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Vietnam, climate, adaptation
With growing international mobilization to address climate change challenges and the Sustainable Development Goals, AFD is stepping up its climate commitments. But the effectiveness of funded projects needs to be rigorously assessed.

Closely evaluating the outcomes of projects fulfills the dual objectives of learning and maintaining accountability. This concerns both mitigation projects, which contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and adaptation projects, which increase resilience to climate change. 

With the Paris Agreement, setting goals and measuring climate actions on the way 

The Paris Agreement has set new objectives to demonstrate the effectiveness of climate action. In addition to stepping up international climate finance commitments, particularly for adaptation, it endorses the obligation of transparency in these financial flows. 

Negotiated during COP24 in late 2018, the “Katowice Climate Package” established guidelines by which each country would meet their objectives by setting individual targets, and the actions required to fulfill them.

At Agence Française de Développement (AFD), this renewed framework has led to a increase in its commitments. In 2018 alone, €4.8 billion was committed to the fight against climate change, including € 1.6 billion for adaptation – a sharp rise of 50% year-on-year. The climate strategy also establishes a “maximum climate impact” commitment. Evaluation plays a key role in this, as it contributes to identifying the success factors to improve future action.

Evaluating climate projects, a methodological challenge

AFD analyzes the potential benefits of projects for climate change, from their conception. It is also taking steps to strengthen the monitoring and evaluation of projects both during implementation and after completion.

Beyond the methodological challenges inherent in any in-depth evaluation, climate-related assessments are made more complex by the sheer diversity of sectors concerned (energy, transport, water, agriculture and forestry and biodiversity), as well as the effects over the long term.  A lack of certainty about the ramifications of climate change makes the preparation of tools for adaptation difficult, too.  

Hence the importance of universal, standardized indicators that measure countries’ adaptation to the changing climate, which can be applied to local conditions. In short, how to report on local contexts while allowing for cross-country comparisons? 

Evaluating the effectiveness of adaptation requires defining clear objectives, and designing monitoring and evaluation mechanisms for each project at an early stage.

Improving practices among peers

With a view to strengthening its evaluation practices, AFD and its counterparts have improved their expertise in climate change evaluation. A review of donors’ evaluation practices launched in 2018 has highlighted the fact that everyone’s methods are not fully established or harmonized, especially the adaptation component. 

At COP24, AFD brought together the German development bank KfW and the Southern African development bank DBSA in a working group to address the challenge together.

In May 2019, evaluators and climate experts from these three organizations met for several days to compare evaluation methodologies, particularly as regards energy and adaptation. The common roadmap that resulted from these discussions includes continuing to share information on climate indicators and conducting joint evaluations. 

Launch of the first evaluation of adaptation projects in Africa

An evaluation using adaptive criteria will be launched in late 2019. The objective: to learn from past projects and improve methods such that they take increasingly into account questions of adaptation, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. The evaluation will focus on two of AFD’s key sectors: agriculture and water. Some 70 operations, for irrigation, local development, agro-ecology, access to drinking water and flood management will be analyzed.

These projects all include a component which improves the resilience of land and people to the consequences of climate change. Assessors will judge the extent to which climate change risks are taken into account in project design. They will evaluate the results of project actions and determine the conditions for their optimal sustainability. Above all, this evaluation will try to find out how to reduce the vulnerabilities of the target populations and improve their capacity for adaptation.

Evaluating synergies between climate and biodiversity

The Santiago COP 25 will, for the first time, pay special attention to the convergence of international biodiversity and climate agendas. There is a need to take greater account of synergies. Examples include the preservation of ecosystems that contribute to the fight against climate change, carbon storage and the mitigation of natural hazards by forest or coastal ecosystems.

Work still needs to be carried out on the scope of evaluation, and there is ongoing research on how to better identify biodiversity and climate benefits in projects. For example, an evaluation of the impact that Forest Management Plans have on the fight against deforestation in the Congo Basin conducted in 2019, opens up relevant methodological avenues on the use of satellite data for evaluation – a field that is ripe for further exploration.