CBA13: galvanising locally-based adaptation in a crunch year for climate action

The pressure is on: this year’s flagship event in Ethiopia is a crucial opportunity for getting local adaptation solutions firmly on the global climate policy radar.

Sam Greene's picture
Insight by 
Sam Greene
Sam Greene is a researcher in IIED's Climate Change research group
22 January 2019
Delegates at CBA12 in Malawi gather around a table and write on a document

A delegate at CBA12 in Malawi discusses decentralised climate finance with their peers (Photo: Teresa Corcoran/IIED)

In early April, IIED and partners will host the 13th community-based adaptation (CBA) event in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. There has arguably never been a more important time to bring together CBA’s community of practice and to get its voice heard.

2019 is a crunch year for climate action. The international climate community was left bruised following last month’s UN climate negotiations, when countries failed to agree how they will bring emissions under control despite the starkest of warnings from the IPCC, or to stump up the money so countries hardest hit by climate change can adapt.

The deflation from COP24 has redoubled pressure for countries to ramp up their climate action pledges.

There are high hopes pinned on the Global Commission on Adaptation, established to boost visibility of climate adaptation, due to report to the UN secretary-general’s climate summit in September. The summit will challenge states, cities, companies and citizens, through domestic action and international initiatives, to step up adaptation targets.

Meanwhile countries continue to advance their National Adaptation Plans, which will play a key role in determining how climate finance is directed towards climate resilient development. To attract the necessary finance, the plans must be based on compelling evidence of what works, but also ensure that they respond to the knowledge and priorities of the most vulnerable people.

Against this backdrop, CBA13 is a crucial opportunity to showcase local initiatives that are building climate resilience of people on the frontline of climate change; 2019 is the year for getting this evidence firmly on the climate policy radar.


CBA’s community of practice – evolving now for well over a decade – is bound by the same goal: to drive global ambition for effective local climate action building on the perspectives and lived experiences of policymakers and citizens from the global South. It does this by amplifying their voices to national and global policymakers to set an agenda for adaptation that directly addresses the factors that keep people vulnerable.

Each year, CBA brings together groups from across a broad spectrum: local government planners, researchers from the global North and South, adaptation practitioners, national policymakers, agriculturalists, representatives from rural women’s forums, youth groups, international donors…

And their reasons for attending are as diverse as their backgrounds: grassroots activists build their understanding of how international policymaking works and can access spaces and networks where their local voices can influence; policy planners take lessons from how other communities are adapting to climate challenges and can plug into key networks for sharing learning on ways to access finance.

For international NGOs, CBA offers a platform for learning directly from those on the front line of climate change while sharing and discussing emerging evidence in an environment that strips away the usual hierarchies.

Nitty gritty

It has been exciting to see CBA grow. My first CBA – in Kampala – was a real eye-opener, packed with rich exchange.

One moment in particular has stuck: I joined a roundtable discussion with a Ugandan small-holder farmer, an economist from Nepal’s ministry of forest and environment, and two water and livestock officers from local governments in Kenya and Malawi.

We quickly got down to the nitty gritty of the obstacles in setting up new adaptation projects, particularly when resources are stretched, capacity is low, and there is little financial flexibility for developing innovative ideas. We discussed solutions: ways to funnel more resources to local government and how to get buy-in from established institutions to scale up proven interventions.

For me, this exchange encapsulated CBA’s real appeal: practical, solution-focused discussion rooted in lived experience from a diverse group.


The 13th International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change

1-4 April in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Register now

The following year, at CBA12 in Malawi, I was part of the core team that reshaped CBA. Taking on board feedback from the CBA community, we shifted away from the panel-and-present conference format to create a workshop environment. In this interactive space, delegates worked together across three themes to devise tangible, practical solutions for getting policy buy-in for locally driven climate action – and how to attract the finance to support it.

Mutual learning and problem solving – in real time

I coordinated the climate finance workstream. Over two days of rich and lively debate, the group – funders, implementers, and those on the receiving end of different climate finance programmes – set about turning their knowledge into workable proposals, drawing evidence from their own experiences.

We heard, for example, from Victor Orindi, coordinator of the Adaptation Consortium, who explained how Kenya is using existing devolved government institutions to channel climate finance towards local governments. Melq Gomes from Mozambique, whose work supports delivery of climate responsive social protection, picked out parallels of how governments can best engage with new ideas that have the most impact, and begin to mainstream them.

The group developed a set of shared principles for devolved climate finance – for example, agreeing that finance planning should be participatory and integrated into, rather than running alongside, existing systems. We also carefully considered how to pitch devolved climate finance approaches to funders as bankable projects.

Getting local voices into key global spaces

CBA13’s programme is geared around generating local adaptation solutions for long-term global climate resilience. Working together across three themes – climate finance, policy engagement and adaptation technology – delegates will develop their innovative ideas, share evidence on what’s working and devise ways to navigate contentious issues.

Messages that emerge will be broadcast through CBA’s range of partners. As well as feeding into the September Climate Action Summit, CBA13 will also feed directly into the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Initiative for Effective Adaptation and Resilience (LIFE-AR) – a project supported by IIED that will develop the LDCs’ vision for a climate resilient future by 2050.

Taking forward CBA’s vision

My CBA journey continues this year as programme lead. A key part of my role will be moving CBA13 from being an annual conference to an active community that engages year-round with other live policy processes.

We will devote more time to incorporating Southern-led research agendas and promote their findings to the international community. By engaging with other events and processes throughout the year, the CBA community is committed – more than ever – to finding ways to drive local action for a climate-resilient future.