National monitoring, reporting and evaluation of climate change adaptation in Europe

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This report provides new insights into adaptation monitoring, reporting and evaluation (MRE) systems at the national level in Europe and constitutes the first attempt to consolidate emerging information across European countries. It aims to offer reliable and targeted information to support the effective and efficient implementation of climate adaptation policies and actions at the national level in Europe.

The intended users are policymakers and experts coordinating, developing, implementing, monitoring or evaluating adaptation across or within particular sectors. It is also of relevance to practitioners such as public authorities and businesses, including utility providers for various sectors such as water, energy, and transport.

The Expert Workshop on ‘Monitoring, reporting and evaluation of climate change adaptation at national level' (held by the European Environment Agency (EEA) on 24–25 March 2015) was a key source of information from which the findings in this report were elaborated. Experts from the European countries that have a system for MRE of adaptation in place, or are currently developing one at national level, were invited to the workshop. This report has also benefited from the excellent cooperation with and contribution from the EEA's member countries, particularly in connection with country examples. However, it should be noted that this report seeks to consolidate the emerging information available across European countries and not to collect the countries own official positions on MRE of adaptation.

Collecting and analysing information on adaptation policy processes in European countries is essential in order to evaluate the extent to which actions are effective, efficient and equitable. It allows to better understand which adaptation actions work, in which contexts, and why, and to share experiences of countries from a dynamic field of practice. However, measuring progress in adaptation is challenging for several reasons: adaptation is context specific and cross-cutting all sectors, is characterised by long time‑frames and uncertainty, does not have common or aggregated metrics and is commonly integrated into other sectoral policies rather than being a stand‑alone activity. Therefore, adaptation policy targets at European, national, regional or local levels cannot usually be monitored with a single or limited numbers of indicators or sources of information like in other policy domains such as climate change mitigation. Finally, monitoring is usually undertaken on an on‑going basis while reporting and evaluation activities are typically only conducted at specific, usually strategic, points in time.

Overall key messages

  • An increasing number of European countries are now taking action on MRE of adaptation at the national level. So far, 14 countries have systems for monitoring, reporting and/or evaluation of adaptation in place or under development (see Figure ES1).
  • Across European countries progress on adaptation strategies and plans varies considerably and the same is true for MRE of adaptation. Despite these differences, early insights from this dynamic field of practice can be valuable to countries with established approaches as well as those just beginning to consider MRE of adaptation. These experiences contribute to an essential information base for countries to learn from.
  • Most countries have focused so far on monitoring and reporting activities. The evaluation of adaptation policies is at an early stage often because the implementation of adaptation has only just begun.
  • Literature on MRE of adaptation highlights that it can serve multiple purposes including improving our understanding of policy effectiveness and efficiency, providing accountability, and enhancing learning in order to improve policy and practice.

Thematic key messages

Drivers and purposes

  • In most countries, the momentum for initiating monitoring, reporting or evaluation of adaptation was provided by national adaptation strategies and plans, along with European policies and international processes.
  • The main purposes of national MRE systems include tracking and reporting the progress and effectiveness of adaptation policy implementation; enhancing the knowledge base; accountability; and learning to improve adaptation policies, policymaking and practices.
  • Most countries have so far concentrated their efforts on adaptation monitoring and reporting activities.
  • The development of specific evaluation activities is still at an early stage, even in countries that have a relatively greater experience in implementing adaptation policies.

Governance and participation

  • Overall responsibility for MRE of adaptation often lies with ministries or government agencies coordinating adaptation policy.
  • Horizontal and vertical coordination of MRE activities is often organised through committees involving multiple administrative levels and sectors.
  • In some countries, the requirement for monitoring, reporting and/or evaluation is formalised in legislation, while in other cases it is voluntary.
  • Understanding progress of adaptation policies and actions benefits from the engagement of a broad range of stakeholders.
  • In many countries, it is a challenge to involve the municipal level in MRE of national adaptation policies.

Methodological approaches

  • • National-level MRE systems benefit from being flexible and pragmatic, using methods that are appropriate to the national context (including needs, priorities, resources and data availability).
  • • A mixed-methods approach to MRE, which combines multiple sources of information, provides a strong basis for assessing adaptation progress and performance.
  • • Qualitative methods complement quantitative approaches and reveal critical contextual information that can help to explain the narrative behind the numbers.
  • • Indicators play a key role in national MRE systems. In a number of countries, they have been created through an iterative and interactive process involving experts and other stakeholders.
  • • It is not necessarily the value of an individual indicator that needs to be considered, but whether or not the set of indicators provides a coherent and robust picture of adaptation progress.

Informing adaptation policy and practice

  • Experience of applying monitoring and evaluation results to improve adaptation policy and practice is limited, as only a few countries have MRE systems in place, and these have only been established recently.
  • Some evidence is available that monitoring and evaluation results inform the revisions of adaptation strategies and plans. However, little is known about the influence of these results on adaptation practice.
  • Countries have started to use various methods to communicate monitoring and evaluation results. Communicating results to the intended target groups is largely focused on published reports.
  • Sharing experiences and learning about the use of monitoring and evaluation results will further improve adaptation policy and practice.

Beyond these findings, this report briefly reviews a number of issues that will shape the future of MRE of adaptation at national levels across Europe. Specific and dedicated attention is needed to strengthen the knowledge base about MRE in European countries and to foster learning from the evaluation of adaptation policies. In addition, there is a need to further coordinate the development of adaptation policies and MRE systems, and to better understand how MRE results can or do influence policymaking. Finally, there is a need to better use the variety of existing data sources to help develop adaptation indicators and evaluate policies, and to develop and update MRE of adaptation policy and practice to take into account risks, vulnerability and resilience.

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