Supporting local research on economics of climate change adaptation in the water sector

Climate change is affecting the global water cycle thus increasing the vulnerability of poor and marginalized people, especially in developing countries.The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has documented impacts to the hydrological cycle linked to observed warming including:

i)          changing precipitation patterns, intensity and extremes;
ii)         reduced snow-cover and glacier melt; and
iii)        changes in soil moisture and runoff.

The UN Population Division estimates that global population will exceed 7 billion in 2011 with energy, health and food security just a few examples of the sectors impacted by changes to the all-important freshwater systems that so many people depend upon for their survival and livelihoods.

Adaptation decisions related to water in developing countries take place at multiple scales (local, national, global) often with limited or non-existent data on the links between highly uncertain global climate changes, and local socio-economic conditions. In recognition of the need for global adaptation funding to be shaped by the reality on the ground, IDRC is supporting research that builds the capacity of developing country economists to weigh the local costs and benefits of alternative strategies for adapting to the water-related impacts of climate change.

The Economics of Climate Change Adaptation research project, led by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), is using a stakeholder-focused methodology to provide evidence on the costs and benefits of water-related adaptation actions in five diverse locations of the developing world: Morocco and Malawi in Africa; Nepal and Bangladesh in Asia, and Bolivia in South America.

The project arose from the recognition that top-down estimates of global and/or national costs of climate change do not provide developing country stakeholders with the information needed to weigh local adaptation options in the context of specific changes to water resources. Starting from the bottom up with a focus on local actors, the evidence on water-related adaptation costs and benefits generated by this project will provide useful information to local and national decision makers. This project also disentangles decisions made by different groups to ensure that future adaptation projects have the most positive social benefits possible, while minimizing trade-offs that harm.

The five distinct case studies will allow the international community to learn valuable lessons about the local costs and benefits of adaptation actions in the developing world.

  • Morocco: Adapting to climate change in the water sector: Stakeholder focused economic analysis in the Tadla Perimeter
  • Bolivia: Glacier melt and impacts on the water provision for the cities of La Paz and El Alto
  • Malawi: Economics of climate change adaptation in Lake Chilwa Catchment

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