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POLICY BRIEF: From the ground up – How communities can collaborate to drive local adaptation and influence the national agenda

While climate change may be driven by global processes, it is at the local level where the damage caused by climate impacts like hurricanes, storms and floods is felt most acutely. Responses to climate change are inextricably linked to the local context in which they emerge. Caribbean decision-makers increasingly recognise that ‘top-down’ approaches to climate adaptation are insufficient to deliver effective climate resilience-building outcomes. Instead, multi-level governance systems are now seen as best practice for delivering adaptation actions at the local level, especially where small and medium sized communities rely on climate vulnerable sectors such as fishing or tourism.

However, community-based, multi-level, approaches are complex and require long-term, active engagement with a wide range of stakeholders, some of whom have limited knowledge of climate change and many of whom have competing interests with regards to managing climate impacts.

The challenge for policy-makers is to coordinate adaptation interventions at the local level with multiple partners across jurisdictional scales. CDKN-funded research in the Caribbean provides several methods and approaches to do just that, empowering communities to take control of local adaptation processes by:

  1. analysing, understanding and fostering networks of local actors that can work collaboratively to build climate resilience
  2. understanding local level vulnerability through community-based vulnerability assessments
  3. assessing adaptive capacity at the local-level
  4. connecting local action with regional and national decision-making.

These interconnected approaches can form the basis of an effective multi-level governance system for adaptation, and all have been applied in practice in the Caribbean. This policy brief examines each approach in turn, drawing on research and case studies from countries across the region.

Key messages: 

  • Adapting to climate change is, to a large extent, a local process. Effective solutions to climate challenges should be sensitive to the local context.
  • Multi-stakeholder, multi-level governance approaches are increasingly recognised as best practice for local adaptation.
  • Local networks of stakeholders can be analysed and shaped to maximise their effectiveness for dealing with external shocks like those from climate impacts.
  • Community-based approaches to understanding local vulnerability and adaptive capacity can provide useful insights for climate resilience building.
  • Such approaches also stimulate conversation at the local level, raising awareness and understanding of climate change.
  • Local level approaches are not effective in isolation and require good links with regional and national governments to maximise their impact.
  • CDKN funded research offers tools and methods for analysing networks, assessing vulnerability and scaling up local action.

Picture: caribbeancables