Submitted by guest blogger on Wed, 12/06/2017

Blog written by Ellie McGuire for WISE UP

As the impacts of climate change become more globally pervasive—and particularly grievous in developing nations—the subsequent need to consider adaptation and resilience objectives within development initiatives is inevitable. Accordingly, in addition to more conventional forms of economic aid, climate finance plays an increasingly important role in supporting the adaptation and mitigation initiatives of developing countries.

Recently, I contributed research as part of my MSc dissertation to IUCN’s WISE-UP to Climate project on how climate finance can be leveraged to support water infrastructure policies incorporating adaptation objectives in Kenya. My research involved an examination of development aid databases as well as fieldwork in Nairobi, through which I discovered a surprisingly diverse landscape of climate finance options available in Kenya.

Natural Infrastructure & Climate Change

WISE-UP supports policies and practices that integrate the importance of natural infrastructure in strengthening the resilience of local communities as well as the long-term efficacy of water infrastructure. Natural infrastructure refers to naturally-occurring ecosystems such as floodplains, grasslands, and wetlands that perform a number of critical infrastructure-like services that support, and even increase, the efficiency of built infrastructure, such as dams.

This relationship is important to the function of dams, as surrounding ecosystems—if in healthy condition—are effective in regulating water flows and reducing sediment loads through erosion prevention. The services derived from natural infrastructure have high economic value, and therefore can significantly impact the success of large infrastructure projects.

A healthy balance between natural and built infrastructure is critical for WISE-UP’s work in Kenya’s Tana River Basin, where population growth and rapid development intensifies the pressure on both local ecosystems and the river’s cascade of five hydroelectric dams. Perhaps most crucially, climate change exacerbates extreme weather events such as prolonged droughts and more frequent and intense flooding that further strains the basin’s resources.

WISE-UP aims to support policies that efficiently manage the Tana River using both natural and built infrastructure with both environmental and economic outcomes in mind, especially in a future further impacted by climate change.

Gitaru Dam, Tana basin, Kenya ©University of Manchester/Anthony Hurford 

Climate Finance & WISE-UP

Fortunately, due to the increasing availability of climate-oriented funding mechanisms at multiple levels of scope and scale, I have identified a number of ways WISE-UP can utilize climate finance to support its work in the Tana River Basin.

At the highest level, there are multiple funding streams available through the UNFCCC including the three funds supported through the Global Environmental Facility (GEF): the GEF Trust Fund, Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF), and Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF). These funds primarily target national-level sustainable development priorities, including environmental outcomes. The UNFCCC’s Adaptation Fund (AF) similarly disperses funds at the national level for addressing climate change adaptation challenges. By tailoring the search parameters of these funds’ databases, I found that they financed a number of Kenya-based projects that fall within the scope of natural infrastructure and ecosystems preservation over the past few decades.

The most recent development within UNFCCC funding mechanisms is the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which became fully operational in 2015. The GCF departs from the other UNFCCC funds in that it attempts to make the application process more accessible to non-expert audiences through its GCF 101 guide, allowing applicants from national, regional, international, public, and private organizations, rather than restricting access to designated national agencies.

The GCF’s approach to accessibility is reflected in a burgeoning trend towards devolved climate finance on a regional and county-based level within Kenya. DfID’s Strengthening Adaptation and Resilience to Climate Change in Kenya Plus (StARCK+) program provides financial support to the Adaptation Consortium as part of its 32 million GDP pledge, which in turn disburses funds to the County Climate Change Fund (CCCF). The CCCF now covers 30% of Kenya across five counties, and primarily focuses on supporting adaptation and capacity-building projects that align well with the larger-scale policy objectives of WISE-UP.

Perhaps most importantly for WISE-UP, my research in Nairobi confirmed that the government of Kenya is developing a National Climate Change Fund that will finance climate change actions at national and regional levels, echoing this pattern of multi-scalar climate finance.

So, what are the implications of my research?

First, I delineated the range of climate finance mechanisms available to Kenya, providing a number of options to explore when considering how these funding streams can support WISE-UP’s work in large-scale policy development. For example, the UNFCCC streams have a long-established history of financing water infrastructure and ecosystems-based projects, and the expanded access under the GCF provides even greater potential to tap into funding to support objectives with higher-level scope. An additional approach, perhaps as an augmentative strategy, is to consider utilizing county-level funds and resources to streamline local adaptation and resilience objectives with regional- and national-level policy goals.

More broadly, I believe this exploration of the climate finance landscape in relation to WISE-UP has wider-ranging implications for development initiatives. As the degradation of natural infrastructure increasingly undermines the economic growth and stability of developing areas, climate finance provides aid flow that emphasizes the importance of considering the long-term environmental impact of development initiatives on both people and the planet.

As a student with an academic interest in participatory policy processes, I found it notable that the increasing availability of devolved climate finance makes it a flexible resource for projects that are also concerned with the social sustainability of development projects, as it allows greater input from the communities confronting pressing adaptation challenges on a daily basis.

While national-level climate finance mechanisms are most relevant to WISE-UP’s larger-scale policy objectives, the scope and scale of the options I identified illustrate the utility of climate finance on the whole for addressing Kenya’s adaptation and development challenges.


WISE UP To Climate Initiative IUCN Water Logo Transparent

WISE-UP is a project that demonstrates natural infrastructure as a ‘nature-based solution’ for climate change adaptation and sustainable development. It is aimed to develop knowledge on how to use combinations of built water infrastructure (eg. dams, levees, irrigation channels) together with natural infrastructure (eg. wetlands, floodplains, watersheds) for poverty reduction, water-energy-food security, biodiversity conservation, and climate resilience.

WISE-UP is intended to show the advantages of combined built and natural infrastructure approaches using dialogue with decision-makers to agree acceptable trade-offs. It will run over a four-year period and link ecosystem services more directly into water infrastructure development in the Tana (Kenya) and Volta (Ghana-Burkina Faso) river basins.

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