International Waters learning Exchange & Resource Network

Incorporating climate change issues within IW Projects

IW projects should consider the following issues when considering incorporating climate change and variability within projects::

  • Guiding principles for mainstreaming climate change in IW projects
  • M&E Plan (results frameworks, indicators, reporting etc.)
  • TDA/SAP activities
  • Ecosystem monitoring
  • Climate change scenarios and linkages to water resources
  • Demonstration activities within IW projects
  • Stakeholder involvement in climate change adaptation
  • Incorporating climate change in sustainability and replication strategies

A number of GEF IW projects have already included climate considerations into their activities including assessments of measures with regards to potential climate change (e.g. Kura/ArasTisza, Amazon). Of particular relevance is the the work being undertaken by the UNEP Amazon River Basin project which has initiated a number of demonstration activities (with SPA funds) to test different adaptation approaches to floods, droughts and sea level rise.

1)  Guiding principles for mainstreaming climate change within IW freshwater projects

The following should not be consider prescriptive and it is important to recognize that within region different models/scenarios are applicable (one size does not fit all)

  • No regrets (adaptation option (or measures) that would be justified under all plausible future scenarios, including the absence of man-made climate change)
  • Dealing with uncertainty [see the  ICPDR Strategy on Adaptation to climate change]
  • Integration of land and water management [see Tisza]
  • Measures – management, capacity building, ‘making space for water’, water conservation (domestic, industrial and agricultural)
  • Informing stakeholders on both mitigation (e.g. carbon sequestration and benefits from C-trading - plus reducing CHG emissions) and adaptation approaches.
  • Assisting countries to develop robust policy to adapt to and thereby mitigate the impacts of climate change
Guidance on Water and Adaptation to Climate Change – UNECE (doc 11)
Policy should create an enabling environment for adaptation to climate change through, among other things, climate-proofing of policy, and legal and institutional frameworks, and by strong communication. Any policy should be based on the understanding that stable and unchanging baseline conditions no longer exist. Climate change adaptation should be integrated into existing policy developments. This integration can also enhance coherence among policy sectors and avoid potential conflicts. Spatial planning is an important basis on which to develop policies that take into account all sectors. Policy development should be based on the principles of multi-level governance. Legislation should be developed in a flexible way and should not present barriers for adaptation. Transboundary agreements should include provisions for flow variability. The roles and responsibilities of institutions dealing with climate change adaptation should be clearly defined. A dedicated research team should be established to improve understanding of the implications of climate change for water resources and their management. Joint bodies should have the mandate, capacity and means to ensure they can execute their responsibilities in developing and coordinating adaptation strategies for transboundary basins. Proper education, capacity-building and communication are imperative for climate change adaptation.

2)  Strengthening IW Freshwater Projects M&E activities with respect to Climate Change

Under GEF V (and future replenishments) there is an expectation that all IW projects will include climate variability and change considerations as mainstreamed elements of the project. In addition to the technical issues surrounding climate change (for example in developing scenarios within a TDA/SAP to ensure that measures are adequately 'climate proofed') there is a need to adequately reflect climate change within project management and reporting; specifically within project results frameworks, M&E activities, etc. (see UNDP Poverty and Environment Initiative)

As part of the expected and recommended approaches for project management and following the check lists given above, the overall approach to the M&E Plan(including indicators, baseline figures, results frameworks) are all reviewed during the inception phase. In addition the need to respond to GEF Agency reporting requirements (including PIRs) necessitates an updating of all indicators and values on (at least) an annual basis.

The expectation is that the project management unit, in discussions with the PSC will review and amend these basic project documents to ensure that climate change is reflected in both the indicators (for example are long-term monitoring programmes or data recording procedures in-place - see section below on ecosystem monitoring) and that activities (demonstration actions, capacity strengthening, stakeholder awareness etc.) include information on climate variability and change, and are designed to be resilient to any climate change impacts.

Key elements from the M&E Plan that should be reviewed for climate issues include [UNDP PEI]:

  • Project Result FrameworksAre outputs and activities reflecting the significance of climate change within the project area?
  • Project indicatorsAre the GEF 'types' of indicators (P, SR, ES/SE) reflecting climate issues: For example: are IMCs including climate within policy plans? Are potential stress reduction actions (wastewater treatments, wetlands restoration / reconnections, implementation of agricultural buffer strips) including potential climate change scenarios in their planning and implementation? Have estimates of changes in water demand due to economic growth (industry, agriculture) included estimates of variations in water resources as a result of climate change? Approaches adopted by other projects of a similar water type.
  • Reporting: Are activities that are being undertaken identifying climate adaptation benefits (for example from training of stakeholders, demonstration actions, etc.).

To see general guidance on GEF IW Project M&E, see the Project Management Manual.

3)  TDA/SAP activities

Climate variability and change considerations are an integral aspect of undertaking a Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA) as a component of developing a Strategic Action Programme (SAP) for the shared water bodies within an IW project. There has been significant debate in previous TDA/SAP projects on whether climate change is a transboundary problem however, climate change has been recognised as a significant driver (or root cause) of a number of transboundary problems (for example changes in biodiversity, loss of ecosystems, eutrophication, invasive species). Consequently, the effects of climate change (in terms of cause and impact) need to be well understood to ensure that future interventions are both resilient and adaptive.

It is important that within the TDA an assessment is made of the possible scenarios that could result from climate change and their impacts on the water resources and ecosystems and that these scenarios are utilized within the planning activities of the SAP (e.g. developing management actions or measures to respond to the transboundary problems) that are robust and resilient to potential climate change impacts. The concept of 'no regrets' (those measures that turn out to be of benefit no matter how or if the predicted climate change impacts materialize) has been utilized by a number of guidance documents in adaptation actions. [See documents 25, 27 and 'adaptation methodologies']

See TDA/SAP Methodology for detailed information on the TDA/SAP process and the Project Management Manual for guidance on managing it.

