Short guide to the use of Rio markers

During the 1992 Conference on Environment and Development, also known as the Earth Summit, three legally binding agreements ('Rio Conventions') were signed by developed and developing countries: (1) Convention on Biological Diversity; (2) UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and (3) UN Convention to Combat Desertification.

Since 1998, the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has set up the Rio markers system, consisting of policy markers to monitor and statistically report on the development finance flows targeting the themes of the Rio Conventions. There are four markers:

  • Biodiversity
  • Desertification
  • Climate change mitigation (i.e. reductions in or absorption of greenhouse gas emissions)
  • Climate change adaptation (including climate risk mitigation and vulnerability reduction)

How to use Rio markers to estimate relevant expenditure?

The European Commission, like many other donors, uses Rio markers to measure its environment and climate-relevant spending and provide statistical reports to the OECD-DAC.

The figure below illustrates the Rio-marking procedure and how to account for the amount of funding allocated to the environmental themes.

There are three possible values (or scores) for the Rio markers, indicating whether the Rio Convention themes are (0) not targeted, (1) a significant objective or (2) a principal objective of the action. The values are attributed according to the extent to which the themes are explicitly addressed at the level of problem analysis (context); objectives and results; and activities. Depending on the value attributed, fixed percentages of the overall budget are considered to be relevant for the respective themes. The EU has decided to use 0%, 40% and 100%, respectively.

What would count as a ‘significant’ or a ‘principal’ objective?

The OECD-DAC guidance mentions the criteria used to define whether an action addresses any of these themes as a significant or main objective, and provides examples of typical activities.

In order to qualify for scoring against a Rio Marker as a 'principal objective', the objective (climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation, biodiversity, combating desertification) must be explicitly stated as fundamental in the design of, or the motivation for, the action. Promoting the objective will thus be stated in the activity documentation to be one of the principal reasons for undertaking the action. In other words, the activity would not have been funded (or designed that way) but for that objective.

In order to qualify for scoring against a Rio Marker as a 'significant objective', the objective must also be explicitly stated, but is not the fundamental driver or motivation for undertaking and designing the activity. The activity has other prime objectives but has been formulated or adjusted to help meet the relevant environmental concerns.

As good practice, in order to systematically integrate environment and climate change considerations and qualify for Rio markers, it is recommended that:

  1. the background/context information on the action discusses how the concerned theme is relevant to the intervention;
  2. the overall and/or specific objective(s) and/or expected results reflect an explicit intent to address the concerned theme;
  3. activities (or performance / disbursement criteria, in the case of budget support) clearly address issues in relation to the considered theme.

The use of indicators (in the logical framework) relevant to environment or a Rio Convention theme further strengthens the case for considering it as a ‘significant’ or ‘principal' objective. Vague references to ‘sustainable agriculture’, ‘increased resilience’ or ‘sustainable energy’ are insufficient to consider that climate change adaptation or mitigation is an objective.

Rio marking requires practical guidance. For further practical guidance, please refer to Annex 8 of the new Guidelines on integrating the environment and climate change into EU international cooperation and development

The EU guidance is based on the detailed guidelines developed by the OECD-DAC committee on Official Development Aid statistics, which provide concrete examples of Rio marking   (Annex 18. Rio Markers, page 51):

The following video illustrates the process:


Technical assistance is available from the Environment and Climate Change Mainstreaming Facility via:

More information on environment and climate change mainstreaming can be found at:

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last update
3 June 2021

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