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An Expert Formula for Climate Action

Image by Moniruzzaman Sazal

Experts from a range of international organizations, NGOs, universities, think tanks and government departments met in New Delhi for a high-level consultation on climate resilience on 15-16 September, sharing their experiences on how to reduce the risks of climate change, and how to tackle the challenges that lie ahead. The event was organized by the Global Development Network (GDN) in partnership with Action on Climate Today (ACT), the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, the Stockholm Environment Institute, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Here are the top ten takeaways from the discussions:

1. Build self-reliant systems

When a natural disaster hits, it is the community who is faced with the task of immediate response. Shri Kamal Kishore, Member, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and keynote speaker at the event, emphasized the need for efforts towards climate resilience to focus on building the self-reliance of communities to manage and respond to climate shocks. As the sheer scale of disasters’ impacts often makes outside interventions impossible, communities need to be adequately equipped to deal with the aftershocks. This, he said, is not only a sustainable approach to climate risk management, but also recognizes that the needs of communities are context-specific and require different approaches. 

 

2. Minimize risks, maximize preemptive actions

How can development actors balance the varying objectives of climate risk management? Cristina Rumbaitis del Rio, Regional Programme Manager from Action on Climate Today (ACT) called experts to consider that a wide range of actions are needed to reduce losses. Finding a balance between these actions, such as stopping maladaptation, implementing risk reduction measures, promoting development co-benefits, and reducing risk transfer and loss acceptance, can enable actors to minimize risks and maximize preemptive actions, she said. The strengths of various stakeholders should be nourished and utilized to meet this goal, others highlighted.

 

3. Focus on cities

With the world’s urban population set to double by 2050, the strain on cities facing the shocks of climate change will undoubtedly increase. Jyoti K Parikh, Executive Director of Integrated Research for Action and Development (IRADe), emphasized the need to focus on cities due to the huge numbers of people who become vulnerable to climate risks in concentrated urban areas. She said that climate actors must work closely with urban planners to develop a strong framework to deal with the hazards that may confront urban environments in the future, by analyzing their frequency and building infrastructural capacities to withstand shocks. Heat stress, in particular, is a danger that requires further preparation and strategies to deal with related health hazards.

 

4. Educate, educate, educate!

Education is key to generating awareness about climate change and catalyzing action. Chubamenla Jamir, Assistant Professor in the Department of Energy and Environment, TERI University, emphasized the critical role of higher education and research in addressing and determining effective, low-cost responses to climate risks. While education has enormous potential to prevent and mitigate climate impacts, climate shocks often have damaging consequences for education and learning. Satoko Yano, Programme Specialist in Education at UNESCO, underlined the lifelong implications for students and children impacted by natural disasters, who lose the opportunity to learn while communities attempt to recover. Yano further noted that many schools and countries have effective disaster management plans that could be utilized in the mainstream approach, and could inform policy decisions on climate risk management.

 

5. Make knowledge accessible

What use is knowledge if it cannot be understood? Experts identified the need to translate the abstract and theoretical into a pragmatic discourse that can be easily understood by communities and policymakers. Erik Kjaergaar, Disaster Risk Management Specialist at the Asian Development Bank, emphasized that there is no single language that can be used to communicate a framework for climate action. Kjaergaar highlighted the need for actors to consider how ideas can meaningfully connect with the diverse multitude of stakeholders, on both global and local scales. Cristina Rumbaitis del Rio further encouraged experts to “keep the discussion simple.” In order to mobilize people to act, she said that we should bring the conversation back to the reality of human suffering and loss, which lies at the heart of the issue.

 

6. Get development right

Additional climate risk is quite often a byproduct of development. Shri Kamal Kishore noted that in Bihar, India, poorly built infrastructure has compromised drainage systems, increasing the vulnerability of communities to floods, and leading to widespread displacement. The key lesson, he said, is that communities must be central to development decisions in order to build self-reliance and avoid maladaptation. Albert Salamanca from the Stockholm Environment Institute further emphasized the need for transformative, equitable, community-led development practices in order to sustainably manage risk and reverse bad development pathways.   

 

7. Prioritize participatory action

Moving towards equitable, inclusive action on climate resilience, then, requires participatory action. Marcella D’Souza, Executive Director of the Watershed Organization Trust (WOTR), emphasized the need to engage closely with communities and to put local knowledge to use. G. Senthil Kumar from CARE India, cited the success of CARE’s project which builds the capacities of Adivasi women to lead and participate in water governance programs in their villages, enhancing their resilience to shocks and stresses around water shortages due to climate change.

 

8. Promote the ‘triple dividend’ of resilience

Investing in disaster management is no gamble. Thomas Tanner from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), argued that the benefits society gains from disaster management are manifold, regardless of whether or not a disaster hits. He stated three key dividends of resilience action: you can avoid loss, take steps to reduce risks, and reap the benefits of good development. This “triple dividend of resilience”, Tanner said, is one of the most compelling reasons for more stakeholders to support disaster management schemes. 

 

9. Incentivize climate action

The need to move beyond the discourse on climate resilience to more pragmatic action was a recurrent claim among the experts, raising concerns over the lack of evidence-informed policies driving climate action. Jyotsna Puri, Head of the Independent Evaluation Unit at Green Climate Fund, Youssef Nassef, Director of the Adaptation Programme at the UNFCCC and Shirish Sinha, Deputy Head of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation all stressed the need to overcome this roadblock.  Sinha further highlighted the need for experts to find innovative ways to incentivize action, building upon existing knowledge to inform policies.

 

10. Make sustainable policies

Driving sustainable policies on climate resilience is not as simple as presenting policymakers with evidence. Aditya V Bahadur from Action on Climate Today (ACT) reiterated the need for development actors to work hand-in-hand with governments to develop tailored approaches and financial models that consider local contexts. Innovative interventions, education and accessible information are needed to create a new normative approach to climate change responses, experts concluded. Still, a crucial step will be to engage policymakers at an international scale to recognize the dividends of resilience, to keep pushing for action.

GDN and its partners will present an outcome paper with results from the consultation at the COP23 in November this year. This document will set a future research agenda on resilience that can help governments' efforts to build resilience through development and climate change adaptation.

 

 

Watch the Keynote Speech by Kamal Kishore, NDMA (India), and short interviews with Youssef Nassef, UNFCCCJyotsna Puri, Green Climate Fund as well as Erik Kjaergaard, ADB from the sidelines of the expert consultation.