Addressing ecosystem challenges through support to the Mekong River Commission’s Climate Change and Adaptation Initiative (CCAI)

Addressing ecosystem challenges through support to the Mekong River Commission’s Climate Change and Adaptation Initiative (CCAI)

At a glance

Completed programmes
Mekong River Commission
Total budget
4,95 M€
Effects of climate change on the region

Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, the four countries of the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB), are vulnerable to climate change because of the heavy reliance of their economies on natural resources. Climate change is expected to modify weather patterns in the region in terms of temperature, rainfall, and frequency and intensity of extreme events. Seasonal water shortages, droughts and floods may become more common and more severe, as may saltwater intrusion. Such changes are expected to affect natural ecosystems, agriculture and food production, and exacerbate the problems of satisfying increasing food demand by growing populations.

The Mekong River Commission (MRC) is an intergovernmental body established in 1995 by agreement of the governments of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam. These four countries saw a common interest in jointly managing their shared water resources and developing the economic potential of the river. In 2007, the MRC Council called for a cooperative regional initiative to provide knowledge, tools and capacity building and other assistance to adapt to climate change. As a result, the MRC Secretariat took the lead in preparing the Climate Change and Adaptation Initiative (CCAI), which began implementation in 2009. The GCCA, together with other development partners, provides support for this initiative.

GCCA's action programme
Geographical scope
Initial GCCA/GCCA+ contribution
4,950,000.00 €
Specific objectives

Ensure that climate change adaptation planning and implementation is guided by improved strategies and plans, at various levels and in priority locations throughout the LMB.

Key achievements

With regard to pilot adaptation planning and implementation:

  • Four local demonstration projects (one in each member country) have been implemented and have started sharing their results and experience with local and sector authorities and planners. The Vietnam project was completed in October 2011, while the other 3 (in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Thailand) were completed in the first quarter of 2013. An exchange visit of the Lao project team to the Thailand project took place in April 2011, and another one (from the Cambodia project team to the Vietnamese project) in October 2012. Knowledge exchange workshops involving all 4 projects were organised in July 2011 and again in December 2012. Initial findings indicate that the demonstration projects have contributed to enhancing the capacity of member countries with regard to adaptation planning and implementation, raised awareness on climate change impacts and the need for adaptation, and helped identify suitable adaptation options. Evaluations of these four demonstration projects were conducted between August and November 2013.

  • The selection of a new batch of demonstration projects, integrating lessons learned and recommendations from the first batch of projects, was completed in all four countries (Lao PDR, Vietnam in December 2013, Thailand and Cambodia by June 2014). All projects should be completed in 2016.

  • The concept note and work plan to establish the CCAI database and basin-wide climate change and adaptation monitoring & reporting system was agreed with Member Countries in a regional consultation meeting in Siem Reap, Cambodia in November 2013. National consultations have been organised to consult further with line agencies in the countries. So far the consultations in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam have been completed.

  • A “Basin-wide climate change and wetland assessment for adaptation planning in the LMB” was completed in December 2012 by the Environment Programme (under the framework of CCAI). The outputs are being updated with additional case study in Thailand. 

  • Three basin-wide assessments on impacts of climate change to ecosystems and biodiversity, floods and droughts respectively are being designed. National consultations for these assessments will be organised starting from December 2013 onwards.

With regard to institutional capacity building:

  • To support effective implementation of the CCAI, a capacity needs assessment was undertaken between December 2012 and April 2013, on the basis of which a stakeholder engagement plan and capacity building plan are in preparation. CCAI Capacity Building Plan and CCAI Stakeholder Engagement Plan were formulated in October 2013. Their implementation is foreseen Their implementation taking is foreseen in 2014 and 2015. As such, a Stakeholder Engagement Framework is being used as a guideline for implementation of stakeholder engagement in CCAI activities at both regional and national levels.

  • Various training activities have been undertaken at regional and national level since the beginning of the programme, including training for project teams in local demonstration sites. In 2012, training was delivered to member country line agency staff and the MRC modelling team on climate model downscaling and its applications in assessing impacts on agriculture and floods. Officials from the member countries also participated in a study visit to Europe focused on transboundary climate change impacts and adaptation.

  • A review of climate change adaptation methods and tools and methods for application at both local demonstration and basin-wide levels was conducted and published in early 2011 (MRC Technical Paper No. 34). The scoping of vulnerability and impact assessment tools suitable for use in the LMB is under way and should be completed soon.

  • A Regional Exchange and Learning Workshop was organised in February 2014 in Khon Kaen, Thailand. The workshop provided the national project teams of both the 1st and 2nd batch of CCAI local demonstration projects to look at: factors to improve quality of adaptation projects, points to be considered for replication, mainstreaming and upscaling of adaptation projects in the LMB. These findings will be further discussed with CCAI stakeholders in the upcoming 2nd Mekong Climate Change Forum on 6-8 October 2014 in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

With regard to adaptation mainstreaming:

  • The programme’s gender responsiveness plan and communication plan have been developed, and their implementation has started. The CCAI aims to promote gender mainstreaming in climate change adaptation.

