News Release

Turning the Paris Agreement into action requires ‘boots on the ground’

Time:2016-08-23 Browse Number:284 Source:by Jazmin Burgess, Global Coordinator, Boots on the Ground, UNDP

Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are on the frontlines of climate change. With populations often heavily reliant on climate-vulnerable sectors such as agriculture, fisheries and forestry to drive their economies, the impacts of climate change are amplified. One erratic storm or years of changing growing seasons can wipe out food and water supplies for years or decades. 

This has immense social and economic impacts that reduce opportunities, reinforce inequalities and potentially reverse progress toward reducing poverty. Charting a development path that integrates climate change action is therefore essential for true sustainable development and that requires direct capacity-building.


Years of changing seasons can wipe out food and water supplies for decades. Photo: UNDP

UNDP’s ‘Boots on the Ground’ programme, established in 2010, does just that. Through technical and policy advice and guidance to 26 countries in Africa, Arab States, Asia-Pacific and Latin America, ‘Boots’ aims to strengthen national capacities to plan for and respond to the impacts of climate change. The successes of this on-the-ground support is already visible. 

In Mali, ‘Boots’ officers have helped the Government prepare the National Climate Change Policy; in Kenya, we’ve worked with national partners to develop the National Climate Change Action Plan. In Nepal we’ve helped climate proof the national agriculture plan and develop a joint Gender and Climate Change strategy. 

In 2015, ahead of the Paris Agreement on climate change, Boots on the Ground worked with governments on the planning and consultation for the Government’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, a key set of targets that will enable action on climate change. 

In Bangladesh, we worked with the Government to access resources and undertake work to scale up local level adaptation to build climate resilience. In Ethiopia, we worked with the government on its Climate Resilient Green Economy Strategy-tackling disasters and climate change. These are just some of the successes we’ve seen. They are, I feel, testament to the benefits of having skilled, knowledgeable practitioners on the ground and able to facilitate ambitious national action. 

By building capacity at the national level, Boots on the Ground enables countries to identify and manage climate risks based on unique national knowledge, as well as equips our partners with the long term skills and resources to not only cope with climate challenges in the future, but to tackle these risks in tandem with the Sustainable Development Goals

From my own experience, having worked in countries such as Viet Nam and the Philippines, I believe the value of stronger national action on climate change is clear. Developing and implementing frameworks and policies, and fostering improved capabilities for climate action, not only helps address climate challenges and prepares countries and populations for the future, but also creates an enabling environment that can encourage accelerated responses. 

In 2016, Boots on the Ground will be critical in guiding countries to shift from commitments to implementation of the Paris Agreement, Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction and Sustainable Development Goals. In the longer term, UNDP will also be looking at strengthening and expanding the programme, making it a driver for climate-resilient and risk-informed development. 

Boots on the Ground is an important reminder that whilst the frontlines of climate change may be at national and subnational level, so is the momentum and scope to take action. Over the coming months, we will be profiling stories directly from Boots countries that highlight the work underway and demonstrate just how action on the ground is enhancing climate action and fostering sustainable development.