Study finds Locally Led Adaptation efforts hampered by lack of national and global support

Study finds Locally Led Adaptation efforts hampered by lack of national and global support

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Date: 30th November 2023
Type: News

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 30 November 2023 – A new report, Lessons from Local Adaptation Practice 2023 released today by the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA) and Climate and Development Knowledge Network finds that global and national systems are not changing fast enough in response to the needs of local communities racing to adapt to climate change to secure their survival. Local adaptation leaders are working hard to transform lives and livelihoods in the face of the changing climate, but find their gains are precarious where they lack the enabling environment (legislative, financial, institutional, technical, and capacity-related) to lock in such transformations.

The findings are based on over 200 stories submitted by champions of locally led adaptation which tell of progress and gaps in adaptation at the local level. Many local adaptation leaders reported they are struggling to find the necessary support and resources to enable them to scale and extend their work to other communities. The stories also show that in comparison to sectoral top-down adaptation efforts, local champions are implementing holistic approaches that account for the linkages between climate change as a driver of exclusion and marginalisation and its impact on the mental health of communities.

Professor Patrick Verkooijen, CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation, commenting on the study’s findings said: “At COP28, it is important for global leaders to recognise that no global stocktake or measures of progress towards a Global Goal on Adaptation can be effective without including local-level assessments of the progress individuals and communities make in managing the impacts of climate change. Right now only a tiny fraction of climate funding reaches the people battling the worst effects of climate change. Every day that passes without giving them the necessary resources to protect themselves and their livelihoods leaves them more vulnerable. But this is not just about money, it is also about recognising how local communities have a more holistic view of what is needed to build climate resilience and adaptive capacity on the ground.”

Anju Sharma, Locally Led Adaptation Program Lead at GCA said: “COP28 will only be a success if it achieves real benefits for the communities most affected by the climate crisis. This year’s climate summit must ensure that finance flows to the poor communities most affected by climate change, and into locally led, appropriate and effective adaptation. If we achieve this, the world will have taken a big step toward redressing the gross injustices of climate change.”

Dr Shehnaaz Moosa, CEO of the Climate and Development Knowledge Network said: “A clarion call at the heart of these stories is the championing of people’s rights. COP28 needs to put the recognition and enforcement of rights at the center of climate change adaptation. The stories show that local communities regard progress on rights - particularly of marginalized groups such as women and Indigenous Peoples - and locally led adaptation as two sides of the same coin. Where these fundamental rights are eroded, people’s adaptive capacities are also weakened.”

The study outlined recommendations for global and national policymakers on how they can best support locally led adaptation to:

  • Change how adaptation finance works: Funders and governments must change how adaptation finance works by embracing a wider definition of adaptation, instead of expecting local communities to reframe how they experience the negative impacts of climate change. They must be smarter about recognising the cascading impacts of climate change on marginalised groups in society and supporting communities to explore multiple pathways to climate-resilient development such as tackling gender-based violence and convening mutual support activities for psychosocial resilience. They must be willing to provide patient, predictable resources for LLA that directly address the social norms and structural power relations which currently perpetuate disproportionate burdens, and which widen the gender development gap.
  • Empower local leaders and decision-makers: Global policymakers, national and local governments and all providers of finance must urgently support the devolution of decision-making authority and finance to the local level; and meaningful partnerships between communities and local governments to create an enabling environment that allows locally led adaptation to flourish.
  • Promote human rights as core to adaptation: Women, younger people, older people, people living with disabilities, and marginalised ethnic and Indigenous groups are confronting the unequal impacts of climate change – depending on people’s different capabilities and vulnerabilities –  as well as unjust responses to climate hazards because of discrimination in society. Adaptation responses may also be discriminatory. Confronting discrimination is essential for many people to be able to thrive, and doing so widens the leadership pool for local adaptation. 
  • Restore and protect degrading ecosystems: The resilience of poor communities is strongly linked to the resilience of ecosystems. Decision makers must support community efforts to regenerate their environments and prioritise their rights and needs over those of external actors through supportive legislation, finance, institutions, and technical and capacity support. Governments and the private sector, including transnational corporations, must become more aware of the climate risk to communities from natural resource degradation and prioritize their rights to manage ecosystems over short-term profit.
  • Respect diversity in community approaches: Local communities often have their own processes and methodologies for group decision-making and consensus building, co-construction of knowledge, co-design of plans, and evaluative and accountability functions. These should be endorsed and supported, instead of further stretching the limited capacity of communities by expecting them to adopt and conform to donor practices. Learning by the community and by different social groups facing specific adaptation and social-political challenges must be the first priority. 
  • Recognize and supplement contributions by individuals and institutions at the local level: Communities around the world are implementing adaptation through in-kind contributions, including voluntary labor. The economic value of these contributions is vastly under-recognised. Local leaders are being highly entrepreneurial in mobilising local resources for adaptation, and local institutions such as museums, schools, colleges, public health providers, churches, and other faith institutions are stepping in to fill gaps and use their social capital to promote locally led adaptation. Simple but effective ways of channelling support to such initiatives are critical.  

Currently less than 17 percent of global climate finance and perhaps as little as 2 percent, reaches climate-resilience projects led by local communities. The GCA is supporting communities to lead in the development of People’s Adaptation Plans and linking them to investments by international financial institutions under Adaptation Acceleration Programs in Africa and Asia. The GCA is also supporting community efforts, and understanding of community priorities by other actors, through the Global Hub on Locally Led Adaptation, a platform for collaboration and a rich resource of stories from the frontline, with analysis and tools to inform, inspire and support locally led adaptation.

Download the report here

Notes to Editors

About the Global Center on Adaptation

The Global Center on Adaptation (GCA) is an international organization that works as a solutions broker to accelerate action and support for adaptation solutions, from the international to the local, in partnership with the public and private sectors. Founded in 2018, GCA operates from the largest floating office in the world, located in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. GCA has a worldwide network of regional offices in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire; Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Beijing, China and is opening a new office in Nairobi, Kenya in 2024.

About the Climate and Development Knowledge Network

The Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) mobilises knowledge, capacity and leadership in the global South to improve well-being of the most climate-affected people. Founded in 2010, CDKN works in Africa, Asia and Latin America and its focal countries include Bangladesh, Colombia, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana, India, Namibia, Nepal, Peru and Senegal. CDKN is managed by SouthSouthNorth in South Africa, and implemented in partnership with FundaciónFuturo Latinoamericano in Ecuador and ICLEI South Asia in India. 


For more information or interview requests:

Anju Sharma I Locally Led Adaptation Program Lead at GCA

Alex Gee |Head of Communications Global Center on Adaptation

Emma Baker |Knowledge and Outreach Manager at CDKN

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