Like clockwork: Creating transformational action for the climate

By Pradeep Kurukulasuriya, Head - Climate Change Adaptation, Global Environmental Finance Unit, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP, @pradeepk333.

Have you ever seen the inner workings of a mechanical watch? It’s really quite remarkable – a masterpiece of an inter-locking mainspring, gear train, balance wheel, escapement mechanism and indicator dial come together to measure each second with the utmost precision. When one piece fails, the whole watch stops working.

When it comes to climate change adaptation, the process of supporting real transformational change is just as intricate as maintaining your grandfather’s Casio and even more so when it comes to finding the right parts and the right ‘mechanic’. Without the right parts and right people things just don’t work as they should; this is as true for watches as it is for National Adaptation Plans and the goals set out by the Paris climate agreements.

Precision is what these processes require. So, keeping with that analogy, let’s build a ‘watch’ from the ground up:

1. The Mainspring – or ‘Country-Driven Adaptation’

Over the last two years, financing from the Least Developed Country Fund (LDCF) and Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) – in addition to several bilateral sources (US, Japan, Canada and Germany to name a few) – has enabled several countries to commence their climate change adaptation processes. In a sense, these funding mechanisms have installed a mainspring, which helps to power the watch. But because every country is different – with varying policies, capacities, institutions, tools and resources – each ‘mainspring’ (each power source) needs to be custom designed to fit the environment. Requisite parts include:

  • A gap analysis to establish government capacities, data availability and potential challenges;

  • Evidence building to highlight the impact of adaptation interventions, including adaptation options, cost-benefit analysis, and effective monitoring and evaluation; and

  • Effective transparency frameworks that ensure compliance with global climate standards.

2. The Gear Train – or an ‘All-of-Government Approach’

The gear train in a watch transfers the force of the mainspring to build the units of seconds, minutes and hours. When it comes to adaptation planning, the ‘gear train’ includes cooperation, consultation and coordination between government, civil society and private industry. The key here is setting up a robust institutional framework, which includes: 

  • Building iterative processes to update and support adaptation plans across sectors; 

  • Developing or adapting relevant legislation to facilitate adaptation plan implementation;

  • Unpacking adaptation priorities and formulating activities and programmes to achieve adaptation commitments; and

  • Aligning risk reduction actions with sectoral priorities and policies.

3. The Balance Wheel – or ‘Mobilizing Resources and Private-Sector Participation’

The balance wheel in a watch is the back and forth swing that counts the seconds. In order to keep the ‘seconds ticking’, adaptation planning requires significant funds to set up strong institutional mechanisms, address systemic gaps and build the capacities of decision makers. Resources will be required per country to effectively and efficiently formulate and implement bespoke National Adaptation Plans and fulfill the requirements established by the Paris Agreement. There are a number of balance wheel options out there. For example:

  • The Green Climate Fund, a new source of funding dedicated to climate action, can be mobilized for adaptation process development;

  • Build on the momentum from Paris and Marrakech to scale-up financing;

  • Engage with the private sector and develop bankable project proposals that help to attract investment for adaptation.

4. Escapement Mechanism – or ‘South-South/ North-South Knowledge Sharing’

Despite its odd-sounding name, on a watch, this is about allowing for interval stops to rewind the mechanisms and keep things running smoothly. For climate change adaptation work, this means:

5.   Indicator Dial – or how we ‘Keep the System Running’

Upgrading a government system is no easy task. While UNDP supports adaptation measures around the world, at the local level, climate change risks need to be built into planning and budgeting processes to plan for the future. Most importantly, in order to build truly transformational change – the kind that lasts as long as Grandpa’s Casio – you need regular service, and a good mechanic that has the right tools and the right parts to keep the watch running smooth for years to come – and who doesn’t forget to wind it at least once a day.

As the leading agency supporting climate change adaptation globally, UNDP is on the ground in nearly 170 countries, working with our partners year after year to build, fine-tune and ‘wind’ the systems that allow for effective adaptation. This article was originally published on the UNDP blog (Español). 

Last Updated: 31 May 2017