working paper

Locally Led Climate Adaptation

What Is Needed to Accelerate Action and Support?

Stefanie Tye Isabella Suarez
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5. Common Challenges of and Barriers to Locally Led Adaptation

Based on the literature review, the authors identify several common challenges of and barriers to locally led adaptation. Capacity is one common challenge and barrier. Different local actors across the Global South have varying capacities to access the information, financing structures, and funding they need. Reasons behind funders’ reluctance to invest in local actors, institutions, and organizations include external perceptions of risk, high transaction costs, and insufficient subnational capacities of local governments and organizations to develop and carry out projects (IIED 2017). Accessibility also remains a barrier to locally led adaptation because funding is “lost in complex processes” or not adapted to local priorities (Restle-Steinert et al. 2019).

Local actors on the front lines often lack the financial resources and capacity to plan and implement adaptation themselves (Restle-Steinert et al. 2019). Addressing such capacity gaps—both as part of projects and also outside of them, and on a more institutional level—has been identified as critical, and could help make investing in locally led efforts more effective and attractive to funders. Related limitations at the local level can include a lack of awareness of the need and incentives for climate adaptation, limited administration capacities, weak policies, complicated dynamics in local politics, and inappropriate budgetary allocations (IIED et al. 2016; Musah-Surugu et al. 2017). These factors have implications for the extent to which finance reaches local levels—and, most importantly, the extent by which adaptation is led by local actors.

There is also the question of where and how governments and local actors can access additional finance to deliver the required investments in capacity building, which in turn is closely tied to being able to access international and national climate finance. Some solutions identified in the literature include enhancing local capacities and skills as part of funding packages to encourage continuity and long-term sustainability—with regard to management, learning, monitoring, and scaling—after the intervention has ended.

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