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OPINION: Thoughts from the new CEO

Many of us turned off our computers and blackberries over the Christmas and New Year’s holiday to enable us to fully recharge our batteries. A White Christmas intensified the enjoyment of this time with family, so I arrive at the helm of CDKN ready to rise to the challenges of the job, climate change, and development! The weather enabled many of us to slow down and stay at home, but it was also a season of disruption. Northern hemisphere flights were cancelled due to the heavy snow, and, soon afterwards, Australia, Brazil, Sri Lanka and elsewhere experienced devastating floods. It appears that La Niña was a major driver of these conditions, although climate change is likely to have exacerbated the impacts.

The extreme weather underlined significant variations in levels of preparedness for disasters, as well as in their consequences for affected populations. Managing risk and uncertainty is central to the mission of CDKN. We are dedicated to improving access to knowledge, tools and policies to tackle the uncertain future that climate change will bring.

The ability and willingness of policy-makers to address climate variability was played out in the CoP16 in Cancun in December. Participating in the CoP for the first time, I was struck by how improbable it was that any effective overall direction could arise from the thousands of interactions between the Parties, Observers and many others participating in the conference. Until the last day of the CoP it seemed that very little progress would be made. But by drawing on the lessons of Copenhagen, the Mexican Chair skilfully drove through some good outcomes around forests, the Green Climate Fund and the emissions reductions commitments made through the Copenhagen Accord.

Beyond the formal agreement and the steps taken towards a global deal, the many side events organised by governments, multilateral organisations, NGOs, think-tanks and the private sector sought to influence the direction of policy-makers and politicians. CDKN, together with its alliance partners, played a valuable part in organising and contributing to some of these events. Identifying how far our activities influenced policy and decision-makers is something that we are looking to develop over the coming year; both real-time and more reflective evaluations will form an important part of our monitoring and evaluationprocesses.

The CoP 17 in Durban will be one of a number of key events for CDKN in 2011, but there will be many other channels at national, regional and international levels through which we and our partners plan to engage. Key building blocks include building further on our initial work to define climate compatible development, and to develop partnerships at all levels. We will need a wide range of high-quality products backed by good science and evidence, and we’ll need to find the most appropriate ways to embed messages around climate compatible development in targeted political contexts. Forthcoming research and innovative new partnerships such as the April Action Lab will be opportunities for us to take this work forward. There is much uncertainty ahead, but with CDKN we have the opportunity to build a community of knowledge on climate and development over a five-year period, support those working to build sustainable low-carbon futures, and help to strengthen resilience to an increasingly variable climate.

It’s a great honour to follow the brilliant progress made by acting CEO Jon Sibson, and it’s wonderful to work with Simon Maxwell. A few weeks into the job as CEO, and having come through very collaborative and business-like Management and Network Council meetings, I am confident about the growing impact of CDKN across the regions. It’s a talented team that enjoys great strength in its diversity, and which now has the opportunity to shape a key global agenda.

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