Doctoral Dissertation Research: Funding Adaptation as Development: Tanzania's Engagement with UN Policy

Project: Research project

Project Details


This doctoral dissertation project seeks to understand how adaptation to climate change is conceptualized by some policy makers. As global negotiations regarding the long-term reduction of greenhouse gas emissions continue without reaching a consensus, adaptation to the impacts of climate change becomes increasingly significant. Adaptation, broadly speaking, refers to actions that proactively or reactively minimize the negative impacts of climate change. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, even if carbon emissions were drastically and immediately reduced, global warming over the next few decades as a result of past emissions is unavoidable. Adaptation is necessary, yet how it is defined, financed, and implemented remain subjects of great uncertainty. The main objective of this study is to understand how adaptation works alongside and with development in adaptation funding policy. By empirically understanding how a concept of adaptation is defined and operationalized, this research will capture the nuanced integration of adaptation and development that is materializing in one leading international institution: the Adaptation Fund. The Adaptation Fund is the primary mechanism for financing adaptation in developing countries under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). As such, the ways in which the Adaptation Fund defines, finances, and implements adaptation policies are critically important for understanding future responses to global climate change. Using research methods that include archival data collection and analysis, participant observation, and semi-structured interviews with policymakers and other key individuals involved in the preparation of a proposal to the Adaptation Fund, this study seeks to understand what adaptation is according to the Adaptation Fund, how this concept is implemented and operationalized in the funding process, and finally, how the concept is accepted, challenged, or transformed by nations applying for funding, drawing on the specific application experiences of one case study, the country of Tanzania.

This research will contribute to knowledge about how different conceptualizations of adaptation to climate change are integrated with development practices, circulated through policy, and shape the type of adaptation projects proposed and undertaken in developing countries. How adaptation occurs, who pays for it, and whose needs are prioritized are among the most urgent questions currently under debate in international policy. This project will advance research and policy on adaptation funding by providing specific empirical detail on how one developing country (Tanzania) is working to receive funding support for climate change adaptation. This will generate insights into how developing countries are able to respond to climate change given the priorities, constraints and requirements encountered in adaptation funding mechanisms. This research has direct policy relevance for global institutions including the Adaptation Fund and other climate finance mechanisms housed in governmental and non-governmental institutions and the private sector. In particular, findings will contribute to the development and implementation of the UNFCCC's new multi-billion dollar Green Climate Fund. Finally, this research will provide beneficial insights to countries, communities, and institutions applying for funding by clarifying the funding process and illustrating the less explicit factors that shape the decision to fund or reject proposals. As a Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement award, this award also will provide support to enable a promising student to establish an independent research career.

Effective start/end date6/1/1211/30/13


  • National Science Foundation: $11,691.00


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