Standard 2

Climate Change and Disaster Risks

SES Guidance Note

Additional Resources


Climate change and disaster risks pose an increasing threat to sustainable development and the fight against poverty. They have the potential to stall and even reverse human development through impacts on key development sectors and activities, including agriculture and food production, water, ecosystems and other natural resources, and health. Climate change has become a key driver of hydro-meteorological disasters and has the potential to produce negative impacts through gradual environmental changes and may exacerbate extreme weather events, increasing the risk of slow and sudden-onset, high-impact disasters. Climate variability is contributing to the increasing frequency and impact of small-scale localized disasters with far-reaching long-term socio-economic and developmental impacts. Communities that are already subjected to impacts from climate change may experience an acceleration and/or intensification of impacts due to project activities that do not integrate and anticipate climate change and disaster risks.

UNDP supports countries to integrate disaster and climate risk concerns into national and sectoral development plans; advance low-emission and risk-informed development pathways; identify priority disaster risk reduction, risk governance, climate mitigation and adaptation1 measures; and implement measures to reduce exposure and vulnerabilities and to increase adaptive capacity and build resilience.​

UNDP ensures that its projects are sensitive to climate change and disaster risks and do not contribute to increased vulnerability to climate change and natural hazards.2 UNDP mobilizes resources to support programme countries to address the whole spectrum of issues related to climate change and disaster risk reduction including financing their national adaptation costs and to advance risk-informed development in order to reduce disaster risks.

Reducing the negative impacts of climate change is pursued through two complementary strategies: mitigation (reducing greenhouse gas emissions3 that are an anthropogenic root cause of climate change) and adaptation (adjusting human systems to moderate harm and/or exploit beneficial opportunities from climate change). 

Disaster risks encompass a broad range of potential hazards, including biological, environmental, geological, hydrometeorological, and technological processes and phenomena. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction4 calls for decision-making to be inclusive and risk-informed while using a multi-hazard approach. Disaster risk reduction requires integrated analysis and planning to prevent, reduce, manage and strengthen resilience to potential hazards, including applying the concept of "build back better" after a disaster to increase the resilience of communities. Disaster risk reduction measures are integrated across the sections of the SES.5 Under Standard 2, risks associated primarily with weather-related or hydrometeorological hazards are addressed. 

UNDP strengthens the participation of women in decision-making processes on climate adaptation, mitigation and disaster risk reduction. UNDP supports countries to ensure that disaster risk reduction, climate mitigation and adaptation programmes specifically support women to strengthen their resilience, in part by securing rights and tenure to land and access to finance, housing livelihood diversification and other socio-economic assets and skills.


  • To ensure that UNDP projects are sensitive to climate change and disaster risks in order to strengthen resilience and to achieve sustainable development outcomes. 
  • To reduce project-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and intensity. 


Scope of Application

The applicability of this Standard is established during the social and environmental screening and categorization process. Requirements of this Standard apply to all projects that (i) have development outcomes that may be threatened by climate change or disaster risks; (ii) may contribute to increased exposure and/or vulnerability to climate change or disaster risks; or (iii) may produce significant GHG emissions.



Climate change and disaster risk analysis, planning and implementation: As an integral part of the social and environmental assessment process, UNDP ensures that proposed activities are screened and assessed for climate change and disaster risks and their impacts to project activities and outputs as well as the possibility that project activities could increase exposure to such risks. UNDP ensures that the status and adequacy and applicability of relevant climatic and disaster risk information is identified. If significant potential risks are identified, then further scoping and assessment of vulnerability, potential impacts, and avoidance and mitigation measures, including consideration of alternatives to reduce potential risks, will be required. The climate change and disaster risk assessment and related management planning will:

a) Examine potential exposure and sensitivity of relevant communities, ecosystems, and critical infrastructure to climate change impacts and hazards, both natural and human-made, including extreme weather events and natural hazard-triggered technological (or "Natech") accidents.6

b) Analyse physical, social, economic and environmental factors or processes which increase the susceptibility and vulnerability of relevant communities to potential climate change impacts and hazards—with a particular focus on marginalized and disadvantaged groups and individuals. Consider potential specific gender-, age- and social vulnerabilities and differentiated impacts.

c) Examine the viability or longer-term sustainability of project outcomes due to potential climate change impacts and disaster risks. This will involve the identification of components that are sensitive or vulnerable to emerging or anticipated manifestations of climate change.

d)  Assess whether activities may increase exposure or exacerbate vulnerability of communities to climate change impacts or disasters (e.g. maladaptation) and avoid activities that may exacerbate such risks. Project components must be assessed for potential unintended or unforeseen increases in vulnerability to impacts of climate change and potential hazards.

