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Adaptation to climate change in developing countries is to a large extent about building resilience, including social and institutional responsiveness to change. In that sense it is about “development.” However, adaptation finance is not development assistance. It is better thought of as a financial transfer based on the “causal responsibility” for the disproportionate costs to the poor of climate change associated with carbon emissions of the rich. Our proposals start from the premise that if adaptation transfers are to be effective and sustained, the habits, culture, and practices of traditional aid programs need to be set aside.

The climate community can set the groundwork for an overall approach to adaptation transfers that benefits from hard lessons learned over several decades about what makes traditional aid more effective: channeling aid through recipient countries’ own budgets and systems; making recipient governments primarily accountable to their own citizens for measured results (and not just to donors for tracking money); full transparency to both taxpayers in donor countries and citizens in recipient countries including timely publication of disbursements and systematic reporting of results; and multilateral funding whenever possible to reduce the high transactions costs and the lack of predictability associated with more politically driven bilateral programs.