Mitigating and adapting to climate change

With more than three billion people living in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change (IPCC Report 2022), mitigation and adaptation strategies are essential to minimize the long-term effects of climate warming. 3ie’s climate change research program focuses on promoting evidence-informed policies and programs to strengthen climate mitigation and adaptation efforts.

Mitigating and adapting to climate change

The impacts of climate change on ecosystems, resources, and food security are exacerbating social and economic vulnerabilities, especially of the most marginalized groups and countries. Between 1990-2019, deaths due to natural disasters and severe weather are reported to have increased by 231% in low-income countries, while in the rest of the world the same rate decreased—highlighting the low-level of resilience of the poorest countries to disasters. While the 2022 IPCC report highlights the need for rapid and sustained action globally to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, there is a need to understand what strategies and programs can make a difference. Identifying effective strategies to fight climate change is one of 3ie's priorities, and we have a track record of developing new evidence that shapes policy.

We have supported several impact evaluations that can provide insight into the effects of interventions aimed at mitigating climate change at the national level. Below is a list of some of our relevant work:

Cash or carbon: A randomized trial of payments for ecosystem services to reduce deforestation

Deforestation is the second largest source of carbon emissions and curbing it can help mitigate climate change. To address deforestation, some low- and middle-income countries designed interventions to provide financial incentives — known as Payments for Ecosystem Services — for forest-owning individuals or communities to keep their forests intact. In 2017, 3ie supported the first randomized controlled trial of such an intervention in Uganda. The intervention offered payments to private forest owners in Western Uganda if they refrained from clearing trees. To understand the impact of the program, evaluators used satellite imagery to examine the forest cover in both treatment and control villages. They found that the project significantly reduced deforestation.

The findings of this evaluation were used by conservation organizations to inform a review of Uganda’s environmental policies and prompted greater collaboration among different conservation groups. Read more about the impact of this evaluation on 3ie’s evidence impact summaries portal.


A triple win? The impact of Tanzania’s Joint Forest Management program on livelihoods, governance and forests

An impact evaluation on Tanzania’s Joint Forest Management (JFM) program found strong positive impact on strengthening local governance. However, no effects were found on livelihoods or change in the deforestation rate. There are some indications of potential improvements on subsistence forest product harvesting, and on potential households harvesting behavior change due to JMF’s stricter protection and more effective patrols.


Community monitoring of socio-environmental liabilities with advanced technologies in the Ecuadorian and Peruvian Amazon

We supported an evaluation to understand the impact of a user-friendly, technology-enabled community intervention to enhance communities’ detection, monitoring and reporting capabilities. The study also assessed the community’s ability to make socio-environmental claims that result in adequate compensation.

Report | Brief

Picture-based crop insurance: using farmers’ smartphone pictures to strengthen resilience

With farmers in India increasingly exposed to climate change and natural disasters, policymakers are seeking ways to improve farmers’ resilience, and delivery of risk management strategies, including crop insurance. In India, Haryana and Punjab are the second and third largest wheat-producing states and the largest contributors to the central pool of food grains used to provide welfare entitlements to the country's poor. Our quantitative study with more than 700 farmers from 50 villages in six districts in the two states assessed the feasibility of offering pictured-based insurance. We find that farmers perceive most hazard to be visible from smartphone pictures and 80 percent of them uploaded at least one valid picture during the season.


In recent years, we have supported and produced evidence on various aspects of climate change. Our evidence gap maps (EGMs) provide insight into where evidence already exists, and where gaps remain. Where evidence exists, our synthesis work helps review various strategies and programs to draw lessons on what works and what does not.

Mapping energy efficiency interventions

Energy consumption is the largest source of global green house gas emissions (GHGs), and energy efficiency has great potential to reduce energy demand and use. In the last decade, the number of studies evaluating the effectiveness of energy efficiency projects has increased, but some areas are studied more than others. To understand what evidence (and gaps) exist, 3ie produced an EGM focusing on studies between 2000-2019. We identified nearly 300 studies that primarily address 15 types of interventions in three policy areas: (1) financial assistance and market enabling measures; (2) information programs; (3) technical capacity development.

We found clusters of evidence exist on interventions that focus on the introduction of systems to monitor energy consumption (66 studies), the direct provision of technologies and services (53 studies), and the implementation of education campaigns to raise awareness (40 studies). However, there are several interventions that had limited or few studies such as capacity building to develop energy efficiency skills, and technical assistance to those who want to switch to efficient technologies, among others. It is also worth noting that while the evidence is growing, there are few studies in Africa, Asia and South America. In fact, almost 75 per cent of the studies in our map look at interventions in high-income countries.

Blog | Report

Residential energy efficiency interventions

Our map identified a synthesis gap on interventions that address energy efficiency at the household level. This is important because the residential sector releases around 17 percent of global GHGs and improving energy consumption at home can help mitigate climate change. To understand what interventions work, our systematic review includes 16 studies on the impact of installing technology in residential settings. While we found promising effects on reducing energy consumption, evidence on interventions from L&MICs was limited. To better understand the effects of technology in real-world settings, more evidence is urgently needed.

Plain language summary | Report | Blog

Incentives for climate mitigation in the land use sector – the effects of payment for environmental services

Payment for environmental services (PES) programs have been promoted as a measure to mitigate the effects of climate change in the land use sector. But key policy questions around the effectiveness of PES on both environmental and socio-economic outcomes remain unanswered. We conducted a systematic review, which included 44 impact evaluation studies of 18 different PES programs, and a further 60 studies for the qualitative thematic synthesis. Despite the large number of studies, we were unable to determine with any certainty whether PES programs are worthwhile investments. The overall evidence is of low or very low quality, and the outcomes measurements sometimes missing or are too different to allow for a meta-analysis. This highlights the urgent need for higher quality impact evaluations which include a counterfactual to evaluate the effectiveness of these interventions.

Brief | Report

Effects of decentralized forest management on deforestation and poverty

Reforestation and forest management can be key to mitigate the effects of climate change. This systematic review looks at the effects of decentralized forest management on deforestation and poverty in L&MICs. We included eight studies on programs from seven countries. While we found positive effects on reducing deforestation, there were no effects on human welfare and poverty outcomes.