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Enhancing Impact: Lessons from Nepal’s Local Adaptation Plans of Action

By Kriti Shree Giri, Biraj Adhikari & Dharam R. Uprety On 03.07.2024 DisasterBlog

Two people walk on a dirt path in a rural, hilly landscape with the sun shining. One carries a large woven basket on their back. A bridge and scattered houses are visible in the background.

The Local Adaptation Programme of Action (LAPA): A national innovation

In 2011, Nepal pioneered an innovative strategy to localise climate adaptation action and finance by formulating the national framework for Local Adaptation Plans of Action (LAPA).

This initiative was in line with Nepal’s 2009 Climate Change Policy, which mandated that 80% of all climate adaptation finance be utilised at the local level. The framework emerged from extensive consultation processes during the formulation of the National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA), recognising the diverse and context-specific challenges of climate action in a country as geographically, ecologically, and economically varied as Nepal. In 2019, a new LAPA framework was established to reflect Nepal’s transition to a federal democratic republic and the introduction of Nepal’s new Climate Change Policy of 2019. Despite these changes, the primary purpose of LAPA has remained to translate Nepal’s national adaptation priorities into actionable plans at the local level.

Municipalities across Nepal have utilised the national LAPA framework to design their localised adaptation plans, and several are currently under operation. Nepal’s LAPA innovation is internationally lauded to this day, as it has become an instrumental tool in localising the climate agenda and prioritising climate finance for the most vulnerable communities. However, several challenges still exist in the operationalisation of LAPA. To ensure that these plans are truly effective and meet the needs of vulnerable communities, it is essential to review the challenges, gaps, and lessons learned. We reviewed LAPA documents from various municipalities from the Karnali region to identify gaps that need urgent attention to enhance their effectiveness.


Financial disparities in the face of urgency

One of the primary challenges in operationalising LAPA at the local level is financial disparity. Despite identifying urgent adaptation needs through vulnerability and risk assessments, LAPAs across Nepal face significant difficulties in securing adequate financial resources. Nepal’s NAP estimates that a total of USD 47.4 billion is required for the overall implementation of adaptation strategies by 2050, out of which Nepal plans to domestically finance only USD 1.5 billion. The shortfall of USD 45.9 billion is severely felt at the local level, as local plans often outline detailed budgetary requirements specific to community contexts, but the actual mobilisation of funds does not happen because there simply isn’t enough funds to disburse. There are some successful examples of LAPA implementation at the local level, for instance, in several municipalities in the Karnali region. However, these successes are largely due to “projectised” interventions, i.e. actions funded from various bilateral and multilateral funds. Unfortunately, this approach means that the sustainability of these interventions is limited, as LAPAs cease to be operational once the projects are completed. This financial gap impedes the timely implementation of crucial adaptation projects, leaving communities vulnerable to climate impacts.


Lost in translation: National priorities and local realities

LAPA is primarily housed within the framework of local governments, i.e., municipality offices in Nepal, which have additional responsibilities and priorities under their geographical remit. Herein lies another challenge. While national frameworks like the NAP and the climate change policy provide a unified approach to climate action, they often fail to acknowledge the complex realities of local contexts, which include conflicting policies, diverse goals, and competing political struggles. This disconnect can render national frameworks ineffective and may even lead to unintended negative consequences. The LAPA thereby need to do more in bridging this gap by incorporating local knowledge, priorities, and capacities, ensuring that national strategies are not only relevant but also politically and economically feasible and effective at the local level.


Left behind? Ensuring that everyone is on board for climate action

Moreover, while LAPAs typically engage a wide array of stakeholders in their planning processes, there is a concerning trend of overlooking the voices and needs of specific vulnerable populations. Groups such as children, elderly, LGBTQ+ communities, and individuals with disabilities, who face compounded vulnerabilities, are often marginalised further in the adaptation planning process. Their exclusion skews vulnerability assessments and compromises the comprehensive nature of LAPA strategies in addressing community resilience against climate change impacts. Relatedly, another critical gap identified is not recognising age-specific vulnerabilities that lies in the inadequate differentiation of age groups, particularly among children below the age of 16, within LAPA frameworks. Current practices often lump children together without considering their developmental stages or age-specific vulnerabilities to climate-related hazards. Infants, toddlers, and older children have distinct needs regarding health, education, and safety during disasters, necessitating more nuanced approaches to ensure their protection and well-being.


Need for reporting on adaptation progress

Also, a visible gap is the lack of standardised reporting and accountability systems in reporting practices across LAPAs, which presents a significant obstacle to the effective monitoring and evaluation of adaptation activities. The absence of standardised reporting guidelines results in inconsistent and incomplete data, hindering efforts to assess the overall impact and efficacy of local adaptation strategies. Clear and uniform reporting frameworks are essential to enhance transparency, accountability, and the overall governance of LAPAs.


Towards a stronger and more inclusive LAPA

Moving forward, addressing the identified gaps in LAPA demands a concerted effort to strengthen their frameworks for maximum impact in building community resilience against climate change. First, there is a need to systematise resource allocation for adaptation and ensure that local and international financial resources are efficiently and effectively directed towards adaptation priorities at the local level. Nepal’s Climate Change Financing Framework provides a clear roadmap and guideline to do this, and its operationalisation should be prioritised. Additionally, it is crucial to strengthen mechanisms that facilitate direct access to adaptation finance at the local level. This firstly entails better coordination and communication between national, provincial, and local governments to streamline the flow of funds to support LAPAs. Additionally, strengthening financial management capacity, local revenue generation, and attracting private investment are essential steps.

Furthermore, prioritising inclusivity in stakeholder engagement will amplify the voices of marginalised groups, refine vulnerability assessments to address the specific needs of diverse populations, and embed principles of climate justice and equity into LAPA frameworks. Finally, establishing a robust programmatic monitoring and evaluation system is necessary to ensure the efficient use of climate adaptation funds and the effectiveness of adaptation activities. The Monitoring, Review, and Reporting framework currently being developed as part of Nepal’s NAP could be crucial for systematising a robust monitoring and evaluation system that ensures that national and local priorities are coherent.


Evolving for a better future: Strengthening LAPAs, and enhancing Nepal’s Legacy

Nepal’s pioneering efforts in the form of the LAPA have set a global benchmark, reflecting Nepal’s commitment to localised, bottom-up strategies to address the challenges posed by climate change. However, as climate impacts intensify and vulnerabilities evolve, it is crucial to enhance the LAPA framework as we engage with it and gain new insights. By addressing existing challenges and gaps that we have outlined above, we may be able to take initial steps to ensure that these plans are not only sustained but also optimised to build resilient and adaptive communities. An adaptive LAPA can reinforce Nepal’s legacy in grassroots empowerment and continue to inspire other nations to localise the climate agenda in the face of an uncertain climate future.