Geographic Vulnerability Analysis in Developing Countries

Eliza Drury worked with me over the summer of 2015 in the Climate and Development Lab at Brown University to analyze geographic analysis in national adaptation programmes of action and apply geographic vulnerability analysis to the test case of Malawi’s climate change adaptation plans. We wanted to test whether adaptation plans really prioritized the places where climate change vulnerability is greatest, as defined in the adaptation planning process itself. We found that very few countries used geographic vulnerability analysis, but that the method helped improve the quality of proposed adaptation projects (see diagrams below).

National adaptation planning without geographic vulnerability analysis does not recognize interactions of vulnerability between sectors or develop projects cutting across sectors.
National adaptation planning without geographic vulnerability analysis does not recognize interactions of vulnerability between sectors or develop projects cutting across sectors.
National adaptation planning with geographic vulnerability analysis. Improvements are signaled with red font color. GVA helps identify interactions of vulnerability between sectors and plan cross-sectoral adaptation projects targeting the most vulnerable locations.
National adaptation planning with geographic vulnerability analysis. Improvements are signaled with red font color. GVA helps identify interactions of vulnerability between sectors and plan cross-sectoral adaptation projects targeting the most vulnerable locations.

We reviewed methods and guidelines for national adaptation planning provided by developing countries by the UNFCCC and Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG), and found that geographic analysis was recommended, but guidance was out of date. In response to this, Eliza took on senior work in environmental studies with myself and Dr. Timmons Roberts to update guidance for developing countries to use geographic vulnerability analysis using Malawi as an example case. She presented this work at the climate change research conference in Bangladesh and fulfilled an invitation to write a summary of the work for the Dhaka Tribune.

As final products, we are publishing a Technical Guide to Geographic Vulnerability Analysis (with Eliza as lead author) and an applied Geographic Vulnerability Analysis Exercise.

Toward Mutual Accountability

TMADeveloped countries are required to provide financial assistance for adaptation to harmful effects of climate change to the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.  Leading up to the 2016 negotiations in Paris, I collaborated with researchers in Adaptation Watch and the Climate and Development Lab at Brown to publish a report on how poorly and opaquely developed countries were meeting their commitments.  Read it here: Toward Mutual Accountability: The 2015 Adaptation Finance Transparency Gap Report.

Together with collaborator Javier Gonzales and undergraduate researchers Eliza Drury and Kailani Acosta, I published chapter 5 of the report, focusing on the perspective of countries receiving climate change adaptation funds.  In particular, we examined the national adaptation programmes of action (NAPA) and the funding they received for urgent climate change adaptation through the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF).  The LDCF: is a fund established by the UNFCCC at the 7th conference of the parties, in 2001 in Marrakesh, and managed by the Global Environment Facility).

We found the adaptation planning and funding process to be extremely cumbersome, bureaucratic, and opaque. Much like donor countries, recipient countries frequently re-branded mainstream development projects as climate change and failed to flesh out the relationship between their proposed projects and vulnerability to climate change. The relationships between country-defined adaptation priorities and funded projects through the LDCF are often impossible to discern because
of tile changes, project consolidation, and project segmenting. Just try yourself to match projects from the NAPA database to projects funded by the LDCF in the GEF Project Database!

Recipient country government transparency of adaptation financing within its own borders is also very opaque, making it difficult for citizens or donor countries to hold them accountable for results. However, a few recipient countries and multilateral banks have started using aid management platforms to make development activities public through on-line databases and maps. Some examples include Development Gateway projects, the Open Aid Partnership, and the World Bank’s Global Reach database. These aid management platforms need to include variables indicating climate change vulnerabilities and adaptation at the level of individual project activity locations in order to make international adaptation finance more transparent and accountable.

Zuni Youth Enrichment Project Maps

The Zuni Youth Enrichment Project (ZYEP) works to promote health active lifestyles for youth living in Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico.  In support of their activities, I worked on mapping fitness trails, playgrounds, landmarks, and partner organizations in January 2016.

Many residents of the pueblo have smart devices (iPads, smart phones, etc.)  but internet service and wireless service are not widely accessible. I wondered if there was any mobile technology to enable way-finding on fitness trails without internet or wireless access?  I discovered the PDF Maps mobile app, which enables mobile devices with GPS capabilities to display the user’s location on a PDF or TIFF map, as well as digitize placemarks and paths. Using PDF Maps, data from the USGS National Map, and QGIS, I created a series of trail maps as georeferenced PDFs.

During the spring 2016 semester, Parker Ziegler completed independent senior research to learn GIS programming with a self-directed and problem-based approach to learning. When it came time to learn interactive slippy map programming with Leaflet, we collaborated on producing a map for ZYEP. The data and software for this project were 100% free or open source.

Zuni Youth Enrichment Project Trails and Playgrounds
Zuni Youth Enrichment Project Trails and Playgrounds

Bonus on this project: Ground truthing involved ice-cold early morning trail runs in the high desert, groundwater springs, mesas, waterfalls, juniper forests, and encounters with herds of elk.