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Power to the people

  • Published at 03:36 pm May 27th, 2019
CT_May_2019
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Community and locally led adaptation

The recent events like Cyclone Idai in Mozambique and Fani in India and Bangladesh were of unprecedented magnitude and clearly attributable to human-induced climate change. Thus, all communities, but especially the most vulnerable communities in the countries—most vulnerable to climate change—will need to gear up their efforts to prepare for climate-related disasters and build their adaptive capacity to tackle climate change at the same time. 

This idea was the theme of two major international events in recent weeks. The first was the 13th International Conference on Community Based Adaptation (CBA13) held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. They were bringing together several hundred grassroots-based organisations, both from civil society as well as local governments in rural and urban locations.  

The second was the Global Forum on Disaster Risk Reduction held in Geneva with several hundred representatives from all the UN Agencies, Red Cross and International and local NGOs to discuss how Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) by itself is not enough as it now has to be integrated with Adaption to Climate Change (ACC).I had the privilege to attend both these events and will share below some reflections on our state of knowledge and needs going forward.

The first point, is that it is now beyond question that human-induced climate change is real and already happening, meaning that traditional DRR now needs to be integrated into adaptation to climate change going forward—as the events are likely to become more frequent and more intense. While efforts to reduce emission to prevent the global temperature rising above 1.5°C must be pushed forward, the amount of warming already locked into the atmosphere and oceans means that we are now facing severe impacts across the globe, with the poorest countries and communities facing the brunt of the adverse impacts.

The second lesson, that we have learned is that the vulnerable communities are not sitting idle but are already taking actions at the local level all over the world; this is true in both developing countries as well as developed countries. Hence these efforts at the local level need to be supported from higher levels within governments as well as from global levels while they also need to be supported to share their knowledge from experiences horizontally across the different countries in a South-South and South-North manner.

The third lesson, is that while there are indeed global funds, such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and Adaptation Fund that have been providing some (albeit inadequate amounts) of funding to support adaptation in vulnerable countries, most of those funds fail to make it down to the local level and the most vulnerable communities in those countries. Hence the global funding providers need to find better ways of reaching to the most vulnerable communities as their traditional tools and institutions are no longer fit for purpose. 

The fourth and final lesson that I will highlight, is the sense of emergency that has emerged in just the last few months of 2019 with the school children led by Greta Thunberg of Sweden and the Extinction Rebellions groups around the world — driving the need for all politicians to wake up and admit that we are now in an emergency. Primarily because we did not act earlier and as a result, everyone has to raise their levels of ambition considerably going forward. The next big global event will be the Climate Summit in New York called by the UN Secretary-General who has quite rightly made it into an invitation-only event (climate deniers are not invited) and has asked for leaders to come with "Plans not Speeches".

The Honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina is one of the leaders invited and has accepted the invitation. It will be an opportunity for her to not just showcase Bangladesh efforts on adaptation to climate change and DRR but also offer to share our knowledge with other Least Developed Countries (LDCs) as well as other developing as well as developed countries.

Saleemul Huq is Director of  International Centre for Climate Change and Development, Independent University, Bangladesh. You can email him at [email protected]