Resilience and adaptation to climate change is a major development issue for least developed countries (LDCs) that threatens to slow their growth and limit their poverty reduction efforts. One way of rapidly addressing climate change and building resilience in LDCs is through meaningful engagement at the local level.

  • Climate change adaptation falls within local government’s core mandate and responsibilities. These include responsibilities for water management (drainage, harvesting, storage, irrigation, etc.), land use planning and construction regulation (zoning, building standards enforcement, etc.), and infrastructure and support to the local economy (agricultural extension, etc.).
  • Climate change adaptation responses differ from place to place and are highly context sensitive. Local governments are well positioned to understand the diversity and complexity of local realities as well as to identify the needs and priorities of local communities in developing responses.
  • Climate change adaptation requires effective coordination between stakeholders with different mandates and interests. Climate change responses defy easy categorization into institutional or sectoral boxes. Local governments have the legitimacy and convening power to coordinate, co-finance and interact with stakeholders that include national-level institutions, local departments, civil society organizations, the private sector and local communities.
  • Central governments alone cannot respond to the challenge of climate change. Large-scale nationally financed programmes require local complementary actions in order to become fully effective.

Yet local governments cannot fulfill their potential for climate change adaptation. Evidence shows that due to restricted financial flows to the local level, most local governments in LDCs are not able to contribute effectively to climate change adaptation and resilience building due to a lack of appropriate finance and budgetary allocation to the local level:

  • Local governments cannot absorb the incremental cost of climate change adaptation through local taxes and other revenue streams.
  • When national governments transfer responsibilities through decentralization policies, these responsibilities are not always accompanied with the relevant resources. Most budgetary allocations for climate change–related expenditure are concentrated in central government agencies, often ministries of environment and agriculture.
  • Most fiscal transfers from national governments are earmarked for recurring expenditures, which leaves little room for discretionary capital investment at the local level and makes for a structure that does not always favour climate change adaptation expenditure.
  • Other available sources of climate finance are often accessed through application processes with specific rules that fall outside established systems of governance decision-making processes and the public expenditure management cycle, resulting in high overheads in designing and managing adaptation interventions.
  • LoCAL responds to these challenges by providing performance-based grants for climate resilience through the national intergovernmental transfer system.

Bridge after completion in Copargo, Benin. © LoCAL-UNCDF/Joel Bekou

Watergate in Otaki, Battambang. © LoCAL-UNCDF/ Cedric Jancloes

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