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Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research

Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research

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Capacity building for local level stakeholders in Thailand towards accessing climate finance

Streamlining capacity building for local leaders and stakeholders on early-stage climate adaptation project formulation can help unlock climate action.

Civil society and community-based organisations are in a unique position to help build climate resilience at the local level while contributing to countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement. However, the capacity of stakeholders to access climate finance is hindered by gaps in know-how, burdensome procedures, and inadequate funding modalities in relation to the scale and capabilities of community-based stakeholders. In Thailand, the Climate Change Master Plan (2015-50) targets achieving climate change resilience following a low-carbon development pathway by 2050 (Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP), 2015). However, insufficient capacity and resources among domestic actors, including civil society and community-based organisations, to engage in climate action planning and access finance continue to stunt resilience-building efforts (Marks, 2019).

A capacity building activity supported by the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research (CBA2018-06SY-Villacorta) and the Ministry of the Environment, Japan, sought to reduce this gap by convening civil society and community-based organisations from Northeast Thailand and national organisations to learn about and practice climate change adaptation project development. Following the principles of learning by doing for adult education and the framework for capacity building under the UNFCCC (Khan et al., 2018), the training convened 23 participants for an intensive 5-day workshop based on materials developed for the Adapt Asia-Pacific programme by the United States Agency for International Development and the Asian Institute of Technology. The training assumed that following the Green Climate Fund’s stringent investment criteria can lead to high-quality projects that can be deemed fundable by other financiers as appropriate.

Northeast Thailand was targeted based on the understanding that the region is heavily reliant on agriculture, geographically distant from Bangkok as the centre for national public budgetary flows, and faces unique challenges in relation to its susceptibility to drought, among other climate-related hazards (Babel et al., 2011; Boonwichai et al., 2019; Marks, 2019). Initial project ideas submitted by participants prior to the training included activities to strengthen institutional capacities, procedures, and priorities. These can be categorised as readiness or preparedness activities instead of resilience-building, which reflect local challenges as preliminary requisites to apply for, manage and implement climate action projects.

Whereas a longer-term assessment on the success rates of participants to access climate finance is beyond the timeframe and scope of the project, self-assessments based on pre- and post-training activities demonstrate valuable gains in understanding the landscape and procedures to access climate finance and methodologies for project design.

Table 1: Participant self-assessment responses on the level of understanding of the listed policies, concepts, or elements of climate change adaptation projects

Change Gain
Thailand National Adaptation Plan 2.71 4.19 1.48 54.76%
Thailand National sources of finance for adaptation 2.18 3.81 1.64 75.17%
Green Climate Fund 2.29 4.19 1.89 82.53%
Other international climate finance sources 2.00 3.69 1.69 84.38%
Climate Rationale 2.29 4.25 1.96 85.26%
Logic Framework 2.65 4.00 1.35 51.11%
Environmental and social safeguards 2.47 3.75 1.28 51.79%
Gender considerations in project development 2.71 3.94 1.23 45.52%
Overall Average 2.41 3.98 1.56 64.88%

The resulting project ideas (1 to 4 below) after the training demonstrated a clear link to national priority areas in Thailand’s NDCs, including food security through climate-smart and sustainable agricultural practices and ecosystem-based adaptation with potential benefits regarding biodiversity and forestry management commitments, thereby demonstrating national ownership and a clear understanding of the climate reasoning needed within climate action project proposals. For example, the first project idea outlined efforts to integrate climate smart agricultural practices, including via training on soil management, building and enhancing farmers’ access to credit mechanisms, establishing a knowledge centre on appropriate technologies, and introducing water impounding systems.

  1. Climate-resilient Farming Community of Khon Kaen through climate-responsive agriculture productivity measures for improved livelihood and food security
  2. Food systems for community food security and sustainable development in the Huai River basin
  3. (Translated) Building resilience of small farmers to climate change and enhancing agricultural productivity to improve the livelihood in lower Nam Pong Basin
  4. (Translated) Strengthening the ability of stakeholders to manage ecosystems and to adapt to climate changes in the Chi River Basin

A review of the outlined project objectives deduced from the problem and objective tree exercises informing the project’s theory of change include components of technology integration, climate information systems, and communication and public awareness addressing capacity and behavioural gaps. Many of these activities do not represent costly or resource-intensive investments. Still, as outlined in the causal chains, they can significantly contribute to resilience-building. Project components of communication and public awareness require a sustainable and long-term approach that can be supported by programmatic funding, including collaborative efforts and information systems with national actors through the establishment of networks that maximise synergies as outlined in Thailand’s NDCs. As a result, the participant’s ability to draft a theory of change addressing key leverage points to build resilience was demonstrated.

