Main Issue

Climate change is here. We see it everywhere in more extreme weather patterns, diminishing water resources. falling crop yields, and weakening marine ecosystems. 

Climate change affects all countries, but the impacts will not be distributed evenly across the globe. The most vulnerable populations are those least able to cope and often the least responsible for climate change. Climate change adaptation thus is an issue of global concern and of equity.  

Over the last decade, climate change adaptation has begun in earnest to prepare for rising seas, higher temperatures, worsening droughts, and other impacts. Adaptation is urgent and indispensable to safeguard development gains and to address the needs of the poor and the vulnerable. Healthy systems that are resilient to disruptions, shocks, and stressors are critical in achieving not only environmental benefits but also serve as a foundation for economic and human development. Climate resilience is a key component of any healthy system, particularly in vulnerable countries that depend heavily on climate-sensitive natural resources and traditional agricultural practices for subsistence and livelihoods. The global community must continue mitigation efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But even if the world reaches the goal of the Paris Agreement and keep global warming below 1.5-2°C, the need for adaption efforts will grow.  

What We Do

The GEF plays a key role in financing adaptation as an operating entity of the financial mechanism to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The GEF was the first global source of funds for adaptation, channels support to climate adaptation efforts mainly through the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF). As such, the GEF has been at the forefront of international efforts to strengthen the resilience of developing countries to climate change. 

The GEF’s approach to adaptation is based on the recognition that climate change affects all aspects of human, social, and economic development. The GEF has supported the integration of appropriate adaptation measures into development plans, policies, programs, and projects at the regional, national, sub-national, and local levels, with the ultimate aim of achieving climate-resilient development.  

GEF-financed adaptation projects are working to reduce the vulnerability of some 15 million people, while also introducing more climate-resilient management practices over 5 million hectares of productive and natural landscapes. Importantly, GEF investments to date are preparing the ground for effective adaptation at a larger scale by providing various forms of adaptation training to more than 600,000 people, strengthening hydrometeorological and climate information services in more than 70 countries, and offering technical assistance to help more than 80 countries integrate climate risks and adaptation into key policymaking and planning process at the national level and across vulnerable sectors.


Since 2001, the GEF has provided over US$1.5 billion in grant financing and mobilized more than US$7 billion from other sources for 330 adaptation projects in 130 countries, including all LDCs and 33 small island developing states. These projects are expected to directly reduce the vulnerability of at least 11 million people.    

In the Kazungula district of Zambia, for example, where most people are smallholder farmers, more than 69 percent of the population live in poverty. As part of a GEF adaptation project, farmers are learning skills to strengthen the resilience of their crops and to base harvest and production decisions on weather and climate trends. With improved soil and water conservation, the farmers have tripled their yields of maize and also increased harvests of sorghum, cowpeas and sunflower. In addition, farmers learned how to raise goats, which are resilient to disease and drought. The extra income from goat rearing helps pay their children’s school fees. 

Looking Ahead

The goal of the GEF-7 Adaptation strategy is to strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability to the adverse impacts of climate change in developing countries, and support their efforts to enhance adaptive capacity.  This goal is fully aligned with the Paris Agreement’s global goal on adaptation. The strategy emphasizes three objectives for the LDCF and SCCF:  

Reduce vulnerability and increase resilience through innovation and technology transfer for climate change adaptation. Effective responses to climate change require technological, social, and institutional innovation, which could be incremental or transformational in nature. The increasingly evident effects of climate change and variability require climate resilience technologies to be transferred, adapted, and deployed across the developing world.  

Mainstream climate change adaptation and resilience for systemic impact. Adaptation presents a cross-cutting, systemic challenge for ecosystems and livelihoods. The GEF will increase its efforts to develop adaptation projects that address other environmental and sustainable development challenges as well. For example, GEF will help develop climate-resilient smallholder food systems, cities that deliver efficient, integrated and sustainable development solutions while also building resilience of populations and infrastructure to climate change and variability, and delivery of clean and resilient energy solutions, particularly for vulnerable populations.  

Foster enabling conditions for effective and integrated climate change adaptation. The GEF will continue to support countries as they develop National Adaptation Plans under the UNFCC. These plans provide a framework that countries can refer to in integrating climate change adaptation considerations into long-term planning and processes. For example, the GEF may help advance integrated approaches that allow countries to continue to address their urgent and immediate needs, while also strengthening the institutional frameworks and capacities required to pursue adaptation strategies beyond individual projects and programs.  

The new strategy also places an emphasis on enhancing complementarity with other key climate finance providers, such as the Green Climate Fund, and help address the growing demand for adaptation support and to enhance financial leverage. 

With GEF’s unique mandate across several multilateral environmental conventions, the LDCF and SCCF can offer effective support that capitalizes on synergy and multiple benefits. For example, approximately 50 percent of LDCF implementation projects to date contributed to land degradation and biodiversity management.  Ninety-five percent of LDCF projects align to some extent with expanding synergies with other GEF focal areas.  While there is already a strong track record to support integrated solutions, there exists a significant potential to harness them more systematically and intentionally towards greater impact, which the LDCF and SCCF will seek to address in GEF-7.