Back 29.08.2014

Switzerland pioneers in assessing the effectiveness of climate action in development cooperation

Gaia, together with Zoï Environment Network and Creatura Ltd., has put together a pioneering evaluation of the effects of climate change mitigation and adaptation in Swiss development cooperation projects. The results are relevant to other countries as well.

The evaluation looks at over 400 Swiss-funded development projects from 2000–2012, with a total budget of 1.32 billion Swiss francs. The projects aimed at reducing poverty in developing countries, focusing at the same time on climate change.

“This evaluation is something that other countries will also need to do. Switzerland is a pioneer in this, but even more important than the evaluation itself is how the results are used in order to keep the global temperature increase from reaching a dangerous level,” says Leading Consultant Mikko Halonen from Gaia.

Good results, room for improvement

The evaluation shows that most Swiss development projects rate moderately, strongly or very strongly effective in both climate mitigation and adaptation. Only 10 % of the total development budget was used in projects that showed weak, very weak or no effects.

Effective climate mitigation projects often concentrated on minimising new emissions, sharing knowledge and seizing new opportunities created by investments, as well as combining initiatives to gain synergy and long-term effects.

Effective climate adaptation projects often turned out to concentrate on reducing disaster risks, sharing knowledge on vulnerabilities and adaptation solutions, and rewarding the sustainable management of ecosystems.

Projects that were effective in both climate adaptation and mitigation concentrated on leveraging investments in forest, grassland and soil ecosystem conservation, producing knowledge for policy development, and offering funding to effective institutions for streamlining their climate change activities.

“Active screening and testing can help minimise the share of ineffective climate change projects and strengthen projects that are moderately effective,” says Halonen.

The evaluation also shows improvement in effectiveness over time, particularly in climate adaptation projects. This probably results from general acceptance of the inevitability and the consequences of climate change.

Lessons for the future

Most countries and donors that fund development programmes are facing similar challenges and opportunities, including Finland. The evaluation process proves that there is potential to build on existing strengths, for instance renewable energy, disaster risk management and engaging the business sector in climate action. There are also opportunities in harnessing the synergies between climate mitigation and climate adaptation.

The evaluation also shows that more data is needed to provide reliable results. Even more importantly, however, it proves that enhancing project coordination and mainstreaming climate considerations into development projects can improve the effectiveness of development cooperation at large.

“With the advancing impacts of climate change and the international commitment to a global climate deal in Paris next year, it is critical to strengthen climate work capacity and partnerships between countries as well as to involve the private sector in the transformation,” says Mikko Halonen.

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