Evaluation of climate risk management at USAID

Publication language
Date published
01 Oct 2020
Thematic evaluation
Disaster risk reduction, Environment & climate
Cambodia, Madagascar, Haiti, Uganda

This evaluation examines how climate risks to USAID activities are managed during activity implementation, how managing climate risks affects development results, the strengths and weaknesses of the Agency’s climate risk management (CRM) policy in supporting climate-resilient development, and how to strengthen support for the CRM policy.

The evaluation employed a mixed-methods approach including a document review, an online survey of USAID staff, key informant interviews with USAID staff and implementing partners, group interviews with activity beneficiaries, and four country case studies.

The evaluation found that CRM integration into the program cycle should be viewed as a longer-term process of institutional change. From this perspective, the CRM policy has made significant progress in raising awareness among USAID staff and implementing partners about potential threats from climate change to Agency operations and about the need for CRM.

There is widespread support for the notion that USAID should take proactive measures to address climate change risks. Although some activities with moderate to high climate risks are implementing measures to address climate risks, the evaluation found limited evidence that CRM is actively contributing to avoided or mitigated climate risks. On one hand, it may be too soon to assess if CRM is contributing to the longer-term climate resilience of USAID investments. On the other hand, in most cases CRM is not effectively integrated into the entire program cycle, with the process generally stalling after the design phase.

While the Agency has made significant progress in mainstreaming climate change considerations into certain sectors, more attention is needed during activity design to ensure adequate identification of CRM measures that can be implemented and adaptively managed to avoid and mitigate climate risks during activity implementation. Respondents considered the lack of monitoring and accountability to be major challenges that make it difficult to track CRM through the program cycle.

Bureau and mission climate integration leads (CILs) play a critical role for effective CRM implementation but have limited bandwidth, which hinders their ability to support implementation of the policy. Steps are needed to more fully integrate CRM into mission and bureau operations beyond the CILs. USAID should consider options for improving CRM integration at the activity level, including: developing a longer-term organizational change plan; formalizing the CIL position; improving communication from leadership that makes it clear CRM is a priority; encouraging A/CORs to take responsibility for CRM, in part by incorporating CRM into solicitations and agreements; improving CRM knowledge management and virtual training; and revising the Climate Risk Management and Screening Tool to streamline the CRM process.