  • The publication “Adaptation to climate change in the countries of the Lower Mekong Basin” was launched in September 2009. It is a regional synthesis of national studies relevant to climate change and adaptation activities, needs and gaps of the MRC member countries. It is available in the form of both an information booklet and a technical report (MRC Technical Paper No. 24).

  • A first assessment report of climate change and development impacts on the Mekong flow regimes was completed and published in 2010. It is available in the form of an information booklet and a technical paper (MRC Technical Paper No. 29).

  • A literature review (with a focus on water management) is being finalised (reports for Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam are completed, and the review for Thailand is under way) to capture and update knowledge on climate change, climate change impacts and adaptation responses in the Mekong Basin. This will contribute to the definition of a climate change baseline for the region and help identify knowledge gaps; it will also provide a basis for the preparation of an updated Mekong Basin climate change status report.

  • A concept and work plan have been agreed for a basin-wide system for monitoring and reporting on climate change and adaptation. Initial steps towards its implementation are under way, with a focus on data collection, building a framework for data collection and display, and defining a methodology for setting a baseline and detecting changes. This work is linked to the development of the CCAI database.

With regard to regional cooperation and institutional arrangements:

  • The CCAI has been fully staffed since December 2012 and is supporting the National Mekong Committees in establishing CCAI national coordination units.

  • The CCAI’s monitoring and evaluation framework, linked to the programme implementation plan 2011-2015, has been finalised.

  • Further cooperation and collaboration with other international, regional organisations and NGO partners have been continuously explored. In 2013 opportunities for cooperation with WMO, FAO, US-Fish and Wildlife Services, Commissions for Hydrology of the Rhine have been explored to organise international exchanges of experiences, mobilise expertise support to the programme in the fields of climate data analysis & forecasting, food security and ecosystem assessment, respectively. The institutions have exchanged information on current and future activities and will continue discussions to identify the areas and modality of cooperation. A Mekong-Rhine symposium on climate change and hydrology is being discussed. This led to the organisation of the 1st Rhine Mekong Symposium In 2014, in cooperation with the Commission for Hydrology of the Rhine (CHR) and the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine (ICPR).

Main activities per result

Adaptation planning and implementation is piloted and demonstrated throughout the region.

This includes the development of methods and tools for risk and vulnerability assessment (biophysical and socioeconomic impacts, vulnerability of communities, economic activity and infrastructure) and for the assessment and prioritisation of adaptation options. Another key component is the implementation of local demonstration activities and adaptation projects, from which lessons can be learned to improve practices and influence national strategies, while successful approaches are replicated and scaled up through local, sector and national development planning. Basin-wide sector and transboundary adaptation plans/guides are also to be prepared and piloted, long-term flood management options analysed, and drought risk and vulnerability assessment undertaken.

The capacity to manage and adapt to climate change at different levels is improved.

This component, which will build on the development of assessment and planning tools and the outcomes of the pilot activities described above, focuses on strengthening the capacity of LMB governments, institutions and communities to develop climate change-related policies, to plan for and implement climate change adaptation using appropriate tools, and to monitor and report on progress and performance with regard to climate change adaptation.

Strategies and plans for adaptation are in place at various levels; they are regularly updated, and integrated into appropriate development plans.

This component includes the development of policy frameworks to facilitate and guide adaptation, the implementation of a system for monitoring and reporting on the status of climate change and adaptation in the Mekong region, and the implementation of a CCAI communication plan.

Regional cooperation, exchange and learning are implemented through partnerships.

This involves the establishment of partnership agreements and working relations between CCAI core implementing partner organisations, the staffing and resourcing of the MRC Secretariat and National Mekong Committees for the purpose of implementing the CCAI, and the development of working mechanisms including reporting systems and financing mechanisms.

Challenges and lessons learned (selected)
  • Due to its broad scope and cross-cutting nature, the CCAI needs to maintain a strong strategic balance between its various activities at regional and national levels, to ensure that the project addresses both common and different needs in climate change adaptation of the MRC member countries.

  • Setting up a web-based regional network of local demonstration projects would be very useful to support replication and scaling-up. There is a need to build on and draw from existing efforts and implementation experience.

  • The mobilisation of meaningful and effective technical partnerships is a critical ingredient to CCAI implementation success; it should help realise synergies, support the exchange of knowledge and experience and promote improved effectiveness and sustainability.

  • Coordination at national level has been appropriate, notably due to the involvement of relevant institutions, namely national climate change focal agencies, line agencies, local governments, river basin organisations and also a number of NGOs.

Way forward (selected)
  • The focus areas of CCAI in completing of the current phase by June 2016 should be: Complete the basin –wide assessment on climate change impacts on water and water-related resources and sectors, finalise a 1st draft of Mekong Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan (MASAP) and initiate the process of endorsement and approval of MASAP, prepare a regional report on the Status of Climate Change, Impacts and Adaptation in the LMB including inputs on climate change to State of Basin Report. 

  • Some priorities and additional funding should be given to the CCAI to facilitate the adoption of the Mekong Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan, disseminate the findings of CCAI in 2011-2016 such as the results of CCAI basin-wide assessment on climate change impacts and vulnerability in the LMB and the Status Report, provide capacity building on application of methods and tools for impact assessment and adaptation planning and provide technical assistance for MRC and MCs to implement the MASAP including having access to global climate finance.