National Adaptation Programmes of Action put climate change adaptation on the development agenda, write Balgis Osman-Elasha and Thomas E. Downing.

At the 2001 Marrakech Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) participants agreed that least developed countries should prepare documents ― National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) ― that outline the most urgent actions required to meet the country's adaptation needs.

In this policy brief ― 'Lessons learned in preparing national adaptation programmes of action (NAPAs) in Eastern and Southern Africa' ― Balgis Osman-Elasha and Thomas E. Downing from the European Capacity Building Initiative at the University of Oxford document the lessons learned by teams preparing NAPAs in Africa. The report is based on questionnaires and informal interviews with the teams, and identifies assessment methodologies.

The report stresses that NAPAs are intended to provide least developed countries with a communication tool to highlight their most urgent adaptation needs and to identify priority projects to address these needs.

The authors detail over 100 NAPA projects submitted to the UNFCCC by late 2006. The project activities include raising awareness of climate change, strengthening climate monitoring systems, building capacity for early warning systems, and considering climate change in development planning.

Two of the key issues to come out of the interviews include the pressing timescale of the issues that the NAPAs are addressing, and the importance of identifying  achievable priority projects.

Various methodologies for developing adaptation projects are outlined, including developing a multidisciplinary task team and rapid participatory appraisal.  Prioritizing adaptation activities via screening and ranking is also discussed.

The results suggest that NAPAs have helped to put climate change on the development agenda. But NAPAs are not an end in themselves; they must be complemented by projects that target the most vulnerable sectors of a country.

Link to full policy brief from the European Capacity Building Initiative