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FEATURE: Enhancing the impact of the community of CBA practitioners


By Sam Bickersteth, Chief Executive, CDKN

The Government of Vietnam, IIED and BCAS (Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies) have just hosted the Sixth annual Community Based Adaptation (CBA) conference in Hanoi, Vietnam, 16-22 April. I participated, together with CDKN’s Asia Director, Ali Tauqeer Sheikh, many members of CDKN network and some 300 others from 61 countries: it is the biggest annual event of climate change adaptation practitioners that brings NGOs, researchers, donors and increasingly policy makers together.

There was a strong feeling that CBA has plenty of momentum and there is much rich learning from the field with the potential for scaled-up impact; but how can this be achieved?  While we see growing evidence of communities taking the lead on adaptation – and ever increasing autonomous adaptation happening outside this particular gathering of practitioners– will this activity alone be transformational at the scale and speed required to adapt to climate change?  I would argue that unless we work with policy makers, particularly at national level, we are not going to achieve the scale of change that we seek.  The diverse community of CBA practitioners must work with decision makers from government and elsewhere to facilitate and accelerate such a process of change.

We should all begin to focus on the question: how best to mainstream CBA? This is the central thematic focus of the next CBA conference which CDKN will support in Dhaka, Bangladesh in April 2013. It will be vital to embed strong links between CBA and governments, the scientific community and the media. We need to provide demonstrable examples of change that respond to current needs and to replicate these. For example, take CDKN’s work with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Government of Nepal to incorporate adaptation measures into existing food security monitoring, or our work to strengthen the quality of post flood reconstruction led by the Punjab Disaster Management Authority, by improving the climate resilience of new settlements.  Adaptation practice also needs to look ahead and be more predictive in anticipating likely change in climate and other factors through the use of models and scenario planning. In short, we need to move to a more dynamic approach to adaptation.

The conference was a reminder of the need to address adaptation at multiple levels and to connect the ‘bottom-up’ to the ‘top-down’; and also engage with the meso-level (e.g. provincial and state levels) to move from strategic planning to implementation and real change. Connecting practitioners, policy makers and scientists together with effective communicators will be essential to achieve this. Key elements will include: good evidence, finance, an integrated approach and action at multiple levels.

On evidence, the IPCC’s Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX) gives us much better evidence on the links between climate change and extreme events; the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report will give us more. We also need to know and translate the science – we need communicators who are able to communicate the uncertainty that is central to climate change.

Finance matters for adaptation responses but there are various sources of climate finance both international and domestic, and both public and private. They will all be needed. An example shared at CBA6 came from the Bundibugyo District of Uganda, where adaptation planning support (from the CDKN funded ACCRA – Africa Climate Change Resilience Alliance) had effectively leveraged additional financial resources from national government. As a community we have a responsibility to make the case for funding for adaptation and to be ready to put a positive case on what can be achieved at scale when serious funds become available.

CBA6 also reminded us that all people want their fair share of economic development and they also desire resilient livelihoods – there is a huge imperative to get both of these to happen for so many whilst climate change and disasters may pull us in the opposite direction. We all know that CBA is not different from development and that climate change is not the only driver of change. But we also know that there are many other causes of vulnerability and exposure – and we must always be alert to climate and development nexus and ready to address the multiple causes in an integrated manner.

An approach is needed that integrates these concepts: climate compatible development (CCD), an approach to development that builds resilience but also limits greenhouse gas emissions. As UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres says, ultimately the only form of economic growth in the future is a low carbon one. The question is: at what speed and at what cost are societies willing to make the transition? It is evident that the some leaders are putting CCD at the top of their agenda; and it’s not just the threat of disasters but also the opportunity for a new green industrial policy that supports new industries, ways of living and uses of energy. Countries, companies, and communities that innovate first may be more likely to benefit.

In Vietnam, Ali and I had the opportunity to meet with many of the people who are working directly to take forward their recently approved National Climate Change Strategy. This sets out far-sighted and progressive steps towards GHG emissions reductions and green growth.

Finally we know that action is needed at multiple levels: community, sub-national, national and international. A global deal can accelerate and scale the process but that it is not likely to happen for several years yet. So it is action by communities and the private sector at local scale where there is a potential to drive change. This is where the power of the CBA community of practice rests, as accelerators for change. CDKN will work with this group to find effective ways to draw out the learning gathered, share it with policy makers and drive change within our institutions.

Image: CCAFS’s Theme 1 workshop on developing climate-smart crops for a 2030 world, Ethiopia, courtesy of CGIAR

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