Monitoring and Evaluation for Climate Change Adaptation: A Summary of Key Challenges and Emerging Practice

Lars Christiansen, Caroline Schaer, Cecilie Larsen, Prakriti Naswa
Posted on: 4/11/2024 - Updated on: 4/11/2024

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This working paper is an outcome of the Climate Resilient Development (CRD) Programme. The programme supports the design, development and implementation of strategies and actions that effectively address climate change adaptation and sustainable development needs, with a primary focus on developing countries.

Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) and Measuring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) for climate change adaptation are areas of increasing interest and attention at both the political and operational levels. Climate change adaptation is a relatively new field, and thus far there is no scientific or political consensus over what successful adaptation is and how the success of adaptation interventions should best be measured. Working towards such a consensus is essential. As a result of this increasing focus and interest, significant efforts have been directed towards improving both methodologies and guidance for M&E and MRV for adaptation.

The objective of this summary note is to present an easy-to-read overview of the key challenges and emerging practices associated with monitoring and evaluation (M&E) in the area of climate change adaptation, targeted specifically towards practitioners with limited or no experience in the field of adaptation.

This document is structured into five brief fact sheets focussing on some of the key challenges associated with M&E for adaptation. The aim of the factsheets is to introduce key challenges to the reader in a concise and easily understandable format. 

The key challenges presented in this report are as follows:

  1. Challenge 1 – Lack of standard "off the shelf" methodology: Lack of a well-established standard of ‘best practice’ M&E methodology and indicators for adaptation interventions, as is generally available for many regular (i.e. non-climate change-focused) development interventions.
  2. Challenge 2 – Baselines: Due to the nature of adaptation as an additional but not easily distinguishable factor in an already dynamic development process, the definition of specific baselines for an isolated adaptation investment is difficult.
  3. Challenge 3 – Timing. Timeframes for the expected benefits of adaptation interventions are usually much longer than the normal lifetime of standard projects and programmes. This means that, paradoxically, impacts will often need to be documented before they have fully materialized.
  4. Challenge 4 – Indicators as proxies: THE LACK OF A STANDARD ADAPTATION METRIC. There is no standard metric for adaptation, which makes tracking and aggregating results across different sectors and localities very challenging. Identifying the best possible proxy outcome indicator is therefore a key challenge in designing M&E frameworks.
  5. Challenge 5 – Attribution. The problem of attributing outcomes in the form of increased resilience directly to specific adaptation investments, as adaptation is inherently a complex process cutting across sectors and levels of interventions.


Monitoring and Evaluation for Climate Change Adaptation: A Summary of Key Challenges and Emerging Practice. UNEP DTU Partnership Working Papers series; Climate Resilient Development Programme, Working Paper 1: 2016. 

Affiliated Organizations

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system, and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment.

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