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Technical assessments underpin the success of ecosystem-based adaptation

UNDP and Deltares sign cooperative agreement to Improve Implementation of climate change adaptation Initiatives

February 13,2017 - Adaptation to climate change doesn’t always require infrastructure-centric solutions. Solutions need to be context specific and fit for purpose, and inclusion of the physical and ecological system as part of the solution will increase sustainability and adaptive capacity of interventions under a changing climate.

For instance, the future of many Small Island Developing States (SIDS) partly depends on the status of their ecosystems and their ability to work with and manage these ecosystems. Take Tonga for instance. This SID faces a constant onslaught of climate hazards and natural disasters. Earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, cyclones, sea level rise, eroding coasts – you name it, and Tonga probably has it. In fact, most experts consider the Kingdom of Tonga to be one of the most at-risk countries in the world to the effects of climate change.

In the context of the Island group of Ha’apai, about 150 km from the Tongan capital of Nuku’alofa, it is very evident that building 4-7-meter-high walls as suggested by some feasibility assessments to keep the rising seas and increasingly hostile extreme events at bay will only offer a false sense of security at best. At worst, it will imprison inhabitants in this small group of islands and not provide a robust strategy under uncertain climate change scenarios.

Investments in risk reduction and adaptation will need to employ a thorough systems analysis approach to determine the varied and nuanced challenges that are posed by a variety of climate change hazards but also to get a better grip on the role, status and development of Ha’apais’ protective reef systems. Understanding these complexities is critical to ensuring that eventual solutions cut across economic sectors, value chains and communities to advance a holistic and integrated approach that takes not just a few parameters into account, but looks at how the economy, ecosystem, climate variables and society work together as a whole.

With the goal of addressing the unique challenges posed by the complex “eco-economical” constructs of coastal zones, the United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) Global Environmental Finance Unit signed a memorandum of understanding recently with the independent research institute Deltares, based in the Netherlands and world leading on delta and water management. This partnership will strengthen the advice and guidance that countries receive to design and implement new and ongoing climate change adaptation initiatives in coastal zones and river basins.

“Deltares is an institute for applied research to improve water and soil management in coastal zones and river-basins. Our knowledge base is applied in flood risk management, adaptive delta planning, infrastructure projects, water and sub-soil resources, and water-based ecosystem management,” said Bregje van Wesenbeeck, a Deltares expert on coastal zone management and ecosystem-based adaptation. Bregje provides insights and guidance on improving project design for a new UNDP-supported climate change project in the works for Tonga.

In all, UNDP’s climate change adaptation portfolio has more than 50 projects directly related to water stresses and management across the globe, and a substantial pipeline of new proposed projects to be funded by the Green Climate Fund (GCF) will provide more relief for Small Island Developing States in the Pacific. Under the GCF, US$165 million has already been allocated towards five projects in the Pacific, including a new UNDP-supported project in Samoa on Integrated Flood Management to Enhance Climate Resilience.

“This agreement provides UNDP and its partners with a tremendous knowledge base and know-how that connects food, energy, economy, society, policy and water to build climate adaptation projects designed for the 21st century,” said Pradeep Kurukulasuriya, Head – Climate Change Adaptation, Global Environmental Finance Unit.

One of the key outputs from the agreement will be the design and application of a novel monitoring and evaluation system customized for the unique challenges presented by water-specific projects.

“This knowledge will be packaged and shared across a number of platforms to ensure Governments, development partners, and UNDP staff have the tools they need to support the design and implementation of cutting-edge projects,” said Kurukulasuriya. “It will also inform the next-generation climate change adaptation projects in the Pacific in places like the Marshall Islands and Papua New Guinea , where UNDP is serving as a trusted broker to connect governments of Small Island Developing States with technical experts on coastal interventions and new funding streams through the Green Climate Fund.”

Deltares is an independent institute for applied research in the field of water and subsurface. Throughout the world, Deltares works on smart solutions, innovations and applications for people, environment and society. The institute’s main focus is on deltas, coastal regions and river basins.

UNDP Climate Change Adaptation. For UNDP, adaptation to climate change means climate-resilient economic development and sustainable livelihoods, especially for vulnerable populations – the poor, women, and indigenous peoples. UNDP supports these goals by assisting over 80 countries to integrate current and future climate risks and uncertainties into national and sub-national development efforts. UNDP works with governments, the private sector, communities, and other partners to build responsive state institutions and public policies; strengthen public and private sector capacities to manage climate change risks and uncertainties; and formulate, finance and implement climate-resilient initiatives.