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 is thus an issue of global concern and of equity.  

Over the last decade, efforts to address climate change adaptation have intensified 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.

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely hampered most economic and social activities around the globe, unleashing food insecurity, massive unemployment, and displacement of people, among other concerns. The triple threat of climate change, biodiversity crisis, and COVID-19 are having devastating impacts on the vulnerability of people and communities that are already under stress. Systemic approaches that address multiple threats are needed.

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 keeps 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, and channels support for climate adaptation mainly through the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF). The two funds also have an important role of serving the Paris Agreement. 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. Innovation, partnership, and gender mainstreaming are also key to GEF’s adaptation and resilience support.

The LDCF and SCCF are well-suited to help countries to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, through enhancing resilience, creating buffers, and applying nature-based solutions. Initiatives supported by the two funds have the potential to contribute to economic resilience and health, and the overall recovery efforts of affected countries, communities, and sectors. For example, they are strengthening income generation and diversification, building supply chain resilience, aiding local food security and access to basic services, and targeting support to the vulnerable ecosystems and people that are likely to be hardest hit by the COVID-19, climate, and biodiversity crises.

The GEF has been collaborating closely with the Green Climate Fund (GCF) through the coordinated engagement initiative, and encouraging joint GEF-GCF country dialogues and programming. A number of projects are building on outcomes of GCF readiness support to address identified priorities, while other GEF projects are expected to be scaled up with GCF support.


Since 2001, the GEF has provided close to $2.0 billion in grant financing and mobilized more than $13 billion from other sources for 386 adaptation projects in 130 countries, including all least developed countries (LDCs) and 33 small island developing states (SIDS). These projects are expected to directly reduce the vulnerability of approximately 30 million people.    

These projects also ensure that more than 7.2 million hectares of productive and natural landscapes are better managed to more effectively withstand the effects of climate change. 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 900,000 people.

The GEF, through the LDCF and the SCCF, has financed 119 projects supporting the development of hydrometeorological and climate information services, while delivering technical assistance to integrate climate risks and adaptation into 2,500 key policymaking and planning process at the regional, national, and sub-national level and across the most vulnerable sectors in developing countries.

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, the GEF can 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 UNFCCC. 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 GEF-7 strategy also places an emphasis on enhancing complementarity with other key climate finance providers, such as the GCF, and help address the growing demand for adaptation support and to enhance financial leverage. 

With the 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, the 2020 program evaluation of the LDCF conducted by the GEF Independent Evaluation Office found that 58 percent of LDCF implementation projects to date contributed to land degradation and 48 percent contributed to biodiversity management. The LDCF projects were also successful in generating catalytic efforts, by producing public goods through new technologies and approaches, through demonstration, by replication, and by scaling up.

In 2021, the GEF will start to develop a new programming strategy for the LDCF/SCCF for the GEF-8 period (July 2022 to June 2026).