Climate Change Adaptation


"Adaptation is a journey and not a destination."

ABCG and Climate Change Adaptation
The progress achieved over many decades of conservation efforts in Africa is increasingly threatened by climatic change. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, many parts of Africa are highly vulnerable to climate change-related stresses, and yet have a very low adaptive capacity. It is now widely recognized that climate change will exacerbate existing environmental degradation in Africa, threatening the rich diversity of plant and animal species as well as the livelihoods of large populations of subsistence farmers and fishers.

FY2013 Activities and Achievements

For FY 2013 ABCG members Conservation International (CI), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) continued collaboration to bridge existing knowledge gaps in adaptation. Activities focused on the integration of the human response to climate change into conservation vulnerability assessments, with the broader goal of mainstreaming the incorporation of the human response to climate change into conservation climate adaptation planning through worked examples. Highlights of FY 2013 activities and interim outcomes include:

Development of a methodology to integrate the human response to climate change into conservation vulnerability assessments

WCS and CI held a two day writing workshop in New York (September 26th–27th 2013).

Informal outreach led to the identification of an analysis of human vulnerability to climate change, and secured the agreement that allowed us to use the underlying data in our analysis.

A couple members of the group also published a manuscript in Trends in Ecology & Evolution entitled “Accommodating the human response for realistic adaptation planning: response to Gillson et al.”  Available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2013.06.006, extending the ideas discussed in the group.

- See more at: http://abcg.sonjara.com/climate_change_adaptation#sthash.XUUIWUTE.dpuf

FY2012 Activities and Achievements

ABCG members Conservation International (CI), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) collaborated to bridge existing knowledge gaps in adaption in FY12. The activities focused on understanding synergies and learning from current adaptation work in the development sector. The highlights were:

A Holistic Approach to Climate Change Adaptation in Africa Workshop: A Summary

In July 2012, members of the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG) convened a two-day workshop in Washington, DC that included representatives of development, humanitarian and donor organizations. The workshop was conceived as a forum for learning and exchanging ideas, sharing best practices for addressing climate change adaptation across multiple institutions, and exploring the value of integrating development and conservation sector strategies in a holistic manner. With over 40 participants, the workshop showcased a diversity of perspectives on climate change adaptation achievements, constraints, challenges and opportunities.

(See workshop agenda here)

An Overview of Adaptation Efforts

Introductory remarks were presented by Marcia Marsh, Chief Operating Officer of the World Wildlife Fund; Sarene Marshall, Managing Director for Global Climate Change, The Nature Conservancy; and Natalie Bailey, Coordinator, Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group. James Watson of the Wildlife Conservation Society kicked off the discussion with an overview of climate change adaptation efforts amongst the ABCG members, and informed the participants about the findings of the 2011 report A Review of Climate Change Adaptation Initiatives within the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group Members (see report here). In particular, Watson emphasized some of the report’s recommendations the need to incorporate lessons learned from ecosystem-based adaptation (EBA) and community-based adaptation (CBA) into existing field projects. Watson also pointed out the need for greater attention on population growth and disease vectors as part of climate change analyses.

Pascal O. Girot of CARE International-PECCN (Poverty, Environment and Climate Change Network) gave an overview of CARE’s climate adaptation approach, including its science-based integrated people-ecosystem vulnerability assessment program that addresses participatory scenario planning and gender equality. Hadas Kushnir of USAID’s Office of Sustainable Development–Africa Bureau shared USAID’s approach to climate change adaptation. With the release of its climate change and development strategy, USAID seeks “to help countries accelerate their transition to climate resilient, low emissions development.” Kushnir noted that the challenges posed by climate change are vast, and require a strategic approach for identifying and addressing vulnerabilities. Furthermore, an expert workshop on vulnerability assessments held earlier in 2012 identified that many vulnerability assessment methodologies lack coherency and consistency. USAID is currently developing and piloting a vulnerability assessment framework that will provide a consistent and rigorous approach to analyzing climate change vulnerabilities and adaptation options.

A Showcase of Holistic Climate Change Adaptation Approaches

A series of panel discussions kicked off with a presentation by Roger-Mark De Souza of Population Action International titled Holistic Approaches to Adaptation: The Role of Population Dynamics. De Souza illustrated how links between population dynamics and climate change matter: the technology and consumption that drive greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions leading to global climate change in turn affect livelihoods, public health, and migration. A major—albeit underrated—assumption regarding population projections in the next 50 years is that the average global fertility rate would need to be below 2 children per woman to achieve a United Nations projected medium fertility variant of over 9 billion people by 2050. With current population trends and policy outreach, there is an unmet need for family planning initiatives that will have significant implication for continued GHG emissions and climate change impacts. And yet, National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) do not allocate funding for family planning, or even address population. Integrated population, health and environment programs (PHEs) can play an important role in holistic climate change adaptation strategies.

