A young girl in India studies on top of a pile of harvested rice by the light of a solar-powered lamp. | Dipayan Bhar, Courtesy of Photoshare

A Stocktaking of Climate Risk Management at USAID

By Rebecca Nicodemus, Anna McGinn

USAID recently found that, in fiscal year 2017, 95 percent of new programming—in terms of budget—was assessed for climate risks, a high level of compliance for a relatively new step in activity design. It also found that climate risk management, the practice of assessing, addressing and adaptively managing climate risks, is relevant to a large portion of USAID’s portfolio. Close to 80 percent of new programming identified climate risks. Sixty percent of those risks were considered moderate or high.

Expected and reported benefits of managing climate risks include improved sustainability and resilience, reduced climate risks, and better program design.

USAID took stock of climate risk management (CRM) in programming across all sectors to better understand the Agency’s experience with CRM to better support the practice. The stocktaking included surveys, document reviews, a desk study completed by a third party, and a focus group with implementing partners. The stocktaking found while there is room for improvement both in terms of quality of climate risk assessments and subsequent action on assessment results, there are also early indications of success.

A conflict resolution activity in Uganda’s Karamoja region, for example, is working with traditionally adversarial communities to find ways to jointly manage common grazing and water resources, which are becoming increasingly vital as long-lasting droughts become more frequent. In Haiti, a water, sanitation and hygiene program is requiring that new water infrastructure be built in a way that is resistant to damage from erosion caused by heavy rains.

The study that fed into the stocktaking, Climate in Development: An Analysis of Climate Change Integration in Solicitations, found a 220 percent increase in the integration of climate change in USAID solicitations in FY 2017 (from 16 to 35 percent) and that adaptation was more frequently integrated than mitigation. Building on a previous study, this new document review of 85 USAID solicitations focuses on the change in climate integration, which includes climate risk, over time as well as differentiation in climate integration across variables such as geography and sector. The study also found that better information does not always lead to better project design. For example, it documented that climate risks and impacts are often discussed in the background of the solicitation without including corresponding actions or requirements to address the risks. Further, there appear to be opportunities to build climate resilience into USAID projects that are not being pursued currently.

The stocktaking also found that USAID staff familiar with CRM resources find them useful, but that others, including implementers, are not always aware of their existence.

Recommendations from the stocktaking for improving the CRM process and results include boosting awareness of the practice and available resources; producing or refining technical resources, including examples; and continuing capacity building efforts, particularly on the quality of the assessment and follow-through on results. USAID is also working to determine how to best support the implementing partner community, who are critical partners in managing climate risks.

As climate risk management is implemented, it is important to learn from existing processes and results so that improvements can be made in the future. With this is mind, USAID developed an Agency-wide Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Plan that includes the recent stocktaking exercise.

Climate risk management helps ensure that planning and programming is resilient to weather and climate impacts. USAID began systematically managing climate risks to planning and programming in 2015, building on earlier efforts.

Strategic Objective
Climate Risk Management, Resilience, Water and Sanitation

Rebecca 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.

Anna McGinn

Anna McGinn is a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow at the University of Maine pursuing master’s degrees in Climate and Quaternary Studies and Global Policy. Her research focuses on climate change adaptation under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change with a specific focus on climate adaptation finance. Anna interned with USAID’s climate integration team during the 2017-2018 academic year as a part of the Virtual Student Federal Service e-internship program. In this role, she carried out a project analyzing integration of climate and climate risk management in USAID solicitations. Anna received her B.A. in Environmental Studies from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. 

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