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Universal Metrics to Compare the Effectiveness of Climate Change Adaptation Projects


Adaptation to climate change is increasingly supported through international financing. In contrast to mitigation, where the effectiveness of policy action can be measured through the metric “tonnes of CO2 equivalent reduced,” no universally accepted metric for assessment of adaptation effectiveness exists. Without such a metric, adaptation finance vehicles such as the Adaptation Fund or the Green Climate Fund encounter challenges when trying to compare the adaptive effect of projects in order to achieve an efficient allocation of their funds. First experiences with adaptation funding show a tendency to avoid final impact metrics. This might lead to a backlash against adaptation funding by electorates in industrialized countries if adaptation funding cannot show clear results. This report assesses two possible candidates for generic adaptation effectiveness metrics: (1) wealth saved from climate change impacts and (2) disability-adjusted life years saved (DALYs), which are widely used in public health policy analysis. Apart it is proposed to use no-harm assessments to evaluate environmental and cultural impacts of adaptation projects. The authors discuss uncertainties encountered in applying these metrics, including the uncertain link between commonly reported intermediate indicators and our metrics and ideas to handle such, e.g., the use of regularly updated methodologies and agreed climate and economic models.


  • Adaptation
  • Climate change
  • Effectiveness
  • Metrics
  • DALYs
  • Adaptation Fund
  • Green Climate Fund

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    Here, for simplicity just the absolute and not the relative wealth savings are calculated.


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The authors would like to thank the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation for funding and participants of the Colorado Conference on Earth System Governance and the 2011 Climate Economics and Law Conference in Berne for comments and suggestions. This paper represents the views of the authors but not necessarily the ones of the institutions and persons acknowledged here.

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Correspondence to Michel Köhler .

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Stadelmann, M., Michaelowa, A., Butzengeiger-Geyer, S., Köhler, M. (2014). Universal Metrics to Compare the Effectiveness of Climate Change Adaptation Projects. In: Leal Filho, W. (eds) Handbook of Climate Change Adaptation. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

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