A Typology of Adaptation Actions: A Global Look at Climate Adaptation Actions Financed Through the Global Environment Facility

Bonizella Biagini, Rosina Bierbaum, Missy Stults, Saliha Dobardzic, Shannon M. McNeeley
Created: 2/19/2014 -


Climate change impacts threaten existing development efforts and achieving future sustainability goals. To build resilience and societal preparedness towards climate change, integration of adaptation into development is being increasingly emphasized. To date, much of the adaptation literature has been theoretical, reflecting the absence of empirical data from activities on the ground. However, the Funds established under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and managed by the Global Environment Facility, the Least Developed Countries Fund, the Special Climate Change Fund and the Strategic Priority for Adaptation, have approved financing for 133 adaptation projects in 70 countries with sufficient documented experience to allow for initial categorization and evaluation. This article provides the first substantial compendium of adaptation actions identified through the allocation and disbursement of these Funds and organizes these actions into a generalized typology of adaptation activities. The information obtained sheds new insight into what adaptation is, in practice, and suggests some next steps to strengthen the empirical database. Ten types of overarching adaptation activities were identified through an analysis of 92 projects financed through these Funds. This paper analyzes these adaptation activities and compares them with theoretical constructs of adaptation typologies. We find that many of the early ideas and concepts advanced by theoreticians are consistent with results from the field. The adaptation categories that recur the most in Global Environment Facility projects are enabling and relatively inexpensive measures, such as those related to capacity building, policy reform, and planning and management. However, a rich panoply of technical actions ranging from information and communications technology, to early warning systems, to new or improved infrastructure, are also identified as common project goals. Future refinements of the costs of various adaptation actions, the mixture of technical and management options, and evaluating the efficacy of actions implemented, will be key to informing the future global adaptation agenda.

Published On


Sector Addressed
Development (socioeconomic)
Disaster Risk Management
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy
Capacity Building
Infrastructure, Planning, and Development
Governance and Policy
Maintain adequate financial resources for adaptation
Target Climate Changes and Impacts
Culture / communities