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OPINION: Adaptation innovation needed in Africa

As African governments prepare for the climax of international climate negotiations in Paris this December, CDKN Africa’s Webster Whande reflects on the need for innovative approaches to adaptation across Africa. 

There is a great need for innovative approaches to adaptation, which are rooted in processes and realities ranging from the global negotiations level to local needs and realities. That’s the view of CDKN Africa’s Dr Webster Whande, who recently addressed civil society in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.

Dr Whande was speaking on innovation in adaptation at an event hosted by the African Climate Policy Centre of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. The event was hosted on the back of the gathering of UNFCCC climate negotiators in Bonn in early September who were preparing for the negotiations in Paris at COP 21, where a global legally binding agreement will be signed. Non governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society representatives at the Tanzanian gathering sought to understand the state of the negotiations and chart a way to support the official process where possible.

Dr Whande said: “Climate change adaptation has to be approached from the decisions of the UNFCCC meetings. In going to Paris, the African continent is informed by science and negotiating on the basis that the agreement will be under the convention and guided by its principles. By designing adaptation initiatives that are rooted in the UNFCCC, Africa can contribute to the interpretation of decisions at COP and to building real-time examples of adaptation initiatives.”

Innovative adaptation also needs good documentation. Only by documenting processes during implementation are opportunities for innovation observed, refined and implemented elsewhere. Implementation builds a basis for case studies that can be evaluated for future design of adaptation initiatives.

Furthermore, there is a need for rootedness in the African political and socio-economic realities. In June, the African Union Summit requested the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment to prepare an adaptation and loss and damage proposal for Africa. It is important for African actors to locate their innovations on adaptation in plans and processes adopted at the continental level, such as the adaptation and loss and damage initiative requested by the African Heads of States at the 25th Summit.

“While rooting adaptation innovation in political aspirations, a lot has happened at local levels in response to climate change. Rooting innovations in daily realities of millions of people holds much to inform innovation in adaptation planning and implementation.”

Building on what is already happening, Dr Whande emphasised the need to root innovations in initiatives that can be upscaled. Examples of adaptation at local levels can be upscaled to national and transboundary levels. As well as upscaling, there is a need to replicate examples that work.

But of vital importance to all of the work was the need to develop a learning platform on adaptation innovation. Such a platform will allow African countries to share emerging lessons in adaptation planning and implementation and enable further innovation.

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