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'Some Current Approaches to Climate Adaptation May Bypass Local Institutions'

Tom Grubisich's picture

Carbon dioxide -- the chief cause of manmade global warming -- doesn't park itself only in the atmosphere over major emitting countries.  So, obviously, the response to climate change requires global action.  But drought, storms, flooding, and rising sea levels demand climate adaptation tailored to circumstances that will vary by region and even locality.  For example, farmers in one part of southern Zambia may have to respond with a hybrid maize seed that differs significantly from what needs to be planted in another part of that climate-besieged food bowl.  The issue in southern Zambia is not just more intense drought, but how it can, and does, vary in intensity even within one region.  Dry weather may be so severe in one area that farmers there may have to give up maize cultivation and plant an entirely different crop.

Such fine-tuned local adaptation can't come primarily out of ministries of the national governments of developing countries trying to cope with the mounting adverse impacts of climate change on people and resources.  It requires local institutions to meet the capacity gap.  But national governments aren't collaborating that closely with civil society at the community level.

This from the new book Social Dimensions of Climate Change (World Bank, 2010):

"It is unfortunate that some current approaches to adaptation planning and financing may bypass local institutions.  The current push to formulate national adaptation plans of action [NAPAs] seems to have missed the opportunity to propose adaptation projects for community- and local-level public, private, or civic institutions."

The book details how few local adaptation projects are incorporated in many NAPAs, which Least Developed Countries are beginning to implement with internal and external funding.  This disconnect has been chronicled by some DM2009 finalists on this blog -- here, here, here, and here, among other places.  Arun Agrawal, one of the authors of Social Dimensions of Climate Change, raised the issue earlier on the World Bank's Climate Change blog.

Billions of dollars are likely to be channeled into adaptation in developing countries.  But without major collaboration between national governments and civil society a big chunk of that investment could end up being wasted.  The World Bank, other multilateral development banks, and donor nations have long concluded that too much of their overall development aid was proving ineffective.  Beginning in 2002, donors have taken concrete steps to produce better outcomes in the management and delivery of aid.  A key change was giving recipient countries more ownership of and accountability for aid, with an emphasis on making sure all segments of civil society, including at the community level, were stakeholders as programs were proposed, put together, and implemented.  That same emphasis is needed now as climate adaptation begins its steepening curve.


I received this email today from Arun Agrawal, one of the authors of "Social Dimensions of Climate Change" -- which I quoted in my post above -- and professor of environmental policy at the University of Michigan: "I read your post, and cannot agree more. The two areas in which there have been traceable official funding flows on climate change action –- NAPAs and REDD [Reducing Emissions through Deforestation and Degradation] –- both lead to some pessimism about the extent to which donors and developing country governments have tried to involve, mobilize, or incentivize local institutions and decision makers into climate-related action. "In the case of NAPAs, there is some effort by a few NGOs and researchers to press for greater local involvement –- since without such involvement, the necessary complexity of adaptation actions is unlikely to be realized. In the case of REDD mechanisms, the conversation is very much at an early stage. FCPF and UN-REDD supported pilots and capacity building projects can be structured far better and made more cost effective with mechanism designs that include local monitoring, user group participation, and cross-scale aggregation of local actions. But for that to happen, a lot more will have to be done. Else, REDD interventions run the risk of reversing two decade long efforts toward decentralization of natural resource – especially forest – governance policy. "We need better information sharing and feedback mechanisms through which government agencies can learn from people and communities at the local level that are likely to be affected by adaptation initiatives and by REDD projects. Such information sharing is absolutely necessary to improve future scaled programs to improve the effectiveness of adaptation as well as mitigation efforts."

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