Executive summary

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities of human systems and the fragility of society to systemic shocks, providing a stark reminder of the importance of building resilience into development pathways. Despite continuous warnings from scientists on the risk of a global pandemic, the level of preparedness for the COVID-19 crisis was inadequate. The same can hold true for the known risks associated with climate change.

Strengthening Climate Resilience aims to support governments of developing countries and providers of development co-operation in strengthening the resilience of human and natural systems to the impacts of climate change. This guidance highlights three overall aspirations for consideration when planning and implementing action on climate resilience (Chapter 2). It also outlines four mechanisms (Chapter 3) and three enablers (Chapter 4) in support of climate resilience.

Proposed sets of actions are provided in the form of two checklists at the end of the Executive summary. The checklists are informed by the discussion and detailed actions presented in Chapters 3 and 4. They build on the wealth of knowledge products (tools, guidelines and compilations of good practice) available to governments and development co-operation when formulating and implementing climate resilience measures.

Emphasis on country ownership highlights the role of individual countries in determining their own climate resilience priorities, reflecting the nature of the climate risks they face and the broader development objectives. Development co-operation plays an important role in supporting country-owned and –led processes for climate resilience. Evidence suggests that country ownership can increase the effectiveness of development co-operation for climate resilience and broader sustainable development; failure to include this consideration can result in unintended and even adverse outcomes.

A focus on inclusive approaches is central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. People marginalised due to their gender, race, age, (dis)ability or other socio-demographic factors are often more vulnerable to climate risks. They tend to have greater exposure to climate hazards and face broader socio-economic and political challenges, as well as constraints to their capacity to manage climate risks. Progress for one group on climate resilience must not compromise that of another. An inclusive approach can facilitate the participation of those most vulnerable to the impacts from climate change in decision-making processes that directly affect their climate resilience.

Consideration of environmental sustainability is needed to make sure that approaches to strengthening climate resilience do not further increase environmental pressures locally, nationally and internationally. The role of the natural environment in strengthening climate resilience is also increasingly recognised, as exemplified by the growing application of nature-based solutions. A focus on social sustainability complements environmental sustainability by emphasising that climate resilience initiatives must also consider the broader well-being of current and future generations.

An effective governance arrangement provides the foundation on which a government can co-ordinate action on climate resilience across sectors and levels of government. A governance arrangement should also facilitate inclusive decision making informed by the needs of those most vulnerable to climate risks. A governance arrangement that supports adaptive decision making in the context of climate change can help governments adjust their approaches over time by facilitating continuous learning. Adaptive governance can benefit from diverse perspectives, data and information on climate-related hazards, exposure and vulnerability, and approaches to manage the climate risks.

Climate risks are in many cases sector-specific. National climate resilience objectives must therefore be mainstreamed into sectoral development policies. Ministries responsible for climate policies and their development partners should also draw on the expertise of colleagues within respective sectors when formulating climate resilience strategies, policies and plans. Well-tested tools such as environmental assessments can also help governments and development co-operation ensure that sectoral policies, plans and projects are climate resilient.

Integration of climate risks into financial management determines how, when, to whom and by whom finance will be allocated, provided or mobilised for climate resilience. Governments and development co-operation are increasingly aware of the benefits of combining multiple types of financial mechanisms and instruments. This allows them to pursue a more comprehensive approach to strengthen the climate resilience of people, nature and the built environment.

Monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) can support an iterative and adaptive approach to climate resilience informed by good practices and lessons learnt. It can also inform countries’ own accountability mechanisms on progress made on climate resilience. Governments and development co-operation providers need to tailor their MEL frameworks to the priorities of the climate resilience interventions, the objectives of the MEL, the data and information available, and the uncertainty surrounding the nature of climate risks, as well as the associated socio-economic contexts.

Weather, water and climate data and information, and the underlying infrastructure that supports and distributes them, are critical building blocks to guide decision making by state- and non-state actors. Governments and development co-operation play an important role in investing in institutions and infrastructure to produce accurate and legitimate data and information that can guide action, and enhancing users’ capacity in accessing and using them.

Greater awareness, as well as institutional and individual capacities, drive climate action, and capacity constraints can be important barriers to implementation. Development co-operation and governments need to accelerate efforts to strengthen the capacity of people and organisations to understand the climate science and the possible impacts of climate change, and to design and implement national, sub-national and sectoral policies, plans and projects for climate resilience.

Technologies are also essential for action on climate resilience, but their characteristics should match the needs and available resources of users and their socio-economic and environmental contexts. Governments and development co-operation can further support technology-related institutions and their networks, and enhance supply- and demand-side policies. This support can foster research, development, adoption and dissemination of technology across and within countries.

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