Seven lessons from Nepal for the Green Climate Fund, on devolving climate action


9MdGURlKcDlHEvnTWoQ_thumb_3a3dAnju Sharma, Raju Pandit Chhetri & Dharam Uprety 

Nepal is globally recognised as a pioneer in devolved approaches to address climate change impacts. Not satisfied with only a “National” Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA), Nepal adopted a Framework for Local Adaptation Plans for Action (LAPAs) in 2011. In its 2011 Climate Change Policy, Nepal also committed to ensuring that at least 80% of the financial resources available for climate change will be channelled to the local level.

Over 2017, Oxford Climate Policy, Prakriti Resources Centre and Helvetas Nepal, with support from BothEnds and the Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action, brought together national environmental and women’s rights organisations in Kathmandu, and representatives from the government of Nepal, to discuss devolution of climate finance and action. Through two stakeholder events, numerous interviews and desk research, we sought to understand the successes and challenges of Nepal’s approach, to inform similar devolved approaches in other countries.

In particular, we wanted to draw lessons on how the Green Climate Fund (GCF) can “devolve decision-making” and “enhance access by sub-national, national and regional, public and private entities” while promoting “replication and sustainability” – all goals of the Fund’s “Enhanced Direct Access” (EDA) modality. The GCF is itself a pioneer in uncharted territory as it pilots devolved approaches through this modality, and can benefit from a closer examination of the experience of a key potential “client” (Nepal is, after all, a very climate vulnerable LDC).

The LAPA Framework has so far been implemented by several externally funded projects. Of these, the National Climate Change Support Programme (NCCSP), funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the EU, has gone furthest towards both developing and implementing LAPAs. Under NCCSP, LAPAs have been developed and implemented in 100 villages and seven municipalities of 14 districts in western Nepal. The first phase of the NCCSP programme ended this year, and a second phase has been agreed.

img_1588-2Our work over the past year resulted in a paper on Devolving Adaptation Finance and Action: Lessons from Nepal’s Local Adaptation Plans of Action. While the paper offers further insights, in this blog we list seven important lessons for the GCF from the first phase of NCCSP.

  1. Invest in national systems that promote local action

The first phase of NCCSP has been credited with establishing a channel for climate finance to flow from the national to the local level. The use of existing national institutions and structures, such as District and Village Development Committees and Ward Citizen Forums, to plan and implement activities, contributed to a better understanding and appreciation of adaptation by these local bodies.

While there is still an element of uncertainty on the future of the systems created under NCCSP given its short-term project-based approach, repeated investments in the same national-to-local systems of delivering finance, capacity and technical expertise will be more effective in the longer-term than piloting multiple, fragmented devolution approaches.

The emphasis of the EDA modality, therefore, should be to strengthen, capacitate, and sustain systems and institutions for devolved adaptation action within countries, and create new systems where they are lacking, rather than simply piloting multiple projects or programmes that will be difficult to sustain in the long term, without these systems in place.

  1. Encourage coordination and consolidation

NCCSP had limited success in coordinating and consolidating adaptation action with the work of other related development sectors, at both the national and local levels. While this could be due to “project straightjacketing” or silo-isation to some extent, the processes of coordination and consolidation clearly need additional – and targeted – investments. For instance, investments are necessary to build capacity within different sectors to understand and support climate-resilient local action; or to create incentives for coordination and consolidation. Pooling and blending of financial resources from different sectors and sources could help raise the resources, while also building ownership of different sectors.

The GCF should be open to arrangements that involve pooling and blending of different sources of climate finance, such as national and local climate funds, to encourage coordinated and consolidated action that is beyond the scope of a single source of funds.

The Fund’s Governing Instrument clearly calls on the Board to develop methods that will “enhance complementarity between the activities of the Fund and the activities of other relevant bilateral, regional and global funding mechanisms and institutions” and “promote coherence in programming at the national level through appropriate mechanisms“.

  1. Capacity is critical

NCCSP clearly showed that planning, implementing and monitoring local adaptation action places additional burdens on already capacity-constrained local governments and communities. There are two ways in which the GCF can address these capacity constraints.

The first is by not making processes more difficult than they need to be for capacity constrained communities and governments – for instance, the processes for accessing climate finance, or of making rigid distinctions between development and adaptation action. Overly complex procedures and requirements will render local action improbable, at least without the involvement of technical elites, who could then end up hijacking the process.

The second is through funding capacity building efforts. Here, the focus should shift from simply addressing capacity gaps related to implementing a project or programme, to taking a broader and longer-term view. The GCF should encourage investments in local capacity building processes that are likely to survive beyond the lifetime of the GCF funded activity.

