The National Adaptation Programmes of Action

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The National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) are the most prominent national efforts in the least developed countries (LDCs) to identify priority areas for climate change adaptation. Now that most of the NAPAs have been completed (38 out of 48), it is time to ask if they matter. 

The NAPAs were completed at a price tag of near 10 million dollars for preparation and another anticipated 2 billion for implementation. It might appear they are a golden opportunity for the developed world to show that it is serious about supporting adaptation in vulnerable countries. But the NAPA reports continue to sit on the UNFCCC’s website, available to anyone to read but with little prospects of attracting funds for implementation – or so think many who participated in the NAPA process! 

The WDR team supported two workshops on the NAPAs in Bangkok and Johannesburg this year. The main discussion theme during these workshops turned out to be in stark contrast to the way the NAPA documents and process have been greeted by donors and scholars. Donors feel that the NAPAs are little different from development plans in general. Scholars criticize them for their sameness and sectoral focus. 

Those involved in the NAPAs feel differently. They assert they had followed the suggestions of the UN agencies that launched the NAPA process and identified urgent and high priority adaptation projects to implement. Their sincere efforts have not been matched by a commitment of support for adaptation.  Indeed, having attended the workshops, it seems to me that the participants in the NAPAs from the developing world and donors and climate researchers may simplybe  talking past each other. 

It is undoubtedly true that the NAPAs have been instrumental in increasing awareness of climate change in the least developed countries. They have also increased capacity for planning for adaptation. It is equally true that the total costs of urgent adaptation priorities identified by the 50 LDCs in their NAPAs (about 2.5 billion dollars) are less than 2% of the total bailout package a single company (AIG) in the developed world recently received so that it would not go bankrupt. (That company hasn't adapted much -- after the bailout, it spent nearly half a million dollars for a spa vacation for its executives!) 

I for one am persuaded the participants in the NAPA meetings had a point. I hope that’s not all they end up having.


Arun Agrawal

Chapter Author, World Development Report 2010

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