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FEATURE: Sharing CDKN’s learning on climate action in cities and towns


CDKN has been working with ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability to investigate the driving forces, challenges and innovative solutions to climate compatible development in cities, towns and other subnational areas. The partnership ran for more than four years, encompassing a first phase and second phase of learning and reflection. As the second phase wraps up, Alice Reil of ICLEI describes some of the insights that participants brought to the table – and how participants have been reaching out to share findings in their localities. 

In 2015-16,  CDKN and ICLEI have convened local climate actors in South and Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean have come together to reflect on their experience and lessons learned in their CDKN-funded projects on climate compatible development.

This reflection process was stimulated through learning workshops and the development of Inside Stories for each project. It also resulted in CDKN Essentials (two page briefing notes) on framing climate issues better at local level, and identifying the ‘right’ partners (with other Essentials forthcoming). In this blog, I trace how some of our learning partners – the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, CDKN Asia in Indonesia’s West Nusa Tenggara province and the DHAN Foundation in Madurai, India – had the opportunity to turn their experience into outreach activities to raise local and national awareness of climate compatible development. Here I describe what each of the learning partners set out to do as well as the outcomes achieved.

Jamaica: Training local government staff and community representatives on collecting data on extreme weather events through mobile apps

 The Caribbean is prone to tropical storms and hurricanes. Climate change may not necessarily lead to them becoming more frequent, but is likely to lead to more intense storms. The risk and severity of flooding will therefore increase. Jamaica has mapped flood prone areas for all major water sheds across the island. However, they do not take climate change into account as an aggravating factor.

The CDKN-supported project “Climate Change and Inland Flooding in Jamaica: Risk and Adaptation Measures for Vulnerable Communities” aimed to address the potential impacts of climate variability in the medium and long-run by analysing changes in the flood risk in two watersheds in Jamaica. This included developing an island-wide riverine flood hazard map, creating flood risk models for the selected watersheds and collating the knowledge, attitudes and practices of the communities living there. The approach the project took as well as its outcomes and outputs are available in an Inside Story on climate change and flood risk.

To be able to develop models, make informed decisions and plan for heavy rain falls and storms, meaningful and reliable data is necessary. Local governments in Jamaica lack detailed data linked to extreme weather events (including information on flood levels and infrastructure damage), as local government lacks the capabilities to collect community level data.

The Department of Geography and Geology and the Institute for Sustainable Development at the University of the West Indies decided to organise training on simpler and less costly approaches to data collection as part of their outreach activity within the Subnational Learning Programme. In two workshops – one for technical staff from government agencies and one for parish coordinators and community representatives – the University focused on presenting the freely available data collection app Open Data Kit. The government staff from agencies such as the national Water Resources Authority, the Planning Institute, the Mines and Geology Division, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management and the Ministry of Transport and Road Safety, were taught to programme the app to suit their departments’ needs. Local staff were trained on how to upload collected data onto the online platform, CARISKA. Data on this platform can be viewed, altered and downloaded to create hazard risk maps.

Using people in the field to collect natural disaster data and upload it to an online platform, for the use of government staff experienced in using geo-information systems, makes it easier to produce accurate maps. The training was well received and the wish for more training sessions was voiced, particularly training that includes disaster risk coordinators in Jamaica such as the Red Cross or the Jamaica Defence Force. The learning partner is now considering scaling out these workshops to present this data collection approach to other actors across Jamaica. This will help local governments create meaningful maps highlighting the risk of extreme weather events across the country, revise and develop contingency plans to safeguard.

Indonesia: Raising awareness and discussing bottle necks in establishing off-grid local renewable energy production

On the other side of the globe, a CDKN-funded project looked at how the subnational development of renewable energy can be supported in the province West Nusa Tenggara. The provincial government faces a major challenge in connecting all residents to the power grid. The topography of the province, which is spread across many islands in the south of Indonesia, makes supplying all communities with electricity from a central grid complicated and expensive. However, the potential for renewable energy from mini-hydro schemes alone is estimated to exceed 96 MW.

