Date of Award

Summer 8-23-2019

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Quaternary and Climate Studies


Cynthia Isenhour

Second Committee Member

Aaron Strong

Third Committee Member

Stefano Tijerina


The rapid entry into force of the Paris Agreement reaffirmed, with certainty, that the international community would continue its efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change impacts opening a new era of international cooperation on climate change. This thesis explores how both negotiations around climate change adaptation and adaptation project implementation have evolved in this post-Paris Agreement era (from adoption in December 2015 to present). Using the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) Adaptation Fund as the central lens, the chapters explore international negotiations around the Fund as well as two Adaptation Fund funded projects—one in Nicaragua and the second in Samoa. This research which traverses the levels of governance from international to local prompts an examination of how exactly adaptation stakeholders and institutions work across and between governance levels and scales. Thus, the framework of multi-level governance is used as a way to unpack the interactions and structures involved in the Adaptation Fund and its funded projects.

At the international level negotiations around the Adaptation Fund, we find that developing countries use the Adaptation Fund as a tool to defend justice-based norms in a UNFCCC system that has rapidly transition to a more liberal-based norm structure with the introduction of the Paris Agreement. Developing countries' ardent and almost unanimous support for the continuation of the Adaptation Fund under the Paris Agreement throughout the duration of the negotiating process (2015-2018) provides insights into their efforts to defend and promote justice-based norms. We explore how this unwavering support for the Adaptation Fund could impact Fund structures, operations, and on-the-ground project implementation (looking to the national and sub-national levels).

We then trace the Adaptation Fund from negotiations to project implementation. These projects inherently present a multi-level governance challenge because they are developed at the national level, funded and monitored at the international level, and ultimately implemented in communities. It is well understood that these levels of governance exist and function within this overall system of climate adaptation. However, the synergies that facilitate effective adaptation and the barriers that inhibit smooth multi-level governance of adaptation are not well understood in the literature. Chapter 3 and 4 presents evidence from Adaptation Fund projects in Samoa and Nicaragua to highlight areas where multi-level governance had been leveraged to enhance the governance of adaptation as well as areas of the projects where this has not occurred. They further examine the trade-offs inherent in efforts to work across governance scales and levels in conducting climate adaptation.


As of 2002, Degree of Master of Science (MS) Quaternary and Climate Studies published under the auspices of the Climate Change Institute.