Managing Climate Risks Across USAID’s Development Portfolio: A Progress Update

By Geoff Blate, Becky Chacko, Becky Nicodemus

At USAID, development practitioners  assess, address, and adaptively manage climate risks to ensure that programs are resilient in the face of changing climate.  Climate risk management has been applied to all country and regional strategies developed since October 2015, helping to safeguard all of USAID’s investments including agriculture, water security, and disease control programs.  In fact, USAID’s Climate Risk Screening & Management Tool has been accessed more than 1,000 times by users in 47 countries since it became available to the broader development community in January 2017.  
Climate risk management became a standard practice for new projects and activities in October 2016. In the first four months of this effort, the agency assessed more than $3 billion worth of USAID projects and activities for climate risks and identified actions to address those risks.  Climate risk management ensures good use of US taxpayer dollars, improving the sustainability and effectiveness of USAID investments.  For example, the USAID Zimbabwe mission’s country development cooperation strategy includes enhanced malaria surveillance and community infrastructure to support climate resilience of its health program objectives. A project in West Bank and Gaza to provide safe drinking water and improved sanitation is designed to be more sustainable in the context of changing rainfall patterns.





Climate Risk Screening & Management Tools

USAID developed resources to support development practitioners within and external to USAID in managing climate risk. These include country- and regional-climate risk profiles that summarize existing climate information, including how climate variability and change has and is expected to impact key development sectors. The climate risk screening and management tools provide an organized framework to help design teams systematically assess and address climate risks, consider opportunities to achieve multiple development objectives and strengthen resilience, and explore ways to reduce emissions where possible through program design and implementation.

Sector annexes to the tools provide questions and illustrative examples that help tease out climate risks and ways to address them in sectors ranging from economic growth to water to governance.  The annex for education, for example, prompts tool users to consider how higher temperatures might impact school performance or whether drought is likely to affect family income and the ability to pay school fees, especially for girls.  Questions such as these help  development professionals, who may have varying levels of climate change training or experience, to identify and address climate change risks.

Making tools and resources publicly available is an important element of the learning process for a couple of reasons. First, USAID’s implementing partners are critical actors in managing climate risk. USAID relies on its partners to help assess, address, and adaptively manage climate risk, particularly in cases where more detailed analysis is needed. Second, the need to address climate risks in development is not unique to USAID. Developing countries, donors and development practitioners all need to consider climate variability and change as part of the complex context of our work. USAID is engaging with its partners so all can improve how to address this challenge (see how other development organizations screen for and manage climate risk).

Stay tuned for profiles of experiences with climate risk management and join us in this ongoing dialogue on how to ensure effective development in the face of a changing climate.

Strategic Objective
Climate Change, Climate Risk Management

Geoff Blate

Dr. Geoffrey Blate is a Climate Change Program Specialist for USAID. Dr. Blate is a tropical forest ecologist with substantial experience working on climate change adaptation and mitigation in the US and abroad. Most recently, Dr. Blate served as Asia Regional Forestry Advisor for the USFS Office of International Programs, providing technical and strategic support on forestry to USAID Asia with a focus on regional climate change programs. Before that, he coordinated the climate change adaptation program for WWF’s Greater Mekong Program.

Becky Chacko

Becky Chacko is the Senior Climate Change Integration Specialist at USAID. Becky has been spearheading USAID’s efforts to integrate climate change considerations across agency programming since 2013. These efforts include the development and implementation of USAID’s climate risk management process. Previously, Becky worked as the Senior Director for Climate Policy at Conservation International, where she led a global team to leverage CI’s field experience and scientific expertise to inform international, regional and national climate change and development policies.

Becky Nicodemus

Dr. Rebecca (Becky) Nicodemus is a Climate Change Integration Specialist at USAID. Dr. Nicodemus works on the integration of climate change considerations across the Agency’s portfolio and has additionally worked on monitoring and evaluation. Dr. Nicodemus was an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellow at USAID from 2012 to 2014. Before becoming a Fellow, she worked for Technology Exchange Lab, a non-profit that provides a platform for the global community to share innovative technologies and approaches that address problems of poverty. She studied water for her Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and earned her B.S. from Purdue University where she studied the formyl radical, a precursor to photochemical smog.

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