Additional finance and support are needed for bottom-up climate resilience building.

A review of the project idea outputs from the training suggests that while projects may have identified a clear climate rationale, the scale of projects may be small to be eligible for GCF finance. As such, enhancing community-driven adaptation approaches may require diversifying the sources, format, and scale of available funding to meet the conditions and implementation capabilities of civil society and community-based organisations. Therefore, capacity building efforts should aim to refer or bridge links to alternative funding sources suitable for smaller, community-based projects or activities. Another opportunity includes exploring national or regional programmatic funding project ideas that may disburse funding for smaller initiatives.

Moreover, national adaptation planning should address the need to develop schemes to support community-based climate change resilience building. This includes innovation to extend project preparation support, capacity building, technical assistance, match-making and innovative financial mechanisms to integrate community-led climate resilience building. Whereas the challenges of making the business case for financing climate change adaptation are still unresolved, consideration of avenues to source private finance or establish programmatic funding approaches for sustainable development projects that incorporate climate change adaptation benefits, for example, should be further explored by policymakers and financial institutions.

In view of the above, a possible avenue to leverage climate finance for community-driven initiatives is to consider capacity building activities and project design processes with community organisations that are framed as a collaborative effort to pursue programmatic climate finance sources in order to scale funding request limits. As pioneered by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), programmatic funding can be considered “as a long-term and strategic arrangement of individual yet interlinked projects aimed at achieving large-scale impacts on the global environment” (World Bank, 2008, p. 7). Given the level of transformation required to meet targets under the Paris Agreement, programmatic approaches are increasingly perceived as supporting countries’ climate action ambitions as outlined in their NDCs by bringing “systems level thinking and solutions commensurate with the scale and urgency of the climate crisis” (Kyle et al., 2018). The advantages of programmatic financing, when compared to individual project financing, include strengthened country ownership and local capacities; improved integration of climate change into decision-making; increased cost efficiency; higher implementation effectiveness; higher potential for scalability and replicability; greater impact; deeper integration, collaboration and practices across sectors, countries and key stakeholders; increased opportunities for co-financing; and increased learning and knowledge generation (GCF, 2019). From a capacity-building perspective, this may be feasible by developing longer-term programmes and noting any possible common regional project opportunities.

Civil society and community-based organisations are in a unique position to experiment with and introduce microfinance programmes or social impact small grant mechanisms through community funds, for example, to enable the deployment of climate change resilient measures and technologies at the local level (Marks, 2019; Mcgilloway et al., 2015). In the case of Thailand, national programmes like the Thai Royal Project may also be worth exploring for insights on finance, stakeholder engagement and management approaches in supporting community-based climate resilience activities as envisioned through this programme (Heyd & Neef, 2006; Highland Research and Development Institute, 2007).

Strengthening capacity building approaches for local leaders and stakeholders

From a capacity building perspective, pathway towards reaching submission readiness benefits from preliminary work to set expectations for workshops, longer-term engagement to follow up on design teams’ developments, and innovative approaches to align diverse community-based activities in a programmatic approach while also bridging connections with finance providers.

Whereas training events result in a network of individuals with project development know-how, the quality of outputs and a project’s theory of change stems from preparatory work by project design team members to review and build an understanding of local climate change vulnerabilities, local governance systems and sector-specific considerations. Noting that the thematic knowledge base of stakeholders from civil society and community-based organisations is diverse, a simplistic initial approach to leverage a common understanding of concepts, climate policies, and funding avenues may be needed. This could be achieved through educational activities preceding the in-person training event, including presentations and exercises. Another key challenge lies in ensuring continuity of preparatory work towards the completion of a project proposal, which often relies on. Contributing risk factors extend beyond the limitations of capacity building, such as the engagement of civil society and community-based stakeholders via voluntary streams of responsibility with limited technical, financial and human capital to prioritise tasks contributing to project development processes.

In the case of Northeast Thailand, the Centre for Civil Society and Non-Profit Management at Khon Kaen University has been working to meet the needs of local community stakeholders to learn about and support climate resilience in agriculture and notes that the total number of non-profit organisations working on a wide range of thematic areas across the country exceed seventy thousand. A clear opportunity, therefore, lies in ensuring that a larger number of civil society and community-based stakeholders are involved in climate change adaptation project development, including via capacity building and the establishment of financial mechanisms that reflect the scale and capabilities for community-based adaptation.

Capacity building is key to bridging a transition towards higher locally-driven climate action planning. On a broader level, there are multi-fold benefits to enable community-based stakeholders to actively engage in the design and implementation of climate action initiatives that have the potential to accelerate climate action. From a readiness perspective, increasing local literacy on climate finance and resource mobilisation processes is key to the sustainability of climate action projects.


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