Climate Change and Social Impact: Economic Development Problem

Edinburgh, 26 March 2013. “All countries need to adapt to climate change, but they need to be sure they do so in a way that does not harm their social and economic development,” says Dr Simon Anderson, head of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)’s climate change group.

The IIED is working on a new set of measuring tools that should allow developing countries a way to check that the initiatives they are planning don’t make any climate change impacts worse - for instance by measuring irrigation project effects outside the immediate areas that benefit from the extra water. Anderson says that new systems for tracking the social impacts of efforts to adapt to climate change could soon be in place across Africa and South Asia.

“The tools we have developed should allow countries to ensure that (climate change) adaptation and development work hand-in-hand. Ultimately this will mean better management and more accountability, he asserts.

The new system, called Tracking Adaptation and Measuring Development (TAMD) uses specific scales to assess and compare the effectiveness of initiatives that help populations adapt to climate change. Anderson’s team says it differs from other assessment systems by emphasising the need to assess development in the light of changing climate risks.

Working with partners Adaptify and Garama 3C Ltd, IIED is working with governments of Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nepal, and Pakistan to test the new tools as means to evaluate a range of climate adaptation activities. Representatives from these countries met IIED staff and partners in Edinburgh on 19-20 March to review the design, feasibility testing, and next steps.  

“While most frameworks for evaluating responses to climate change assume that adaptation will neutralise harm and allow development to continue as planned, this underestimates the real change needed to keep development on track,” says Anderson.

“As governments and development partners begin to invest large sums of money in climate change action, it is essential that they focus on (those) adaptation’s contribution to long term development,” says Anderson. “Unless they can track adaptation and measure development outcomes there is a risk that any funds will be poorly spent.”

The new TAMD framework and tools that IIED and partners have developed will enable governments and development agencies to assess whether adaptation projects enhance or compromise development in the long term, not just for immediate benefit. They will measure how fairly the costs and benefits of such projects are distributed, and will help to identify where to best spend future investments.

According to Andersdon, the TAMD system, developed with funding from the UK’s Department for International Development, can be tailored to suit individual country contexts, different sectors and at various levels. The first step is to initiate five specially designed pilot tests at national and subnational levels in the first countries to use it, as listed above.

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