Helen Clark: Speech on Adaptation to Climate Change

Jun 1, 2013

Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator
at the
Fifth Summit of the Tokyo International Conference for African Development side event:
Africa on the Move: Stories of Climate Resilient Development from the Japan-funded Africa Adaptation Programme
Yokohama, Japan, 1 June 2013, 3-4.30pm

I am pleased to join you at this important side event which highlights the achievements of UNDP’s Japan-funded Africa Adaption Programme (AAP).

I acknowledge His Excellency Masaji Matsuyama, Japan’s Parliamentary Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, and thank the Government of Japan for hosting us here at the Fifth Summit of the Tokyo International Conference for African Development. I also thank the Government of Japan for its generous contribution of $92.1 million to UNDP’s Africa Adaption Programme. Through the programme, twenty African countries have been supported to integrate climate change considerations into their national policy and planning priorities. We will hear of some of their experiences today.

The Climate Change Challenge to Development

In the twenty years since the TICAD process began, it has played a critical role in raising global awareness of Africa’s development challenges and in providing strategic leadership on development assistance to Africa. One of those major challenges is climate change. Adapting to it and mitigating it requires considerable funding.

Africa is already experiencing the impacts of climate change – and they are expected to become more severe. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted crop yield reductions of up to fifty per cent in some countries as soon as 2020 – as a result of shortened growing seasons and more land becoming unproductive.

The World Bank projects the value of agricultural production in Ghana will decline by between three and eight per cent by 2050, unless there is adequate adaptation to extreme climate events. In Mozambique, where seventy per cent of the workforce is employed by agriculture, projections suggest the agricultural sector would suffer losses of between four and 9.8 per cent by 2050.

Resilience to these climate risks needs to be incorporated into development planning. Building capacity for that has been a key objective of the Africa Adaptation Programme, created under the Japan-UNDP Joint Framework for Building Partnerships to Address Climate Change in Africa, which was founded at TICAD IV.

The Africa Adaptation Programme

Through the UNDP Africa Adaptation Programme, funded by Japan, countries have been supported to identify, design, and implement comprehensive climate change adaptation initiatives, and to align them with national development planning and priorities. Participating countries are now better able to access and analyse data to assess their vulnerabilities and risks. For example:

  • in Lesotho, the national meteorological service is now generating climate models which are being used to inform national policies;
  • in Mozambique, the Programme helped create the National Climate Change Adaptation Knowledge Centre; and
  • in Senegal, a Climate Change Multidisciplinary Working Group, has been created to assess internationally-sourced climate predictions and communicate them in meaningful ways to local farmers.

Many countries in the Africa Adaptation Programme are also incorporating gender in their climate-related planning. In Kenya, for example, comprehensive national strategy and guidelines for gender mainstreaming in climate change policy and programming have been developed.

Overall, the adaptation capacities being developed with the support of the Africa Adaptation Programme, are helping to secure food and agricultural production, strengthen development planning, and formulate the policies needed to attract climate finance. These are important foundations for climate-resilient development. 

The ongoing climate change negotiations are producing new global mechanisms to support adaptation. 

For example, the Cancun Adaptation Framework, agreed in 2010, sets out a process for formulating and implementing National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) as a means of identifying medium- and long-term adaptation needs.

Financial mechanisms were already in place to support implementation of adaptation activities and plans. The Global Environment Facility has been prominent in this area.

The emerging Green Climate Fund has the potential to provide funding for implementation of strategic and comprehensive plans on adaptation, including the National Adaptation Plans.

Initiatives like the Africa Adaptation Programme featured here today also work to strengthen country capacities to access climate finance.

Building on the momentum with TICAD V

The Yokohama Declaration is expected to reference Japan’s Strategy for Low Carbon Growth and Climate-Resilient Development, which takes further Japan’s commitment to work with Africa to address the present and impending impacts of climate change.

Japan committed to work on this new strategy at the Ministerial Level Meeting following up on TICAD IV which was held in Dakar. The proposal was endorsed by African ministers there. UNDP has actively contributed to the development of the strategy, and we look forward to supporting Japan in taking it forward.

Looking beyond 2015

In 2015, it is hoped that there will be agreement not only on a renewed development agenda and sustainable development goals, but also on a new climate treaty. These processes can and should be complementary.

Under the current UNFCCC process, parties have increasingly emphasized the importance and the urgency of adaptation action.

With the adoption of the Cancun Adaptation Framework in 2010, Member States committed to accelerate action on adaptation. Under the Framework, Member States are working to put in place national adaptation plans and address loss and damage, supported and guided by global adaptation committee. Discussions on the Green Climate Fund have also highlighted the need to provide financing for both mitigation and adaptation.

In the ongoing UNFCCC processes, the focus is now on implementation. A work-plan for the Adaptation Committee has been established. Guidance for National Action Plans has been developed for Least Developed Countries (LDCs), and is currently being discussed for Non-LDCs.

It is important that implementation of the climate change agreements and a post-2015 development agenda takes into account lessons learned from programmes like the AAP which have led on building resilience to the impact of climate change – so that development gains can be sustained.

One of the lessons learned is that while traditional stand-alone technical projects are important, they are not in themselves sufficient to bring about the transformational changes needed to tackle climate change. Comprehensive approaches, encompassing institution– and capacity-building and integrated approaches to sustainable development are needed.  

In support of such approaches, UNDP, in partnership with Japan, is preparing a further project, the Africa Climate Adaptation and Food Security Initiative. It will seek to strengthen climate information systems developed under AAP and scale up climate risk management measures, including weather index insurance and community based adaptation. It will also work to build participating countries’ capacities to access and manage climate finance.


It is important to build on the momentum and progress achieved by the Africa Adaptation Programme. With the leadership of African governments, support of development partners, and the necessary resources, climate-resilient development is possible.

UNDP is committed to playing its part – through support for capacity building, provision of strategic and technical assistance, and by facilitating strategic partnerships. We are grateful that TICAD V provides a platform for advancing climate-resilient development.

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