The Nature Conservancy and partners have established an integrated PHE program in Western Tanzania called Tuungane (Let’s Unite in Kiswahili) that provides valuable lessons in holistic climate change adaptation action. Kristen P. Patterson of The Nature Conservancy stressed the importance of undergirding EBA/CBA programs with sound science and strong input from local stakeholders in her presentation Building Resilience in Western Tanzania. This involves a two-pronged vulnerability assessment that looked back at climate impacts over the past 50 years in western Tanzania, and addressed projected impacts over the next 50 years. Climate science and stakeholder input led to the development of seven key climate adaptation strategies for the region, which informed and were incorporated into the Tuungane PHE project design.

Hannah Reid of the International Institute for Environment and Development shared a presentation on the links between climate change, poverty and biodiversity, which emphasized the need for an improved evidence base for EBA approaches to climate change adaptation. Improved empirical and scientific methodologies would support integrating biodiversity and ecosystem services, as they can have both economic and ecological pay-offs.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has a community-based climate change adaptation program targeting communities in several African countries, including Namibia. Charles Nyandiga of UNDP–Global Environment Facility talked about developing and testing their vulnerability reduction assessment tool that tackles the complexity of climate change impacts through adaptive intervention deploying a multi-strategy risk mitigation approach.

Climate Change Tools

The workshop featured several toolkits and resources to climate change adaptation, including:

Chris Zganjar of The Nature Conservancy presented Climate Wizard and the Knowledge Portal: Making Climate Data Relevant to Decision Makers. The Climate Wizard, an interactive spatial mapping tool with a wide array of weather and climate variables for specific locations, is available from TNC’s website here.

The World Bank has a variety of global to local climate and climate related data in its Climate Change Knowledge Portal, as highlighted by Ana Bucher in her presentation Climate Risk Information for Climate-resilient Action: Key products and tools.

Roger-Mark De Souza’s discussion of Climate Tools: Integrating Population into Climate Programs highlighted the correlation between areas of high population growth and high vulnerability to climate change. Also featured was Population Action International’s interactive database where visitors can explore how population dynamics exert pressure on natural resources.

Collaboration, a Path towards Holistic Adaptation

Vulnerable communities often include small, rural households that do not draw the same distinctions between conservation and development sectors as many NGOs and funding agencies do. Climate change itself has implications on numerous sectors. Many in the conservation community have realized that their understanding of the human response to climate change is sometimes poor, and that conservationists need to better incorporate direct and indirect human impacts into climate change adaptation work. Collaboration between sectors may be important to achieving effective integrated climate change adaptation initiatives, as well. Several key recommendations on how to collaborate percolated from group discussions including:

  • Start an open, neutral dialogue early in the process to establish common understanding across sectors as well as levels of authority, while being aware of diverse perspectives; keep the dialogue open and inclusive throughout the project planning and implementation phases.
  • Contribute to the evidence base while keeping the knowledge accessible to a broad audience; share lessons learned, setbacks and/or achievements, rather than simply briefing on current activities to foster learning.
  • Participate in cross-pollinating conferences/symposia/seminars; hold brown bags and other face-to-face formats where appropriate to solidify relationships and intensify the exchange of ideas.
  • Identify or cultivate funding sources supportive of collaboration.
  • Start with smaller, more manageable projects and build on success while learning from setbacks; build trust along the way for broader buy-in that will forge a sustained program.
  • Engage existing collaborations, partnerships, alliances, regional networks, and other types of groups more effectively. Encourage such groups to consider cross-sectoral membership.

Building the Evidence Base on the Value of Holistic Approaches to Climate Change Adaptation

Evidence particularly on the economic costs/benefits carries much more weight and gives more merit to adaptation strategies than anecdotal evidence. Successful holistic strategies are valuable, but failed approaches and mistakes can provide beneficial lessons as well, therefore a safe, trustworthy environment should be cultivated between members of an alliance. However, justifying integrated approaches to climate change adaptation will naturally cost practitioners more time and money up front. Participants pointed to a solution involving incorporating empirical methodology into an already existing structure of routine donor reporting; reviewing previous project reports may also be helpful in collating evidence.

Participants identified the donor community as a key stakeholder in better integrating holistic climate change adaptation approaches. Conservation and development NGOs can work together with donors to emphasize common needs and strategies for holistic approaches to climate change adaptation.

Focus on Increasing Efficiency

The best alliances and partnerships are synergies that play to the strengths of individual organizations on a given theme while other members play a supportive, resonating role as they learn successful strategies. Sharing tools, knowledge, lessons learned, and specialized staff were noted as important strategies that foster efficiency.