4)  Ecosystem monitoring:

Projects need sufficient monitoring data fro evaluation of the potential impacts of climate change on the ecosystem.

In the GWP Toolbox Climate change adaptation policies a key lesson identified was for the need for sound science and best practices as foundation for adaptation decisions,sharing knowledge and information, and building comprehensive and sustainable data collection and monitoring systems. The availability of reliable monitoring data, or the development of a new system is imperative to build up reliable baseline information for many activities. It is important for IW projects to consider the sustainability of such systems (collection of samples, analyses, data processing and interpretation, etc.) to ensure that countries and regions have the means to detect long-term changes and provide reliable information for management actions and stakeholder communications. In addition UNECE has prepared highly relevant guidance on water and climate change monitoring (see box below).

Guidance on Water and Adaptation to Climate Change – UNECE (doc 11)
Adaptation to climate change requires a multi-stakeholder approach to identify data needs according to the principles of IWRM. Data collection should cover all aspects of the hydrological cycle, considering the needs of the final users, but not be limited to it. Data collection should also cover explicit information on water uses. Information sharing between sectors, especially at the transboundary level, is essential to jointly assess the vulnerability to climate change impacts. Historical monitoring stations should be maintained to have sufficient time series of data. Monitoring and observation systems should be ready to adapt to the changes in information needs that could occur in the future, and should consider the interactions between the different variables. Information for disaster risk reduction, e.g. considering environmental and social vulnerability assessment, is of crucial importance.

Monitoring is an expensive process, and ensuring that the objective of the monitoring is well specified will help to minimize costs for both the project and subsequently for national sustainability.

A basic monitoring programme should consider collecting information on targeted quality parameters (e.g. dissolved oxygen, nutrients, BOD/COD), quantity (water level, discharge) and key biological indicators (where appropriate) to detect and/or assess the overall ecological condition of the water body.

See documents 11, 12, 25 and 36 for more information

5)  Climate Change scenarios and linkages to water resources

IW projects need to utilize information from various global circulation models to develop a range of scenarios that will be accepted by governments within the region on potential climate change. These can then be utilized, together with socio-economic models assessing industry, agricultural, population changes to provide estimates of water resource availability and demand, and potential impacts on the dependent ecosystem health. Such approaches have been adopted in the UNDP/GEF Kura-Aras River project [see report] and the Danube Basin [see report] and their approaches and lessons are captured in Box X and Y and in the reports collated here. The approach of the UNDP/GEF Kura - Aras project can be seen as an example of good practice by utilizing national expertise involved in the preparation of the Second National Communication to UNFCCC to develop the regional understanding of climate variability and change, and the potential impacts on water resources.

See DanubeTisza and Kura-Aras approaches for real life scenarios.

6)  Demonstration activities

Most GEF IW projects include some demonstration activities as a precursor to up-scaling and/or replication. Projects should ensure that these activities are undertaken with potential climate change in mind where appropriate and this necessitates considering:

  • Capacity development and awareness raising activities on climate change and adaptation to strengthen local skills on these issues;
  • Reviewing the design of activities involving on-the-ground measures to ensure they comply with good practice such as 'no regrets' concepts;
  • Encouraging monitoring activities that will compile data as a baseline and to identify means to sustain the collection to establish a long-term data set;

The Project Management Manual has guidance on demonstration projects and there is rich collection of references on adaptation.

7)  Stakeholders

'Stakeholders' are key partners of all IW projects and as such the PCU has an obligation to keep the many interested groups updated on aspects of the project. Climate change is critical  in water governance in the context of reducing vulnerability of the poor, to maintain sustainable livelihoods and support sustainable development.

Stakeholder engagement occurs throughout the project cycle, from inception through policy development, implementation and monitoring. Initial steps (for example stakeholder mapping and analysis), essential to projects undertaking a TDA/SAP are also beneficial to all GEF IW projects.

During the main implementation of the project, the PCU should consider preparing information targeted to specific groups of stakeholders (e.g. government institutes, communities, schools, etc.) to convey both the issue of climate change and the need for adaptation and the approaches to be adopted by the project. This will further increase overall awareness of the issues and encourage sustainability at all levels.

The Project Management Manual contains general guidance, while documents 9, 11, 12, 22 and 35 in the references section specific information.

8)  Adaptation strategies

Guidance on Water and Adaptation to Climate Change – UNECE (doc 11)

Adaptation strategies and measures should be based on the results of vulnerability assessments as well as on development objectives, stakeholder considerations and the resources available. If little or no information is available for structured vulnerability assessments, adaptation should be based on available general information combined with expert and local knowledge. Effective adaptation strategies are a mix of structural and non-structural, regulatory and economic instruments, and education and awareness-raising measures to tackle short-, medium- and long-term impacts of climate change. Given the uncertainty associated with climate change, win-win, no regret and low regret measures should be chosen as a priority.

All IW projects should facilitate the inclusion of appropriate strategies to adapt to climate change within the project activities, especially demonstration actions and to ensure that strategies to assist with the sustainability of activities address potential climate change issues.

9)  Sustainability and Replication strategies

All GEF IW projects are expected to develop sustainability plans and to encourage replication, both within the project region and globally by dissemination of experiences and lessons. Both replication and sustainability of project activities should take potential climate change (and variability) into consideration in the development of strategies.

The Project Management Manual contains guidance which is supplemented by associated documents on Sustainability and Replication.