This project analysed how this potential could be used and the technological, political and social hurdles that need to be overcome to do so. Two of the lessons learned by the learning partners at the University of Mataram, the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands and the Provincial Government of West Nusa Tenggara with the support of CDKN was that energy producers at community level are essential for the energy security on the islands and need different incentives from commercial producers. A coordinated approach by the national and provincial governments –complemented with bottom up approaches from districts and municipalities – can help create such incentives. To learn more about the insights the learning partners gained in analysing the potential of locally produced renewable energy, take a look at the Inside Story on subnational development of renewable energy.

Throughout this project, workshops and media outlets were used to capitalise on the interest generated amongst provincial and district government. The purpose of this outreach activity was to share, discuss and verify the messages from the Inside Story and jointly develop a policy brief with workshop participants.

The Provincial Government of West Nusa Tenggara financed and hosted the workshop in the province’s capital, Mataram. This dialogue with planners, researchers and activists highlighted the need for simplified legislation surrounding power producers, harmonised on and off grid electricity supplies, a revised process for transferring government assets to local power generators and the need for further continued dialogue between stakeholders. The policy brief, which was jointly coordinated by Provincial Planning Agency and the Energy and Mineral Resources Office, outlines how renewables can help meet local development needs, encouraged by planners. It is downloadable here (only in Bahasa).

Further discussions and training sessions were held in neighbouring provinces with subnational planners and journalists on mainstreaming climate compatible development into development planning. This led to the mayor of Kupang declaring the climate compatible development would be integrated in to the city’s medium term development plan. The six-month long outreach activity was accompanied by regular media reports, raising awareness about the potential of local renewable energy production in Mataram, Jakarta and others across Indonesia. One article in Bahasa, for example, sketched out how the potential of renewables still has to be developed. Others highlighted how government staff can go about engaging the community to pave the way towards locally produced electricity or how lacking regulation and coordination are currently the main barriers for the slow uptake of local renewables.

India: Paving the way for other cities to apply the ‘future proofing cities’ approach

Madurai in Southern India is future-proofing itself towards the impacts of climate change by engaging a wide set of stakeholders in the city. The learning partner at the DHAN Foundation has noted their experience in promoting approaches to ‘future proof cities’ in an Inside Story on Madurai’s experience. The lessons learned include that intermediary organisations are essential for assisting government and communities in future proofing and bringing stakeholders together. They also raised the importance of building the capacities of stakeholders – from government authorities to civil society organisations, the private sector and communities – to achieve effective, experience-based engagement, leverage norms and rules and to develop a common and shared mission for the city.

The DHAN Foundation decided to share the ‘future proofing’ concept with other cities and communities in Tamil Nadu by developing a modular planning manual and relevant information, education and communication material. The state’s Ministry of Urban Development will support planners from other cities in understanding this manual and how it can be applied. It will be published in spring 2017. In addition, the DHAN Foundation has published the Inside Story in Tamil, so that local actors in the field can learn from and exchange with the learning partner on the ground. To stay updated – and to be the first to read the planning manual in early 2017 – follow the DHAN Foundation’s website here.

Taking stock of products published by the CDKN-ICLEI Subnational Learning Programme

The learning partners of this phase of the Subnational Learning Programme looked into what makes climate compatible development planning approaches and practices succeed, particularly in terms of long term adoption, implementation and replication. Over the past two years, CDKN and ICLEI have regularly documented the progress of the Subnational Learning Programme:

  • The outcomes of the two learning workshops in Quito, Ecuador, in July 2015 and in Kathmandu, Nepal, in February 2016, were illustrated in two blogs, which are available here and here.
  • Another blog entry on the CDKN website sketched out a session on ‘how to make climate compatible development happen’ at the Resilient Cities 2016 conference in Bonn, Germany, organised by CDKN and ICLEI.
  • Each project also developed its own Inside Story, which summarises the approach each learning partner took as well as some key lessons learnt. These Inside Stories are available here.

To ensure that other subnational governments can learn from this Subnational Learning Programme, CDKN and ICLEI have published ‘Essential’ two page briefings. These provide local governments with a total of fifteen recommendations on how they can frame climate issues at local level better for policies to be adopted, identify the ‘right’ partners for climate action and leverage local climate knowledge for subnational action.

Picture: Christina Xu

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