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SEI working paper

Institutionalising climate adaptation finance under the UNFCCC and beyond: Could an adaptation ‘market’ emerge?

This paper examines how adaptation finance is being institutionalised, and explores whether an adaptation market could emerge, akin to the development of carbon markets, with adaptation projects traded as commodities.

Åsa Persson / Published on 7 November 2011

Persson, Å. (2011). Institutionalising climate adaptation finance under the UNFCCC and beyond: Could an adaptation ‘market’ emerge?. SEI Working Paper No. 2011-03.

A new institutional architecture is emerging for climate change adaptation finance, with the UNFCCC Adaptation Fund now operational and dialogue underway on post-2012 arrangements. Some donor countries have also begun to channel official development assistance (ODA) through designated adaptation funds.

The key question is whether such a multifaceted, locally contextualised phenomenon as adaptation can be converted into a uniform and standardised product, with measurable outcomes and benefits that ‘buyers’ can take credit for.

The paper explores two ways to commodify adaptation: focusing on adaptation benefits – the most obvious parallel to carbon markets – or trading in credits for spending adaptation funds. The former is unfeasible for multiple reasons, the paper concludes, including the lack of viable metrics and lack of demand at the international level. Examining the latter, it does find signs of ‘supply’ and ‘demand’, but nothing close to a true ‘marketplace’ or commodification process.

Analysis of adaptation in a market context, however, does point to crucial unresolved issues, such as the need for better metrics and accountability systems, as well as questions about whether incentives for effectively delivering adaptation benefits from projects – as opposed to just demonstrating that money was spent – are sufficiently strong.


Download the paper (PDF, 1.41MB)


About SEI Working Papers:
The SEI working paper series aims to expand and accelerate the availability of our research, stimulate discussion, and elicit feedback. SEI working papers are work in progress and typically contain preliminary research, analysis, findings, and recommendations.
Many SEI working papers are drafts that will be subsequently revised for a refereed journal or book. Other papers share timely and innovative knowledge that we consider valuable and policy-relevant, but which may not be intended for later publication.

SEI author

Åsa Persson
Åsa Persson

Research Director and Deputy Director

SEI Headquarters

Topics and subtopics
Climate : Adaptation, Finance

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