Building our shared learning on climate action in Kampala

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20 June 2017

At the upcoming community-based adaptation conference in Kampala, our vibrant and growing community of practice will reflect on today's geopolitics around climate and development, and consider how we can be more influential in driving action on adaptation and resilience in the post-Paris world.

A woman displays a tray of bean seeds. Researchers have introduced 15 new varieties of beans in north-western Uganda to help farmers cope with extreme conditions. Delegates to CBA11 will consider how to deliver effective local climate action (Photo: Georgina Smith/CIAT, Creative Commons via Flickr)

The conferences on community-based adaptation (CBA) have established a practitioners' platform on bottom-up climate action that seeks to influence policy from a strong southern perspective, grounded in the reality of how climate change challenges development. 

The Paris Agreement boosted international support for adaptation, and recognised the need for building southern adaptive capacity, and for multi-stakeholder action including at sub-national level. 

The CBA movement has built up more than 10 years wide-ranging experience on what good community-based adaptation and resilience interventions look like. 

But there are still challenges – less than 10 per cent of climate finance is committed to supporting local action, and under 20 per cent of climate finance goes to adaptation and resilience. 

International climate funds still appear nervous when asked about the difference between money earmarked for adaptation and that for development. Too many examples of good practice are small scale – gold-plated perfection rather than replicable at scale – and often in parallel to, rather than integrated within, national systems.

Aiming for scale, sharpening skills

After 10 CBA conferences, we have the opportunity to pause and consider what will deliver effective local climate action for the poorest, how we can work together more effectively.

We need to generate evidence of how to achieve scale – where projects reach 100s of millions, not 100s of thousands. This will be crucial in winning the confidence of national government and donors to get the policy change and ambitious investment needed. 

And we need to strengthen our skills and those of our partners, and engage young people as the future leaders and widen our reach to other stakeholders (private sector in country, governments, private investors, climate funds and funders) that could be part of the solution. 

This calls for a shift in perspective – where we see resilience not as an outcome but as a process, as a discursive field through which we negotiate the emerging problems of governing complexity. This could bring about bold, collective action by all.

This year's conference is jointly hosted by the Ugandan government and Makerere University. The UNFCCC's NAP Regional Expo – a platform for countries to discuss how they are advancing their National Adaptation Plans – will be integrated into the conference, and the youth conference will also run in parallel.

Challenges of delivering resilience in practice 

Resilience brings complex, inter-related and compounding risks into focus. But identifying these risks have not helped deliver solutions.

A micro-industry has grown up around producing adaptation and resilience frameworks independently of each other, creating confusion and stifling uptake.  

Measuring resilience and adaptation has also proven challenging, especially in linear and top-down approaches: tracking success is much easier at local level. 

The rush to act on climate has led to a proliferation of smaller initiatives that seek to scale up investments in capacity, national policies, systems and in strengthening institutions. But multiple projects running in parallel is inefficient and taxing on thin governments and non-state actors in the poorer countries. 

Development silos do not help. Resilience involves many different actors – conflict experts, humanitarian experts, development experts and climate experts, all focusing on different timeframes, different interventions as well as on different partners at different scales. And they also have different ideas of what resilience is − a status to be achieved, a field of discourse, a fuzzy objective. 

We need to integrate the best interventions to respond coherently. This year's CBA conference looks at how natural resources and ecosystems can help people adapt to climate change. Ecosystem-based adaptation is one of the many ways of delivering change across multiple objectives, including disaster risk reduction, increasing resilience, and eradicating poverty.

Resilience and adaptation at a crossroads 

Rather than trying to find the perfect framework for resilience, we need to define what good resilience investments look like (without creating a linear and technocratic recipe book).

Can illustrating what has worked in different contexts inspire further creative solutions that build on local practices and local institutions?  Can we define impact by examining resilient societies that embrace innovative governance?

Listen to an interview with Clare Shakya on CBA11 and increasing climate ambition

This is about power and incentives – building on the agency and capabilities of the poor and strengthening institutions to support them. But this means bringing in resources, not just expecting the poor to own all the risk as is too often the focus.

Putting our learning to the test: seven interventions 

With strong, practical experience now under our belt, but persistent nervousness from donors and governments, we need to be bolder and clearer about what does and doesn't work. What do interventions that tackle the complexity of climate and development action look like?

Some initial ideas emerged from an IIED and Global Resilience Partnership workshop last month. We will seek to test and develop these at the CBA conference:

  1. Tackle root causes of vulnerability with a sharp focus on power relations: effective interventions focus on rights to assets, inclusive governance and accountability. They enable social mobilisation and tackle perverse incentives. And they engage the poor in setting priorities by understanding the complexity of the risks they face
  2. Integrating and layering interventions: how to do this will be context specific but we can inspire policymakers with a range of options that have worked, encouraging creative solutions
  3. Deliberately working across scales to tackle risks, with the principle of subsidiarity. This requires explicit consideration of how local action can be supported by actions at the catchment scale, basin scale and national scale to manage risk and change incentives
  4. Flexible, responsive, adaptive and agile: in financing, in interventions, in measurement and in the institutions supporting resilience – to reflect and learn from practice
  5. Investing in the longer term: taking the time to build effective institutions nationally and locally. Recognising there are no magic bullets − building systems and skills takes time and requires quality support. And building quality multi-stakeholder processes takes time, to create trust and foster real dialogue between the layers of government and between government and the poor
  6. Working with local governments and development banks. They have the mandate to respond comprehensively and, with devolution in some countries, have the authority to integrate responses to resilience, demand alignment of interventions and can achieve scale, and
  7. Investing in foresight and future thinking: growing skills and designing tools with partners to enable their longer-term analysis. And embed into the DNA of government and non-state actors, the incentives, the attitude and the political commitment for long-term thinking.

In Kampala, we'll be exploring how we can build on the last 10 CBA conferences and work together to effectively shape the post-Paris landscape – to deliver real and lasting change for the poorest people.

What do you think?

We are keen to hear from you! How can we build on CBA successes and refresh our approach to deliver the ambition of Paris? How can we strengthen the community of practice that has formed around the CBA conferences?

Please share your ideas either in the comments section below or by email.

Clare Shakya (clare.shakya@iied.org) is director of IIED's Climate Change research group.

Follow events at CBA11

Around 250 delegates will be attending CBA11 in Kampala this month. If you can't attend, here is how you can follow the discussions:

We also hope to make the opening and closing ceremonies available to watch live online – check #CBA11 for updates with the link!

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