The humanitarian impact of climate change

A tortuous planning process in Nepal is preventing climate adaptation funding - earmarked under the country’s National Adaptation Program of Action - from reaching local communities, experts say.

“We are so engrossed in national processes,” said Raju Pandit Chhetri, co-author of a 2011 Oxfam report on climate adaptation finance. “Let us start going to the communities.”

Of 170 countries, Nepal has been ranked by Maplecroft, in its most recent Climate Change Vulnerability Index 2011, as the fourth-most vulnerable to the impact of climate change over the next 30 years.

The country received US$1.3 million in donor aid in 2008 to prepare an action plan, which was endorsed by the government and submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2010.

Of NAPA’s proposed US$350 million budget for urgent climate adaptation support, Nepal has secured around US$10 million through the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Fund, managed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and less than $25 million from bilateral aid agencies.

The NAPA document stipulates that 80 percent of all “available financial resources reach the local level to fund on-the-ground adaptation activities.” However, little funding has come in for projects and these projects are not ready for implementation.

“Unfortunately, we are in a stage of preparedness and readiness. We are trying to jump but we have not jumped yet,” said Bharat Pokharel, deputy country program director for the Swiss development agency, Helvetas.

Funding proposals for NAPA preparation and implementation have to be sent to the GEF through a designated Implementing Agency - in Nepal’s case the UN Development Program.

According to Batu Uprety, recently retired chief of the Climate Change Management Division at the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology, the complex and lengthy procedure to access LDC funds through the implementing agencies has resulted in further delays.

UNDP insists, however, that the adaptation program was finalized within the 18 months allotted for the project. The timeline “was agreed with the government”, explained Anupa Rimal Lamichhane, climate change program analyst at UNDP. “I would not say it was long or short.”

In a July 2012 submission to the UNFCCC, Nepal suggested the GEF “take necessary decisions to encourage its IAs to take a fast-start approach to support LDCs.”

Complicated plans

But it is not just that the planning process is slow: New plans outside the adaptation framework are making things more complicated. Besides NAPA, a separate plan was developed in 2011 for the Strategic Program for Climate Resilience, for which the Climate Investment Funds (funds to help developing countries pilot low-emissions and climate-resilient development), approved $50 million in grants and $36 million in loans to be managed by multilateral development banks.

By distinguishing short-term adaptation from long-term resilience, “they stalled every aspect of going to the community and started planning again,” said Chhetri, adding that lack of coordination resulted in projects moving forward in parallel tracks with overlaps.

Under the strategic program, the Asian Development Bank will prepare 100 community level adaptation plans across 61 districts by 2017; a project strikingly similar to the 70 village-level Local Adaptation Plans of Action developed for 14 districts in mid- and far-western Nepal under NAPA. The difference is that while the local plans will be implemented this year, ADB makes no claim to “actually implement” their plans within the five-year time frame. Surya Bahadur Singh, consulting climate change management specialist for the ADB, admitted that the “LAPA is one step further; they are actually implementing.”

Limited capacity

Meanwhile, donors are reluctant to move beyond planning, policy-making and capacity-building because they do not have confidence in the ability of national and local organizations to follow through, said Helvetas’s Pokharel.

Many see the Ministry of Environment as weak, noting it does not have executing bodies at the regional, district or village level, and limited experience coordinating large donor-funded projects.

Ultimately, experts argue that while the new field of climate science demands preparation, the country should not be deterred from addressing climate adaptation at the grassroots. Insights gained through fieldwork are very valuable. “Only then will we know what works and not,” said retired environment ministry official Uprety.

Several organizations have started local projects, independently of national climate adaptation mechanisms. “They are often at the forefront of working with communities and community organizations; innovating, piloting initiatives and seeing the results of policy implementation,” says the Oxfam report.

For decades, communities across this mountain nation of more than 30 million have been adapting to changes autonomously, without state intervention or donor support, Pokharel noted. It is time that their initiative is acknowledged and compensated, without which “they have not been given justice”.

(IRIN is a service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs This does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations.)