Local capacity development may be required as a deliberate, planned process on its own, particularly in LDCs – not just as a support activity for a programme or project. The EDA modality should therefore consider proposals for local capacity building and provision, particularly if it is embedded in existing national institutions and systems, and builds local capability over a longer term.

  1. Monitoring is useful for more than just project evaluation 

The monitoring processes of NCCSP made a start, but did not go far beyond project evaluation, and towards iterative community learning. Sufficient capacity and budgets were once again lacking.

Monitoring processes under the EDA in particular, but also other GCF modalities, should aim to go beyond traditional top-down project evaluation process to inform the GCF Board of end outcomes. The Governing Instrument of the GCF emphasises “the use of participatory monitoring involving stakeholders“. However, the Fund’s Monitoring and Accountability Framework currently interprets this narrowly, and the focus remains on monitoring to satisfy the conditions of the GCF, rather than the requirements of communities.

Instead, they should be designed by and for communities, and encourage reflective learning and innovation. Their purpose, first and foremost, should be to inform local communities whether their approaches are working, so they can take corrective action during the implementation period itself, to improve effectiveness.

Adequate budgets will be critical to develop institutional and human resource capacities for participatory monitoring systems. A percentage of the funds provided for each programme could be earmarked for the development of such systems. Specific proposals for developing national and local participatory monitoring systems should also be considered by the Board, in addition to the readiness funding that is currently available, given the importance of this element to iterative learning.

  1. Flexibility is vital for adaptation planning

Despite recognition of the importance of the flexibility to revise plans in the LAPA Framework, it proved difficult to implement on the ground through the NCCSP. This was attributed by some to the rigidity of government systems, and to the rigidity of project budgets.

Adequate flexibility should be built into EDA programmes to allow for regular updates of plans, in response to changing circumstances related to climate or vulnerability, and to monitoring and feedback systems. Financial systems should also be designed to allow for this flexibility in planning, by allowing revisions of annual budgets, and of initial costings.

Further, the Paris outcome calls on the GCF to expedite support for the formulation of National Adaptation Plans (NAPs), and their subsequent implementation. It should be recognised, in the global negotiations and by the GCF, that these NAPs cannot be only one-off plans or processes. They will have to be reviewed and updated regularly to reflect changing circumstances, and as part of an iterative learning process. The support provided to countries for NAP processes should reflect this need. Moreover, NAPs should be encouraged to reflect and support the outcomes of local-level planning and implementation processes.

  1. Reach the most vulnerable

Nepal’s experience shows that devolution of climate action to the local level is already a first step towards reaching the most vulnerable. The GCF has made a start towards this objective through its EDA modality. However, it can go further by emulating Nepal’s goal for local access, by committing to channel a percentage of available resources to the local level. The GCF Board could set a progressively higher percentage target for local-level disbursement of GCF funding, particularly through the EDA modality, and use it to measure and monitor its own progress.

GCF’s success in reaching vulnerable communities and sections of society will also rely on the success of the Fund’s governing bodies, and its modalities and procedures, in prioritizing and responding to local needs. The Fund’s managers will need to balance the need for fiduciary stringency, with the flexibility needed to accommodate the needs and capacities of local communities.

Moreover, the GCF will need to actively work on accessibility by vulnerable countries. Additional and more direct support will be needed by these countries, particularly LDCs, in getting national entities accredited – for example, from GCF’s country programming division, which will need to be adequately staffed to provide this support.

  1. Go on, set a clear gender goal 

NCCSP’s goal of ensuring that 50% of the programme’s activities will be aimed at women, women’s participation in the process, and enhanced gender awareness is also extremely worthy of emulation by the GCF. A similar target for female beneficiaries of GCF projects can help the Fund implement its gender policy and action plan, to ensure that “women and men benefit equitably”.

NCCSP largely achieved the 50% goal, and generated important lessons related to a gender-sensitive approach in the process. One lesson relates to the kind of activities that are planned for women, in an evolving context where a focus on areas that are traditionally linked to women may no longer be enough. For instance, male migration to cities means that women also need training in managing infrastructure.

A second relates to co-financing from beneficiaries, in the form of financial contributions or labour. While generally this is considered to contribute to better ownership, a review of NCCSP found that these requirements could exclude disadvantaged groups such as the disabled and elderly, or come at high opportunity costs – for instance, for women who may have to forgo other responsibilities in order to contribute labour.

Last but not least, women’s groups who participated in the consultations in Kathmandu also highlighted the importance of targeted climate-related capacity building for women; and of ensuring access to GCF funds by women and women’s groups. For now, with even national governments struggling with the accreditation procedures of the GCF, small non-government organisations have little hope of accessing any funds.

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