National Climate Change Adaptation: Emerging practices in monitoring and evaluation

Submitted by Julia Barrott | published 10th Sep 2015 | last updated 10th Jan 2020
paper boat

Photo credits: ©


Countries’ national approaches to climate change adaptation are increasingly moving from a project focus towards more integrated strategies that promote co-ordination across sectors and levels of government. The monitoring and evaluation frameworks assessing the effectiveness of the national approach on adaptation must be adjusted accordingly.  

This report draws on the emerging practice of monitoring and evaluation of adaptation in developed and developing countries to identify four tools that can be used to enhance learning and to assess countries’ progress in adapting to climate change. The report also considers the potential role development co-operation providers can play in helping partner countries to implement the four tools and build on the information they generate. 

The four tools examined in this report are not an exhaustive list, but instead represent promising avenues for further work based on countries’ experiences to date: 

  • Climate change risk and vulnerability assessments.  
  • Indicators to monitor progress on adaptation priorities. 
  • Project and programme evaluations to identify effective adaptation approaches. 
  • National audits and climate expenditure reviews. 

Contents of the report:

Ensuring effective adaptation to climate change:

  • Assessing national climate change adaptation
    • Objectives of national monitoring and evaluation of adaptation
    • Challenges to the monitoring and evaluation of adaptation
  • Effective monitoring and evaluation of climate change adaptation.
    • Data availability and monitoring and evaluation capacity
    • Co-ordination between providers and users of climate information
  • National tools for monitoring and evaluation of climate changeadaptation
    • Climate change risk and vulnerability assessments
    • Indicators for monitoring progress against adaptation priorities
    • Learningfromadaptationapproaches
    • National audits and climate expenditure reviews

Emerging country indicators to monitor and evaluate adaptation:

  • Proposed indicators for Kenya’s climate change action plan
  • Goals and outcomes in Philippines’ climate change action plan Indicators used to evaluate adaptation in the United Kingdom
  • Proposed Indicators for monitoring the German adaptation strategy
  • Australia’s proposed climate adaptation assessment framework
  • Measures and actions in France’s national adaptation plan​

Barriers to learning from monitoring and evaluation

There are a number of barriers to learning from monitoring and evaluation that apply equally to the national, project and programme levels:

  • Organisational culture: In some organisational structures poor performance is associated with blame, discouraging openness and learning. Other structures see failure to deliver expected results as an opportunity for learning.
  • Pressure to spend: Pressure to meet disbursement targets reduces the time available to examine lessons learned and to integrate them in the planning process.
  • Lack of incentives to learn: When staff turn-over is high, the incentive to learn may be limited since the staff responsible will often have moved on long before the consequences of failure to learn are felt.
  • Tunnel vision: Some staff or operational units prefer to stick to their old processes and procedures even when the shortcomings of these approaches are recognised.
  • Loss of institutional memory: The organisational capacity to use monitoring and evaluation as a mechanism for learning may be reduced when staff turn-over is high. 
  • Insecurity and the pace of change: Unclear and frequent shifts in priorities can have an adverse effect on learning.

Key Messages for ensuring effective adaptation to climate change

Assessing national climate change adaptation:

  • Continuous learning from monitoring and evaluation can help to inform the formulation of the national policy agenda on adaptation. This however, requires a flexible adaptation process that can respond to changing climate circumstances.
  • The multifaceted nature of adaptation makes it essential to use a portfolio of monitoring and evaluation tools that generate lessons learned and can guide any mid-course adjustments that may be needed.
  • Assessing the value for money of the resources allocated for adaptation is important, but it should not be the sole objective of monitoring and evaluation activities.
  • To overcome challenges in monitoring and evaluating adaptation, countries may initially focus on progress made in addressing current climate vulnerability. As climate uncertainty decreases, and data availability and monitoring and evaluation capacity improve, the focus may gradually shift towards an evaluation of current levels of adaptation against projected climate change.
  • Building on systems already in place to collect and process climate information can help to reduce administrative burdens and ensure sustainability. 

Effective monitoring and evaluation of climate change adaptation:

  • A diverse set of environmental and socio-economic data that countries collect on a regular basis can inform the monitoring and evaluation of adaptation. Remaining data gaps can gradually be addressed by, for example, incorporating relevant adaptation questions into established data collection processes such as household surveys.
  • Human and technical capacity are necessary for the monitoring and evaluation of adaptation. Capacity constraints can be difficult to overcome if financial and human resources are limited, or if monitoring and evaluation are not valued sources of information for national planning and budgeting processes. Changes in the incentive structure of public officials to use the findings from monitoring and evaluation can help overcome this challenge.
  • Given the diverse set of data used to monitor and evaluate adaptation, a co-ordination mechanism can usefully link data producers and users. It is beneficial if such a co- ordination mechanism has the mandate and capacity to gather information across sectors and levels of decision-making (local, regional and national).
  • Development co-operation providers can support the development of partner countries’ own statistical systems by, to the extent possible, drawing on data collection mechanisms already in place for their own reporting requirements. When data gaps exist, development co-operation providers can support initiatives that will contribute to enhanced capacity of the partner country’s statistical system rather than focus on the collection of data for discrete projects and programmes. 

National tools for monitoring and evaluation of climate change adaptation:

  • The broad nature of adaptation demands a portfolio of monitoring and evaluation tools that when combined provide an overview of the larger resilience picture. The composition of the tools used will be most effective if they reflect domestic circumstances and capacities.
  • Climate change risk and vulnerability assessments can provide a baseline of domestic vulnerabilities to climate change against which progress on adaptation can be reviewed. If repeated, such assessments can also demonstrate how risks and vulnerabilities are changing over time.
  • Indicators facilitate an assessment of progress made in addressing adaptation priorities. On their own, however, indicators cannot explain how the change came about. Reporting on, and using indicators, is resource intensive. They must therefore be carefully defined, and when possible, draw on existing data sources.
  • Project and programme evaluations can help to identify what approaches to adaptation are effective in achieving agreed adaptation objectives and to understand what some of their enabling factors for success may be.
  • National audits and climate expenditure reviews examine if resources allocated for adaptation are appropriately targeted and allocated cost-effectively. This information may be particularly useful when resources are specifically earmarked for adaptation.
  • Development co-operations can provide technical support to partner countries implementing monitoring and evaluation tools. To ensure a sustainable approach that contributes to domestic systems already in place, co-ordination and commitment to support partner countries beyond the initial implementation phase is ideal. Development co-operation providers can also play an important role in facilitating peer learning and the exchange of lessons learned.


This report has been written by Nicolina Lamhauge under the supervision of Michael Mullan. Anthony Cox provided oversight and valuable feedback. In addition to members of the Task Team on Climate Change and Development Co-operation, the author would like to thank Joëlline Benefice, Simon Buckle, Juan Casado-Asensio, Jan Corfee-Morlot, Jane Ellis, Eva Hübner, Megan Grace Kennedy-Chouane, Britta Labuhn, Hans Lundgren, and Alexis Robert of the OECD for valuable input and feedback. Janine Treves and Katherine Kraig-Ernandes provided editorial support. 

Suggested Citation

OECD (2015), National Climate Change Adaptation: Emerging Practices in Monitoring and Evaluation, OECD Publishing, Paris.