Designing Metrics for Adaptation

Submitted by Sukaina Bharwani | published 25th Mar 2011 | last updated 3rd Jan 2023

Metrics to measure progress in achieving targets for adaptation can be designed in different ways. They could be either expressed as financial commitments, linked with development targets and indicators, or expressed as sectoral policy indicators. [1] Financial commitments include national allocations that are dedicated to adaptation and ODA that incorporates funding for adaptation efforts. Development-related metrics could be based on concrete and measurable targets and indicators that would allow measuring gradual progress on adaptation-sensitive development, including adaptive capacity. The third option is to set adaptation policy indicators for vulnerable sectors, reflecting economic linkages between these sectors and climate change impacts, including the cost and benefits of adaptation measures to the sectors and the economy.[2]


Types of Adaptation Metrics

Types of Adaptation Metrics

Financial metrics could be designed based on available information on the cost of adaptation actions. However, estimates of the costs of adaptation at the national and sectoral levels are still very limited and in most of the cases not known. Given the multidimensional nature of adaptation and various scales of adaptation actions, it would probably be impossible to account for all resources directed to adaptation activities. Therefore, countries could agree to focus on financial resources that are aimed at supporting specific lines of action, such as:

* Development and implementation of specific adaptation provisions within national policies

* Capacity building, and outreach on adaptation

* Development of scientific and technical capacity on adaptation

* Research and development to address adaptation

* Large-scale climate-proof investments

* Local and/or hazard-related adaptation projects


To progress in adaptation-mindful development, metrics for adaptation could be developed based on indicators to measure sustainable development and progress in achieving the Millenium Development Goals. At present, there are 48 indicators that measure progress in achieving the MDGs, and 96 that have been developed to measure sustainable development. Some of these indicators are relevant to, and can be adopted for, adaptation. This approach not only facilitates the integration of adaptation into development planning, but it also uses the already existing experience gained from the implementation of development indicators. Thus, it could be argued that the use of development indicators for adaptation purposes adds cost-efficiency to the process. [3]

Possible metrics for adaptation that are based on indicators for measuring progress on MDGs and sustainable development could include the following:

Indicators for adaptive capacity:

  • Proportion of population living on less than $1 (PPP) per day
  • Net enrolment ratio in primary education
  • Literacy rate of 15-24 year-olds
  • % of national budget dedicated to carrying out vulnerability assessments

Indicators for result-oriented adaptation targets:

  • Prevalence of underweight children under-five years of age
  • Share of preserved coastal wetlands
  • Human and economic loss due to hydro-meteorological disasters
  • % of land lost due to sea level rise
  • % of population living on flood planes

Indicators for process-oriented adaptation targets:

  • Availability of national climate change impacts and vulnerability assessments
  • Availability of national adaptation strategies with identified adaptation priority actions
  • National reports integrating adaptation into sectoral policies and planning
  • Amount of funding directed for community adaptation projects

Sectoral policy metrics are one possible way of ensuring that adaptation issues are being consistently considered in public policy and investment decisions. Policy indicators could be designed focusing in particular on the interactions between climate change and vulnerable sectors.

Examples could include:

* Special building codes for residential, commercial and industrial construction in storm-and flood-prone areas * Water use efficiency for sanitary and agriculture purposes in water scarce areas * Risk reduction measures for floods, droughts, hurricanes, and other climatic extremes * Protective measures to sea-level rise in coastal areas * Land use management standards in coastal/forested areas



  1. ↑ Levina 2007
  2. ↑ Levina 2007
  3. ↑ OECD 2007