THE nairobi work programme The UNFCCC's Knowledge-To-Action Hub: Closing Knowledge Gaps to Advance Transformative Adaptation and Resilience in a Changing Climate

The Paris Agreement shines a global spotlight on adaptation

The landmark Paris Agreement charts a new course to combat climate change, with Parties agreeing to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius and build resilience to intensifying impacts. Establishing the world’s first-ever global goal on adaptation, the 2015 accord elevates the political visibility of resilience and has helped catalyze ambitious adaptation action around the world. Many vulnerable countries are now adopting innovative strategies, from restoring coastal ecosystems that defend against storm surges to developing early warning systems that save lives during extreme weather events.

Yet, despite growing political will to build resilience to climate change, challenges realizing countries’ commitments under the Paris Agreement persist. Existing information on adaptation remains inaccessible in many of the world’s most vulnerable nations, and available data sets often fall short of meeting decision-makers’ needs. This mismatch in adaptation knowledge supply and demand impedes efforts to manage climate risks at regional, national and subnational levels. In the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, for example, a lack of actionable information has until recently undermined efforts to develop and implement early flood warning systems, while limited access to agricultural technologies and improved farming methods have frustrated efforts to bolster food security in Southern Africa’s changing climate.

the Nairobi Work Programme's mission

Established by the Conference of Parties (COP) in 2005, the Nairobi Work Programme (NWP) assists all Parties, in particular developing countries, including the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), in (i) improving their understanding and assessment of climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaptation; and (ii) making informed decisions on practical adaptation actions and measures to respond to climate change on a sound scientific, technical and socioeconomic basis, taking into account current and future climate change and variability.

the nairobi work programme's approach

The NWP, the UNFCCC’s authoritative Knowledge-To-Action Hub, synthesizes the best available information on all aspects of vulnerability and adaptation, disseminates its findings widely and cultivates high-impact partnerships to close critical knowledge gaps and accelerate action around the world.

  • As the UNFCCC’s first inclusive stakeholder engagement mechanism fully responsive to both Parties and non-Party organizations, we start by understanding their unique adaptation and resilience knowledge needs.
  • Next, we convene leading technical experts from our more than 380 partner organizations to synthesize existing information and conduct additional research. They produce accessible knowledge products that decision-makers need to formulate and implement effective, evidence-based policies, such as National Adaptation Plans (NAPs). We not only share our partners’ extensive body of work – case studies, synthesis reports, tools, methods and more – with key decision-makers, but we also make these findings publicly available on the NWP’s user-friendly Adaptation Knowledge Portal.
  • The NWP also cultivates high-impact partnerships between knowledge producers and users to close critical knowledge gaps, advance implementation of transformative adaptation approaches and maximize returns on resilience investments across a diverse set of thematic areas and in the context of the Lima Adaptation Knowledge Initiative (LAKI).

the nairobi work programme in action

The NWP directly responds to knowledge needs identified by Parties, particularly developing countries, who negotiated our thematic areas of work under the UNFCCC. We also provide technical assistance to constituted bodies under the Convention, including the Adaptation Committee (AC) and the Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG). For example, in collaboration with the LEG, we have supported many of the world’s LDCs formulate and implement NAPs that strengthen the resilience of vulnerable communities, groups and ecosystems. Together with the LEG, we are mobilizing inputs from our partners for effective implementation by publishing guidelines for Parties, co-organizing technical sessions like "Assessing progress in adaptation in vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems," and developing indicators to evaluate progress of adaptation moving forward.

Engaging with the NWP’s diverse network of government officials, practitioners and experts at the 2019 NAP Expo technical session co-organized by the NWP and the LEG afforded me a unique opportunity to gain critical insights on building vulnerable communities’ resilience and adopting effective ecosystem-based adaptation approaches. Lessons learned from the challenges and successes that my colleagues have faced in similar regions around the world have proven instrumental in my work as part of the team formulating Nigeria’s NAP. Many of the obstacles that vulnerable communities in my country face mirror those that NWP’s partners are addressing, and I plan, as part of the team, to implement comparable solutions."- Adebayo Abel Adekoje, Desk Officer, National Adaptation Plan Department of Climate Change, Federal Ministry of Environment, Nigeria

Our Thematic Areas

Critical knowledge gaps center around the following thematic areas, identified by Parties to the UNFCCC:

  • Agriculture and food security
  • Ecosystems, water, wetlands, forests and grasslands
  • Drought, water scarcity and land degradation neutrality
  • Oceans, coastal areas and ecosystems, including mega deltas, coral reefs and mangroves
  • Slow onset events
  • Extreme weather events, such as heat waves, flash floods, sand and dust storms, cyclones and heavy precipitation
  • Economic diversification
  • Livelihood and socioeconomic dimensions in relevant sectors, such as tourism
  • Health
  • Human settlements, cities and urban systems
  • Rural systems and communities
  • Indicators of climate adaptation and resilience

On human settlements, for example, the NWP facilitated a partnership between the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat) and the LEG to develop accessible, policy-relevant guidelines that Parties are using to integrate human settlement challenges and solutions across national adaptation planning and implementation.

The Adaptation Committee has benefited from the wide range of technical expertise that the NWP and its partners provide. For example, the NWP and Climate Technology Centre and Network mapped the landscape of adaptation platforms providing technical support to developing countries – a very helpful report for the Committee.” -Ms. Maria del Pilar Bueno and Ms. Marianne Karlsen, Co-Chairs, Adaptation Committee

Our Knowledge-To-Action Methodology

Once we understand Parties’ knowledge needs, we work with over 380 expert partner organizations to advance a systematic, step-wise approach to synthesize the best available information.

