A richness index for baselining climate change adaptations in small island developing states

Small island developing states (SIDS) are a uniquely vulnerable suite of countries. Climate change is already having disproportionate impacts on their biophysical and socio-economic processes. The status of national-level climate change adaptation across multiple SIDS is, however, under-explored in the academic literature. A pivotal study by Lesnikowski et al. (2015) (https://doi.org/10.1007/s11027-013-9491-x), which assessed adaptation outcomes in 117 Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), only included 13 SIDS, a number insufficient to establish a baseline of action in these countries. This paper builds on Lesnikowski et al. (2015) and more recent SIDS-specific work by Robinson (2017) (https://doi.org/10.1007/s11027-015-9693-5) by coding 441 national adaptation actions reported in the National Communications of 35 SIDS between 1997 and 2014. It develops a richness index that baselines adaptations in these countries, which are located across three main geographic regions – the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, Caribbean, and Pacific. It further identifies more advanced adaptors and less advanced adaptors among the group, and finds that, while progress was made in the observation and assessment of climate variables (29.7% of reported actions) and planning (25.2%), less tangible actions were implemented (19.0%) with even less monitoring and evaluation (8.2%) and stakeholder engagement and knowledge management (17.9%). This paper concludes that greater investments in ongoing capacity-building in SIDS are required for countries to better plan, implement and evaluate adaptation actions, and to better advocate for more optimal levels of international financing for helping to underwrite the cost of adaptation.