Climate Finance for Sustaining Peace: Making Climate Finance Work for Conflict-Affected and Fragile Contexts

Submitted by Richard Taylor | published 19th May 2022 | last updated 9th Jun 2022
UNDP Somalia

Credit: UNDP Somalia/Said Fadhaye


This study focuses on: trends in access to climate finance in conflict-affected and fragile contexts; gaps and opportunities to leverage the co-benefits of climate action for peace and security; strategies for mainstreaming climate-related security risks into climate finance; and recommendations to make climate finance work more effectively in contexts affected by conflict and fragility. A metadata analysis of 955 projects (US$ 14.4 billion) implemented in 146 countries, including 56 fragile states shows that conflict and fragility may affect access to and implementation of climate finance and its implementation may interact with drivers of fragility and insecurity. Qualifying co-benefits or peace dividends may help incentivize much-needed investments, but theories of change also need to be reconstructed.

The report is essential reading for researchers, policymakers and practitioners working on climate adaptation (and) finance to promote understanding the specific gaps and barriers that stakeholders in conflict-affected and fragile contexts face in access.

*This weADAPT article is an abridged version of the original report, which can be downloaded from the right-hand column. Please access the original text for research purposes, full references, and to quote text.


The vicissitudes of climate change can often hit the hardest and be felt most profoundly in conflict-affected and fragile contexts, which suffer high vulnerability and low investments in coping capacity and adaptation.

There are distinct gaps and differences to be noted in the way that conflict and fragility affect access to and implementation of climate finance on the one hand and how its implementation may interact with drivers of fragility and insecurity, on the other.

This study by UNDP, the Climate Security Mechanism and the Nataij Group sets out to address these gaps and focuses on: (i) trends in access to climate finance in conflict-affected and fragile contexts; (ii) gaps and opportunities to leverage the co-benefits of climate action for peace and security; (iii) strategies for mainstreaming climate-related security risks into climate finance; and (iv) recommendations to make climate finance work more effectively in contexts affected by conflict and fragility.

The Climate Security Mechanism (CSM) serves to build a more comprehensive UN response to climate-related security risks. It is located in the United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs with staff allocated to it by the UN Development Programme and the UN Environment Programme as well as by the DPPA. It also has ties to other practitioners from within and beyond the UN system.

While it is understood that climate change mitigation and adaptation can have other unintended impacts, both negative and positive, there has been little analysis of the “co-benefits” of climate action for peace, stability and security – defined by the IPCC AR5 as “the positive effects that a policy or measure aimed at one objective might have on other objectives, irrespective of the net affect on overall social welfare”.

There is a need to consider the additional challenges that conflict-affected and fragile contexts face in terms of their access to climate finance as such issues are not systematically considered in international negotiations or by extension of this, climate financing streams.

The climate change vertical funds may indirectly address some risks for peace and security, as they relate to environmental and social safeguards and the do-no-harm principle. The GEF and the UN Secretary-General’s Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) make such considerations a prioritization at a strategic level.


This study presents an analysis of the portfolios of the four climate “vertical funds” and details the lessons learned from eight country-level case studies from four different regions developed as part of the study: Bangladesh, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Haiti, Iraq, Mali, Solomon Islands, and Sudan.

The study begins with a scan of the policies, governance mechanisms, and strategies of the four vertical funds. The PBF and how the fund integrates climate change considerations into its governance, policies, and programming is also explored as a reference point. This study made use of the documentation available on the public websites for each of the four funds and interviews conducted with 23 key informants.

The portfolios of the four vertical funds – the Adaptation Fund, the Climate Investment Funds (CIF), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and the Green Climate Fund (GCF) are examined, including all projects in the “climate change” focal area, across the four funds over the period 2014-May 2021.

Finally, deep dives from country-level case studies were analysed to detail lessons learned. Recurrent themes are noted throughout the eight country case studies. Consideration was given not only to geographic representation but the experiences of countries in different stages of the conflict cycle, thus not only conflict-affected countries, but also post-conflict, as well as priority countries for the broader prevention agenda.

Key Findings

This study examines $14 billion of climate finance implemented under four of the climate change “vertical funds” (funding mechanisms which address specific issues or themes), in 146 countries, including 46 fragile contexts over the period 2014-May 2021 and finds that:

  • Only one of the top 15 recipients in the combined group of fragile and extremely fragile states was extremely fragile (according to OECD 2020 ‘States of fragility’), and just two ranked in the overall top 20, the DRC, which ranked fifteenth, and Haiti, nineteenth.
  • Projects supported by the vertical funds in extremely fragile states are far smaller than in fragile or non-fragile states. Around half of the approved projects target adaptation as their priority, only 30 percent mitigation and the remaining 20 percent, cross-cutting.
  • When measuring funding per capita, extremely fragile and fragile states together averaged just $8.8 per person, in finance from the vertical funds, of which extremely fragile states averaged $2.1 per person compared to $10.8 per person in fragile states and $161.7 per person for non-fragile states (including the SIDS).

Fig 4 from the report
Average overall funding per capita by country fragility classification  (Figure 4 in the report)

Lessons Learnt and Key Messages

  • Addressing conflict and security risks in climate finance:   It is important that conflict drivers and transition through different phases of the conflict cycle are considered in climate finance, as inequitable management, control and exploitation over natural resources can exacerbate grievances and illicit economies.
  • Integrated climate and security risk assessments: Climate finance has the evidence and scope to consider conflict risks as part of a broader routine programmatic ex-ante risk assessments and positively contribute to peace. Stakeholders expressed an interest in including a formal conflict analysis as part of the vertical fund project development process. This could be better systematized through the use of the CSM’s conceptual approach.
  • Insufficient access to climate finance as a climate-related security risk: The deep dives conducted under this study found that climate finance can be risk averse in terms of geographic targeting. Countries and regions most affected by conflict and fragility may also have insufficient investments in climate change adaptation and energy.
  • Implementation of smaller climate change adaptation projects first: In complex contexts, it may be necessary to assess impacts on conflict dynamics and demonstrate the success of financially smaller adaptation projects that tackle holistically the climate security nexus, before larger scale livelihood development or infrastructure projects can be successfully designed and implemented.
  • Climate finance for mitigation/ access to energy: Adaptation is greatly needed and underinvested in conflict-affected countries, but at the same time insufficient attention is paid to climate finance for mitigation and access to energy efforts. More attention is needed to both conflict risks related to mitigation, but also potential co-benefits or peace dividends.
  • Integration into fund level strategic plans and programming guidance notes: The overall consideration of climate security issues in the fund programming and planning processes varies greatly, with the GEF and the PBF making concrete steps to take stock of conflict sensitivity and provide guidance on adaptation programming. Such guidance, if developed, could be replicated by the other funds and modified to fit their operational modalities.
  • Project development and review as opportunities for integration: The vertical funds’ project development templates do not, at present, require direct consideration of peacebuilding/conflict issues or include conflict prevention/ peacebuilding as co-benefits. The project review process can be utilized to specifically consider fragile and conflict-affected contexts and provide specific feedback to a proposed project and develop measures to mitigate conflict and or fragility-related risks.
  • Risk assessment and management: None of the funds deliberately integrate conflict or peacebuilding considerations into project gender, environmental and social safeguards, or general risk assessment frameworks at present. At a minimum, it would be important to mainstream specific questions related to climate-related security risks. A contribution to peacebuilding and peace dividends would arguably require a change in higher- level programming objectives, at the level of a project’s overarching “Theory of Change.”

Further resources