FEATURE: How to tailor adaptation programmes
Mairi Dupar and Jean-Pierre Roux report from a side event at COP22 sponsored by the BRACED programme and ODI that explored how decision-makers can tailor adaptation programmes to get the best results.
Build on existing development priorities. Adapting to climate change will be essential for sustaining development progress. This is our new reality: now well documented in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report and in communities at the frontlines of climate change around the world.
That’s why it didn’t surprise us to hear – at this important COP22 side event – that effective adaptation initiatives must build on governments’ and local communities’ existing development priorities. Bara Gueye of IED Afrique, whose team works in West African communities, said his starting point for adaptation plans was always “existing response mechanisms used by community. We make a basic assumption that the community members are the solution providers and the project is there to build on these solutions and facilitate further support.”
A range of vulnerability assessment methods is available. There are different methods for assessing a country’s or a community’s vulnerability to climate change: Catherine Simonet of ODI described a tool from PRISE that helps assess vulnerability in agriculture value chains. Geraldo Carreiro of Global Climate Change Alliance Plus (GCCA+) described how he used the GCCA+ adaptation index to prioritise which countries in a region needed climate adaptation support the most. For national, comparative analysis, the GCCA+ method uses 34 easy-to-track development indicators such as the number of nurses and midwives in a country and the proportion of the country’s population with access to clean water to flag which countries already have relatively more or less resilience to climate stresses.
Link efforts across scales. One major challenge for development planners is to design adaptation efforts that link and reinforce each other at different scales. Nowhere was this more clearly presented than by our colleague Maggie Kamau, CDKN strategic advisor for Kenya. Kenya’s recently reformed constitution (2010) devolves significant planning and budgetary authority to county governments. Now, effective resilience efforts depend more than ever on aligning visions, actions and resources from the local community to the county level, all within the framework of Kenya’s national climate compatible development goals.
Head off development that creates new vulnerabilities. As well as tackling current climate vulnerabilities, it may be just as important for countries to spot which development plans and policies threaten to undermine resilience and create new vulnerabilities. Mr Carreiro shared a stark example from the small island nation of Sao Tome and Principe. Here, he said, the untrammelled expansion of vegetable cultivation that is intended to improve food security is – in reality – destroying more sustainable agroforestry systems, which causes severe erosion to hillsides and increases the chances of landslides and flooding.
We were reminded of the ‘best practice’ work that the Future Climate for Africa programme is co-funding in Rwanda, where policy-makers seek to avoid just such a scenario. They are using information about climate changes in Rwanda in the next 30-40 years to plan for expansion of tea and coffee cultivation – taking into account how the climate conditions for the crop varieties will change and how management practices will have to adapt as a result (see our documentary film here).
Understand what’s new and additional about climate adaptation. There’s a longstanding tension to be resolved between framing climate adaptation as a free-standing exercise and integrating climate resilient measures into existing development plans and programmes – how to resolve this?
At the village level, it’s hard to make a distinction between adaptation and development, said Mr Gueye: good development makes people more resilient and equals adaptation. But because African institutions need to develop their capacity for climate adaptation, it’s helpful to classify the different and additional nature of adaptation actions, he said. There is also something of a tension between the (often) small scale and easily financed or self-financed adaptation actions that can be taken locally, CDKN’s Maggie Kamau said, and the “hard adaptation” measures that may be necessary in some places (like larger, built infrastructure. The latter require financing and stakeholder engagement at a much more significant scale.
Be ready to shape the world we want. We were reminded of the reality that – with evidence of climate change everywhere – climate change will change us whether we like it or not . The question is, rather, whether and how we take control of that change and shape the world the way we want it to be. At “centre stage” of climate resilient development projects must be the question of “how you build agency” – as Mr Gueye stressed. Whether it’s national governments, international agencies or NGOs, anyone investing in adaptation and development should consider how to leave behind greater capability, so that “the final objective is not the investment but the system you are building.”