The operational constraint of integrating holistic strategies was raised as a concern, as it is impractical to attempt to solve all the problems identified within a limited time frame. Delineating a project’s scope of assessment, participation and implementation, both in spatial, temporal and institutional terms, can be challenging. A suggested solution involved identifying places where development and conservation interests are better aligned, and reaching a consensus on problem areas most in need of focused attention. Participants also suggested the following points to help improve efficiency:

  • Build on the USAID’s SCAPES (Sustainable Conservation Approaches in Priority Ecosystems) partner tool assessment.
  • Engage with other cross-cutting partnership programs that foster action and communication such as www.adaptationpartnership.org—to utilize and share tools/knowledge; or the USAID’S Measure Evaluation program that seeks to improve the exercise of monitoring and evaluation.

In closing, participants from the conservation, development and donor communities agree that the way forward may seem as complex as the effects of climate change, with the geographical, temporal, social, economic and institutional scope of intervention spanning a broad spectrum, but that a winning strategy is one that reflects the cross-sectoral dynamics of climate change. Participants agreed that it is incumbent that adaptation plans make the case for longer term, multi-sectoral funding that tackles population dynamics, wildlife habitat, and compatible/viable livelihood development. It is time for a paradigm shift in donor funding and projects from stovepipe policies to holistic, integrated funding sources, and that climate change could help catalyze the change.

There are plenty of success stories in the field, some of which were shared by presenters, but similar stories of failures by design or accident, commission or omission also abound that need not be failures. Communication and collaboration are two of several fundamental factors that contribute to game-changing landscape-level adaptation progress. Momentum for building multi-sectoral/ multi-institutional programs should be stepped up ever more through the mutual exchange of ideas, opportunities and challenges; what works as well as what has failed, in an atmosphere of mutual respect, tolerance and inclusivity.

In 2011 ABCG prepared a report evaluating its members' respective experiences in climate change adaptation in Africa: A Review of Climate Change Adaptation Initiatives Within the African Biodiversity Collaborative Group Members. You can read a 2-page summary of the report here. The report offers a comparison of approaches and tools for adaptation used by ABCG member organizations -- an early analysis of a set of adaptation projects for biodiversity conservation in Africa -- and provides an overview of lessons learned and recommendations for future work on climate change adaptation for both ABCG members and the wider conservation and donor community.

The report was launched on 20 October 2011 and ABCG members shared some findings:

This report was influenced by a 18-20 July 2011 training and workshop entitled "Tools and Approaches for Addressing Climate Change Adaptation in Africa."

2011 Adaptation Workshop

There are harsh climate realities for the conservation of biological diversity in Africa: the climate has changed, is changing and will continue to change. From 18-20 July 2011, the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG) held a training and workshop entitled "Tools and Approaches for Addressing Climate Change Adaptation in Africa," hosted by World Wildlife Fund-US. This workshop was generously supported by a grant to ABCG from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Biodiversity Analysis and Technical Support (BATS) program of the Africa Bureau. The objectives of the workshop were:

  • To provide training on climate change adaptation to field practitioners, conservation professionals and others that will be increasingly addressing adaptation issues in their work
  • To share climate adaptation approaches, lessons from the field, and tools for addressing climate change adaptation by ABCG members and their partners, with a particular focus on adaptation in Africa
  • To review current status of adaptation monitoring and explore the possibility of developing monitoring guidance and protocols

Click here for the training and workshop summary.

Training and Workshop Agenda

18 July Training on Climate Change Adaptation

Marcia Marsh, WWF's Chief Operating Officer, and Judy Oglethorpe, Managing Director for WWF's Climate Adaptation programs,opened the workshop and welcomed all the participants.

Shaun Martin and Eliot Levine of WWF and Terry Hills of Conservation International, led the participants in a day of training that included the following sessions:

  • What everyone needs to know about climate change for adaptation in 15 minutes
  • Key Concepts in Climate Change Adaptation
  • Adaptation Options
  • Happy Village: Exploring adaptation options (group exercise)
  • Integrated Adaptation Solutions for People and Ecosystems
  • Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Links to Adaptation
  • Vulnerability Assessments
  • Wrap up and adjournment

*For additional information from the Training on Climate Change Adaptation sessions from 18 July 2011, please contact Shaun Martin at shaun.martin@wwfus.org

19 July Workshop Day 1: Sharing climate adaptation approaches, lessons and tools with a particular focus on climate adaptation in conservation work in Africa

9:00 Welcome, objectives, overview of agenda and introductions
Natalie Bailey, ABCG
Tim Resch, USAID Africa Bureau
Chair: Judy Oglethorpe, WWF-US (Introduction)

9:15 Session 1: Setting the scene – provide a brief review of Africa’s vulnerability to climate change, and status of ABCG partners’ adaptation work in Africa

Overview of projected climate change impacts on biodiversity and communities in sub-Saharan Africa
Jeff Price, WWF-US