e)  Identify potential project-related increases in emissions that may exacerbate climate change, such as GHG emissions and black carbon emissions.7

f)  Ensure that appropriate climate and disaster risk management plans are in place, including but not limited to emergency and response plans and ensure appropriate monitoring and, where necessary, adoption of corrective measures.

g) Integrate where relevant climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction considerations in planning (risk informing and "climate proofing") and seek to identify opportunities for strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerabilities, including where possible through ecosystem-based approaches.8 Seek synergies with existing or planned activities for generating climate change mitigation co-benefits (e.g. reduction in GHG emissions) where possible and exploiting potentially beneficial changes in climatic or environmental conditions to deliver developmental benefits.

h) Where relevant, integrate disaster risk reduction measures into the restoration of physical infrastructure and societal systems to "build back better" after a disaster to increase the resiliency of communities.

Greenhouse gases (GHGs): UNDP seeks to minimize and avoid unwarranted increases in greenhouse gas emissions or other drivers of climate change from supported activities. UNDP ensures that alternatives are considered and that technically and financially feasible and cost-effective options9 to reduce project-related GHG emissions and intensity are adopted, in a manner appropriate to the nature and scale of the project's operations and impacts. Alternative options may include, but are not limited to, alternative project locations, adoption of renewable or low-carbon energy sources, energy efficiency (see Standard 8), use of low-global-warming-potential coolants for air-conditioning and refrigeration, and climate-smart agricultural, forestry, and livestock management practices, and ecosystem-based adaptation and mitigation measures (including potential integration of carbon sinks).

​For projects that are expected to produce significant quantities of greenhouse gases, UNDP characterizes and estimates the potential sources of GHG emissions related to project activities to form a baseline for developing measures to reduce such emissions, providing such estimation is technically and financially feasible. UNDP ensures that relevant projects' emissions are tracked and reported in accordance with provisions of the UNFCCC and GHG minimization measures are implemented.10



(1) Adaptation is an adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities.

(2) At times referred to as maladaptation, defined as "business-as-usual development which, by overlooking climate change impacts, inadvertently increases exposure and/or vulnerability to climate change. Maladaptation could also include actions undertaken to adapt to climate impacts that do not succeed in reducing vulnerability but increase it instead." OECD, Integrating Climate Change Adaptation into Development Co-operation: Policy Guidance 2009, available at

(3) "Greenhouse Gases"(GHGs) are those gaseous constituents of the atmosphere, both natural and anthropogenic, that absorb and re-emit infrared radiation. The UNFCCC requires countries to report on the following direct GHGs: carbon dioxide (CO2); methane (CH4); nitrous oxide (N2O); hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs); perfluorocarbons (PFCs); sulfur hexafluoride (SF6); nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) from five sectors (energy; industrial processes and product use; agriculture; land use, land-use change and forestry; and waste). The Montreal Protocol calls for the phase out of the powerful GHG hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and the phasedown of controlled hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

(4) Available at

(5) See for example the SES sections on Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Natural Resource Management; Community Health, Safety and Working Conditions; and Pollution Prevention and Resource Efficiency.

(6) See UNISDR, Words into Action Guidelines: 9. Natech Hazards and Risk Assessment (2017).

(7) Black carbon (BC) is a primary aerosol emitted directly at the source from incomplete combustion processes such as fossil fuel and biomass burning.

(8) Among other measures, conserving biodiversity and promoting healthy ecosystems strengthens resilience to potential adverse climate change impacts and disaster risks and may facilitate effective adaptation strategies. See CBD/SBSTTA, Guidelines for Ecosystem-Based Approaches to Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction, January 2018 (draft); and E Cohen-Shacham, G Walters, C Janzen, S Maginnis (eds.) Nature-based Solutions to Address Global Societal Challenges, IUCN 2016.

(9) Technical feasibility means the proposed measures and actions can be implemented with commercially viable skills, equipment and materials, taking into consideration prevailing local factors such as climate, geography, demography, infrastructure, security, governance, capacity and operational reliability. Financial feasibility means the ability to apply sufficient financial resources to install the measures and maintain them in operation in the long term. Cost- effectiveness is determined according to the capital and operational costs and also the financial benefits of the measure, considered over its lifespan.

(10) Estimation methodologies are provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, various international organizations, and relevant national agencies. Sectors most likely to emit significant quantities of GHGs include energy, transport, cement production, iron and steel manufacturing, aluminum smelting, petrochemical industries, petroleum refining, fertilizer manufacturing, agriculture, forestry and waste management.