working paper

Locally Led Adaptation

From Principles to Practice

Tamara Coger Ayesha Dinshaw Stefanie Tye Bradley Kratzer May Thazin Aung Eileen Cunningham Candice Ramkissoon Suranjana Gupta Md. Bodrud-Doza Ariana Karamallis Samson Mbewe Ainka Granderson Glenn Dolcemascolo Anwesha Tewary Afsara Mirza Anna Carthy
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Executive Summary


  • As funders and national governments invest in building resilience to climate impacts, many are recognizing the value of locally led adaptation (LLA) to manage climate risks faced by local communities and Indigenous peoples.
  • Locally led action can address historical imbalances of power and disproportionate vulnerabilities that climate change will otherwise deepen.
  • LLA requires governance and financing processes that prioritize the agency of local actors that are on the front lines of climate change impacts and are often best placed to identify adaptation solutions. Changing these processes to redress power imbalances and emphasize local priorities can be complex and difficult, often entailing significant shifts from standard practice.
  • This paper provides examples of approaches to investing in and implementing LLA to demystify the steps funders and governments can take to operationalize and scale adaptation in line with the Principles for Locally Led Adaptation.
  • Funders, governments, and other relevant actors can draw on these approaches to turn investments in and commitments to LLA into new policies, practices, and actions that ensure local partners have equitable access to climate finance and are at the center of decision-making processes.


Locally led adaptation recognizes the value of local knowledge and expertise to address climate risk and ensures that local actors on the front lines of climate change have equitable access to power and resources to build resilience. As of May 2022, more than 70 organizations and governments had endorsed eight Principles for Locally Led Adaptation. These principles provide foundational guidance for an approach to adaptation that emphasizes local priorities. Recent commitments to LLA by adaptation funders and governments demonstrate growing attention to ensuring that adaptation finance reaches local actors, especially populations experiencing disproportionate vulnerabilities. At the same time, there is a growing body of knowledge and research that provides guidance for implementing LLA and underscores LLA as a global priority, relevant in all regions of the world. This paper documents diverse approaches to putting the Principles for LLA into practice and provides examples of how funders and governments can follow through on commitments to speed up and scale implementation of LLA.

About This Working Paper

This paper contributes to the growing evidence base on LLA and encourages continued learning from local practice and expertise. It unpacks different funding and implementation models to show the Principles for LLA in practice. This paper provides evidence specifically around processes for decentralizing adaptation finance and decision-making power to the local level. Due to the complexities and longtime horizons associated with measuring impacts and outcomes of adaptation, these topics are outside of the paper’s scope.

This paper was co-developed by a consortium of partners working together to deliver the Adaptation Action Coalition’s Locally Led Adaptation Workstream. These partners are Centro para la Autonomía y Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indígenas (Center for the Autonomy and Development of Indigenous Peoples), the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute, ENDA, Huairou Commission, the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, the International Institute for Environment and Development, Save the Children Australia, Slum Dwellers International, SouthSouthNorth, and World Resources Institute.

The findings of this paper are most relevant to funders and governments, which will find models of finance and governance structures they can tailor and replicate to scale implementation of LLA, as well as practices and strategies for procurement, capacity building, collaboration, and program delivery. The paper is also relevant to local actors such as grassroots and civil society organizations, which may find examples of approaches and practices to enhance their adaptation efforts.

Existing LLA Efforts

The examples highlighted in this paper illustrate that there are many proven ways that adaptation finance can reach local actors and ensure they have agency, depending on the context and type of organization, and that there are many opportunities available to funders and governments to adapt and scale LLA approaches. These include leveraging existing finance and governance models, and building in practical steps and considerations for procurement, capacity building, monitoring, and other processes. Opportunities are found in mechanisms such as grants facilities, loan funds, savings schemes, microfinance, national planning policies, domestic finance programs, community-led emergency response and early warning systems, and social protection schemes. The examples reviewed for this paper show that approaches to advancing LLA often address discrete elements of LLA, but these are interconnected. They also underscore the importance of deliberately addressing structural inequalities and disproportionate climate vulnerabilities and reveal priority areas for future research.

Recommended Strategies for Advancing LLA

The 21 examples of investing in and implementing LLA described in this paper highlight many approaches across a range of sectors and geographic and sociocultural contexts. Taken together, they lead to the following recommended strategies for how to advance LLA. These proposals apply to all institutions committed to implementing LLA, but they are most relevant to funders and governments.

  • Pursue opportunities to scale LLA by increasing the amount of climate finance allocated to it, improving the quality of finance by making it more accessible and flexible, and adjusting governance and decision-making processes to ensure that local actors have agency in adaptation planning and implementation.
  • Address the Principles for LLA holistically so that adaptation investments, policies, and interventions enable and scale LLA in multiple ways simultaneously.
  • Advance active learning and research on LLA processes, outcomes, and impacts to continue to fill knowledge and evidence gaps and improve collective understanding of good practices for equitable and effective LLA.
  • Integrate social equity in LLA efforts, including by building such considerations into standard processes and decisions, and investing in mechanisms specifically designed to support groups that experience disproportional vulnerabilities.
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