OPINION: What is the role of government in building local adaptive capacity?
In a series of articles from this year’s Community-Based Adaptation (CBA) conference, Mutie Nzau, Government of Kenya, outlines the ten ways Government can support local adaptation
This year’s Community-Based Adaptation (CBA) international conference, held in Kathmandu in April, showcased many local initiatives – most of which are facilitated by an NGO – that are building local capacity. At the same time, the CBA8 discussions have revealed that many developing countries are on course to transit to low carbon resilient development, or at least have put in place the necessary policy framework. Many have managed to prepare their climate change response strategies and some have even prepared both the strategies and the action plans. Others have gone an extra mile of preparing Local Adaptation Plans of Actions.
This is good, but we need to hear more about specific interventions targeted at the community level by the Government to assist local communities cope and adapt. In this sense, we need to bring together the work being done by communities with external support and the policies and investments being made by Governments. Research has shown that local people bear the brunt of climate change vulnerability. This is why more emphasis should be put on interventions that result in local level adaptation. But the fundamental question is who should take the leading role of ensuring that the local communities become resilient to climate change? Is it the local people themselves? Is it government? Is it the private sector? Or is it civil society?
How can developing country governments strengthen the adaptive capacity of their local people? The government can assist local people to adapt and cope with the negative effects of climate change in the following ways:
- Mapping vulnerabilities of the various regions and communities in addition to creating an enabling environment for effective, efficient and equitable adaptation. This can be done by providing information on the future climate and supporting coordination at local and regional levels.
- Decentralizing resources based on vulnerability. This can result in increased economic efficiency. Local governments are better positioned to deliver public services as a result of being better informed about local realities. Local governments know the extent to which their citizens are exposed to climate change hazards. Hence one dollar spent at the sub-national level would result in more welfare to the people and greater impact than the same amount of money spent at the national level.
- Mediating between individual and collective responses to climate impacts and as such shape the outcomes of adaptation, especially where bargaining has failed.
- Addressing issues of inequality by channeling financial support to the local communities based on the degree of the vulnerabilities. This would result in sustainable adaptation. Climate change impacts differently across different sectors, regions and communities. Some communities are highly vulnerable because of where they are located.
- Providing technological leadership, for example coming up with early warning systems, crop varieties that withstand extreme weather conditions. e.g crops that can be grown in wetter areas during floods, drought resistant crops etc.
- Incentivizing sub-national governments and other institutions to integrate climate change adaptation and mitigation into their planning and budgeting systems.
- Incentivizing private sector investments so as to unlock private capital to facilitate adaptation. This can for example, be done by coming up with economic development policies such as leasing of public land to private developers to attract investors. A good example can be drawn from Kenya, whereby county governments have been observed to be attracting investors into their counties by issuing free land. The county government of Machakos has used this approach, which has resulted in massive investments worth millions of dollars in the county. Other countries targeting investments that increase the adaptive capacity of the local people by creating jobs to provide alternative livelihoods can use a similar approach. Private capital can as well be unlocked using fiscal incentives such as tax exemptions and tax holidays.
- Strengthening the capacity of local governments and other local institutions in the areas of good governance and effective adaptive planning. Sub-national governments in many countries, including Kenya, heavily rely on the national government for funding. This means that the national government has a good opportunity to incentivize the integration of climate change adaptation and mitigation into local governments’ planning systems. For example, the national government can allocate matching grants to the local governments such that a certain percentage of the funds allocated are to be used in enhancing the adaptive capacity of the local people. Although this might be seen by some people as micro-managing sub-national governments, it will go a long way in ensuring that the adaptive capacity of local people is enhanced especially if proper auditing systems are put in place. This will also help in tracking climate change finance.
- Correcting market failures, inefficiencies and distortions. This is because some adaptive actions might have the nature of public or quasi-public goods, and therefore likely to be underprovided by the market. In these cases, the Government may intervene to ensure adequate provision through funding, direct provision or regulation. e.g natural environment and bio-diversity protection, investment in certain kinds of infrastructure, monitoring and warning systems and protection of the eco-systems.
- Mainstreaming local level adaptation into existing programmes, policies and regulatory framework.
The above is my personal vision for the role of national governments in building adaptive capacity of local communities. If governments can start putting in place the enabling frameworks and actions then the working taking place on the ground will certainly multiply and have greater impact.
Mutie Nzau is an economist in the Kenyan government’s Ministry of State for Planning, National development and Vision 2030. He holds a Bachelors degree in economics from Egerton university, Kenya, and is currently pursuing a masters in economics at the university of Nairobi. He has been working with the government of Kenya since 2008.
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