9:30 Overview of ABCG Member Approaches to Adaptation in Africa
Anton Seimon, WCS

9:50 Q&A and Discussion

10:15 Session 2: Vulnerability assessment and planning - review lessons from a range of approaches

Assessing vulnerability and species range shifts in Madagascar
Michele Andrianarisata, CI

Learning from vulnerability assessment of a mangrove ecosystem in Tanzania
Jason Rubens, WWF Tanzania

Changes in adaptation strategy development at the landscape scale: AWF’s progress and challenges in pilot sites
David Williams, AWF

11:20 Q&A and Discussion

11:40 Case study: Integrating Adaptation into conservation planning
An example from Western Tanzania

Elizabeth Gray and Kristin France, The Nature Conservancy
Sood Ndimuligo, The Jane Goodall Institute
Magnus Mosha, Frankfurt Zoological Society

12:10 Q&A and Discussion

1:30 Session 3: Multiple level adaptation approaches - learn lessons about the value of working at several different scales
Chair: James Watson, WCS

Climate Change Adaptation in the Albertine Rift
Anton Seimon, WCS

Adaptation in Namaqualand: Restoring resilience through restoration and innovation
Ronald Newman, CI

Madagascar/West Indian Ocean Program Office Adaptation Work in Madagascar
Harisoa Rakotondrazafy, WWF Madagascar

2:15 Q&A and Discussion

2:40 Session 4: Discussion groups: Discuss key questions from the ABCG White Paper outlined in Anton Seimon’s talk

4:00 Session 5: Tools Fair: Learn about tools for climate change adaptation work

Participants explored various tools shared by ABCG members and partners, including TNC’s Climate Wizard, WWF’s ClimaScope and Wallace Initiative, WCS’s dynamic models used in Albertine Rift, WWF’s mangrove vulnerability assessment approach, and more.

20 July Workshop Day 2: Sharing climate adaptation approaches, lessons and tools with a particular focus on climate adaptation in conservation work in Africa

9:00 Welcome and review of Day 1
Chair: Radhika Dave, CI

9:15 Session 6: Mainstreaming adaptation: Discuss the importance of capacity building, partnerships, policy and scaling up approaches for successful adaptation

Capacity Building Lessons from East Africa
Jyoti Kulkarni, START - SysTem for Analysis, Research and Training

The Climate Action Partnership- learning from a South African collaboration
Sarshen Marais, Conservation South Africa

USAID strategy for supporting policy and partnerships in Africa
Jennifer Frankel-Reed, USAID

SCAPES Partnership – global learning in climate adaptation
Jimmiel Mandima, AWF

Ecosystems and Livelihoods Adaptation Network – Lessons from a multi-partner initiative
Judy Oglethorpe, WWF-US

Rural Futures – a continent-wide approach for African development and adaptation
The Great Green Wall: The Largest Adaptation Project in Africa?
Gabriella Richardson- Temm and Sarah Davidson, WWF Macroeconomic Program Office

Q&A and Discussion

11:00 Session 7: Monitoring for Climate Adaptation
Chair Elizabeth Gray, TNC

Overview of monitoring for adaptation, challenges and opportunities around monitoring for adaptation and summary of ABCG survey results
Radhika Dave, CI

Overview of scales of monitoring and type of monitoring (climate variables, impacts, adaptation effectiveness); current developments in adaptation monitoring
Meg Spearman, on behalf of WRI

1:30 Monitoring climate variables to assess trends in climate change
Anton Seimon, WCS

What do we know about monitoring for climate change impacts on species, ecosystems, ecosystem services, people and agricultural services?
Jorge Ahmuda and Jan Dempewolf, TEAM

Monitoring the effectiveness of adaptation interventions
Terry Hills, CI

12:15 Q&A and Discussion

1:45 Session 8: Group discussions and summary reporting
Groups will discuss different topics:
1. Capacity building, policy, partnerships and scaling up adaptation
2. Monitoring
3. Tools

2:30 Report back to plenary

3:30 Session 9: Final plenary: synthesis, lessons, the way forward, and next steps
Chair: James Watson

Discussion groups from yesterday reconvene to finalize feedback on the ABCG white paper

4:00 Groups report back

4:30 Next steps and close of workshop

Click here for the list of meeting participants.

Please see “Tools and Resources” for presentations and key documents.


  • New: World Resources 2010-2011: Decision Making in a Changing Climate, a joint venture among UNDP, UNEP, the World Bank, and WRI. The report provides insights and recommendations about how national officials can make effective decisions amidst such complex dynamics. It examines current decision-making practices and investigates how national governments, particularly those in developing countries, can adapt to climate change. Download the full report here.

Also check out Climate Prep, WWF's climate change adaptation blog which contains short, easy to understand adaptation stories from around the world with the objective of sharing lessons learned to the broader adaptation community. Recent posts include:

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