including sea grass systems, coral reefs, beach forests and mangroves.

Guinea Conakry

The Deltares team worked with the Guinean Government to prepare technical elements of a proposal underway for the GCF. Through the mission, government counterparts gained valuable insights into integrated coastal, riverine and ecosystems-based adaptation approaches. Stakeholders and vulnerable sites were visited to assess how ecosystem degradation – in particular the degradation of the mangrove forests – will affect future climate actions.














Meeting the local communities in Kaback, Guinea, 16 January 2018. Copyright: Christophe Briere, Deltares

About Deltares

Deltares is an independent institute for applied research in the field of water and subsurface. Throughout the world, we work on smart solutions, innovations and applications for people, environment and society. Our main focus is on deltas, coastal regions and river basins. Managing these densely populated and vulnerable areas is complex, which is why we work closely with governments, businesses, other research institutes and universities at home and abroad. Our motto is Enabling Delta Life. As an applied research institute, the success of Deltares can be measured in the extent to which our expert knowledge can be used in and for society. For Deltares the quality of our expertise and advice comes first.

About GCF

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is a new global fund created to support the efforts of developing countries to respond to the challenge of climate change. GCF helps developing countries limit or reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adapt to climate change. It seeks to promote a paradigm shift to low-emission and climate-resilient development, taking into account the needs of nations that are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts.

About UNDP

UNDP partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone. On the ground in nearly 170 countries and territories, we offer global perspective and local insight to help empower lives and build resilient nations.