Climate adaptation not synonymous with environmental resilience
Nov 19, 2021
Rome, 19 November 2021 – “It is the belief of many that a climate change adaptation intervention should be naturally good for the environment. It is assumed that climate resilience is going to build environmental resilience. We have found that this is not always the case. Climate resilience may not always work towards environmental resilience without conscious efforts to marry them. The challenge is to achieve environmental, climate and economic resilience together”. S. Nanthikesan, Lead Evaluation Officer at the Independent Office of Evaluation (IOE) of IFAD, put this finding on the table during the event entitled ‘Integrating Environment into Evaluations’.
The finding emerges from IOE’s recent Thematic Evaluation of IFAD Support to Smallholder Farmers’ Adaptation to Climate Change. In his intervention, Nanthikesan highlighted the thematic evaluation’s approach and methodology to assess the environmental sustainability of climate adaptation interventions and to analyse the complex nexus between human systems and ecosystems.
Held on 16 November, the Evaluation Practice Exchange (EPE) learning event of the United Nations Evaluation Group (UNEG) was organized by the Working Group on integrating environmental and social impact in all development evaluations. The session was organized to take stock of the progress within the UN development system and to bring experiences from outside such as the ongoing work of the Footprint Evaluation initiative of the Global Evaluation Initiative (GEI). Juha Uitto, Director of the Independent Evaluation Office at the Global Environment Facility (GEF), moderated the event which featured introductory remarks by Michael Spilsbury, Director of the Evaluation Office of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). S. Nanthikesan’s intervention was complemented by those of other high-level experts, including Johannes Dobinger, Chief of the Independent Evaluation Division of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), David Todd, technical specialist in evaluation for several UN evaluations and member of the UNEG Coordinating Committee, and Andy Rowe representing Footprint Evaluation.
Discussions moved from the stocktaking exercise by the UNEG Working Group on Integrating Environmental and Social Impact into Evaluations (ESI) which revealed that environmental aspects were inadequately covered in most evaluations by UNEG members. Against this backdrop, in the past year, the ESI Working Group has focused its efforts to starting to develop guidance that would help UNEG members to enhance their performance in this respect. IOE is one of the founding members and co-coordinators of the ESI working group.
“IFAD has put in place efforts to integrate environmental considerations not only in evaluations, but also in the evaluation function itself. The first enabling condition was that management integrated environmental considerations in all its interventions. Mirroring this and around the same time, the evaluation policy and the evaluation manual stipulated that we should look at environmental considerations in all IFAD evaluations. The evaluation manual went one step further and introduced support to climate adaptation and environmental natural resources management (ENRM) as an evaluation criteria (in addition to the more familiar international criteria) to be assessed in all evaluations of IFAD’s operational interventions. The Annual Results and Impact Report (ARRI) of IOE was submitted to the governing bodies that aggregated the performance related to ENRM and climate adaptation of all IFAD projects. Thus, IFAD ensured that evaluations worked towards maintaining accountability for environmental sustainability”, noted Nanthikesan in presenting the systemic approach pursued by IOE and IFAD to mainstream environmental impact in all evaluations.
Juha Uitto, the event moderator, noted that IFAD was one of the pioneers in the UN system to recognize the need to evaluate the intended and unintended environmental consequences of all development interventions. Today, IFAD's commitments continue to ratchet up the importance assigned to mainstreaming environmental considerations in its interventions while its evaluations are already testing out the cutting-edge approaches to assessing environmental impact – which are still emerging as ideas elsewhere.