Partnering with the NWP on multiple initiatives has enabled IUCN to synthesize global learning on nature-based solutions for adaptation into concrete and influential packages delivered to inform adaptation plans, policies and programs around the world. As an active member of the Friends of Ecosystem-based Adaptation (FEBA) network, a group of more than 60 government ministries, United Nations bodies, nonprofits, research centers and other organizations, the NWP has added value not only to the programs IUCN implements, but also to over 60 FEBA member organizations.”-Ali Raza Rizvi, Programme Manager, Ecosystem-Based Adaptation, Global Ecosystem Management Programme, International Union for Conservation of Nature

The Adaptation Knowledge Portal

Everyone, everywhere can explore the Adaptation Knowledge Portal, our user-friendly gateway for disseminating and accessing a wide range of knowledge products, from case studies and synthesis reports to vulnerability impact assessment tools and program management frameworks about climate change adaptation and resilience.

The portal also provides an entry point to the NWP’s diverse, global network and allows partners to submit joint or individual action pledges – commitments that respond to key adaptation knowledge needs and gaps in support of the NWP. Realizing these goals helps rapidly scale up adaptation approaches, and our partners have already made over 190 action pledges, including the Resilience Frontiers Initiative. This joint action pledge seeks to harness the potential of disruptive frontier technologies and emerging social sustainability trends to maximize resilience beyond 2030. Coordinated by the UNFCCC secretariat, this commitment enjoys support from Canada’s International Development Research Centre, EIT-Climate-KIC, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Global Water Partnership, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the United Nations Environment Programme and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.

Cultivating High-Impact Partnerships to Catalyze Action

The NWP engages a broad network of partner organizations, from universities to nonprofit organizations, to close critical knowledge gaps and help Parties transform their ambitious adaptation commitments into action. With diverse thematic, sectoral and regional experience, our partners co-design and implement effective, evidence-based resilience activities that directly respond to the needs of national governments and UNFCCC constituted bodies, such as the AC and the LEG.

The Lima Adaptation Knowledge Initiative

A joint action pledge by the UNFCCC secretariat and the United Nations Environment Programme’s Global Adaptation Network, the Lima Adaptation Knowledge Initiative (LAKI) focuses on closing adaptation knowledge gaps in vulnerable sub-regions of the world. Already, the LAKI has prioritized 85 knowledge gaps across 38 countries within six vulnerable sub-regions: the Andes, West Asia/Gulf Cooperation Council, North Africa, Southern Africa, Indian Ocean Islands and the Hindu Kush Himalayas.

The LAKI's Successes and Moving Forward

Already, the LAKI has proved an invaluable initiative in many countries. In the Indian Ocean Islands sub-region, graduate students from the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability partnered with local experts at the University of Seychelles’ James Michel Blue Economy Research Institute to evaluate sea level rise and storm surge impacts on Seychelles’ critical infrastructure. Their easily accessible report has informed local decision-making, and its outcomes will also benefit other Indian Ocean island countries, such as Comoros, the Maldives and Mauritius.

The LAKI will continue to scale up similar high-impact partnerships in new sub-regions, particularly in vulnerable developing countries such as the LDCs, SIDS and African states. As the initiative expands, we will also focus on sharing new knowledge, connecting adaptation experts, institutions and networks to catalyze action that closes knowledge gaps, and convening high-level partnerships to bring resources and technical know-how to vulnerable countries around the world.

Working with the NWP on our capstone project was a significant experience for me and my fellow graduate students at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability. Partnering with experts at the University of Seychelles James Michel Blue Economy Research Institute, we harnessed a broad set of skills – from GIS mapping and scientific analysis to stakeholder engagement and socioeconomic evaluations – to identify the challenges that sea level rise and storm surges pose to the Seychelles’ critical infrastructure. With the NWP’s support, we then shared these findings with local decision-makers, practitioners and experts both in the Seychelles and across other Indian Ocean islands to inform current and future development in the sub-region.” -Harold D. Rice, Master of Science, Environmental Policy and Communication, University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability

join us

Interested in bridging knowledge gaps to accelerate transformative, innovative adaptation actions around the world? Become a NWP partner organization and benefit from opportunities to:

  • Contribute to the technical work of the NWP by providing inputs – including knowledge resources, capacity-building support and policy recommendations – that inform Parties’ adaptation approaches and support UNFCCC constituted bodies, such as the AC and the LEG.
  • Collaborate with government officials, leading resilience experts and other members of the NWP’s wide network of partners to respond to Parties’ adaptation knowledge needs and catalyze transformative action.
  • Engage county delegates during annual NWP Focal Point Forums at the COPs, side events at UNFCCC sessions and affiliated conferences, as well as other regional and online forums.
  • Access insider updates on the latest developments on adaptation action under the UNFCCC and future opportunities for engagement in the process.
  • Increase your visibility among UNFCCC Parties, leading sustainable development and environmental organizations, and broader audiences through NWP events, publications, websites and other communications.
  • Learn from and collaborate with a community of over 380 adaptation policymakers, practitioners and researchers.
  • Spotlight your work and help encourage greater ambition on adaptation by submitting action pledges through our Adaptation Knowledge Portal.

To stay up-to-date on the latest news from the UNFCCC’s Knowledge-To-Action Hub, subscribe to our newsletter, follow us on Twitter @AdaptXChange by the NWP and like The Adaptation Exchange on Facebook.


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