Putting locally-led climate adaptation principles into practice: insights from CBA18

The recent community-based adaptation conference in Tanzania examined approaches for accelerating climate resilience through locally led adaptation. Here, IIED’s Aaron Acuda and Sushila Pandit explain why a clear framework, reformed funding mechanisms, co-created programmes and private sector engagement are vital for turning theory into action.

Aaron Acuda's picture Sushila Pandit's picture
Insight by 
Aaron Acuda
Sushila Pandit
Aaron Acuda is a researcher in IIED's Climate Change research group and Sushila Pandit is a climate resilience specialist and CBA programming co-chair
02 July 2024
Group of people gathered around with one person standing in the front, talking

Participants at CBA18 in Tanzania in discussion during a session (Photo: Anne Schulthess, IIED)

Decolonising climate action and promoting locally-led innovation for adaptation were at the heart of the agenda at the 18th International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation (CBA18).

Held in early May, the event saw 320 climate change adaptation actors gather in Arusha, Tanzania to network and discuss practical tools and approaches for accelerating climate change resilience through locally led adaptation (LLA). 

The conference brought together a diverse set of delegates from across the world, including community organisations, Indigenous People, youth, disabled people, UNFCCC negotiators, local government representatives, donors, academics and NGOs. 

Together they reinforced a number of core issues,  including the importance of channelling finance to support local action and inclusion in adaptation, to ensure climate action effectively improves community resilience. Participants also provided examples and suggestions for implementing adaptation differently.

With members of the climate adaptation community among participants at the recent 2024 London Climate Action Week – and with various climate forums set to take place in coming months – we reflect on four key lessons from CBA18 that can help to inform future discussions around this critical topic.

A clear LLA framework

The first CBA18 insight focuses on the need to develop a clear framework for implementing LLA principles and tracking progress. 

The last few years have seen a sharp rise in the number of organisations endorsing the LLA principles. However, gaps still exist in the implementation of these principles; even where they are implemented, the tools to monitor and evaluate progress are still lacking. 

The LLA community of practice must use forums such as the LCAW, regional events and COP29 as an essential opportunity to gather different stakeholders’ views on developing a framework to guide the operationalisation of the LLA principles and support their monitoring, evaluation and learning. This will reinforce the message that it is time to move to implementation and deliver concrete actions beyond just signing these principles. 

There is also a need to showcase the implementation and results to different actors and the adaptation community at large, to encourage LLA within the work they are executing and funding.

Prioritising inclusion

Another insight from CBA18 centred on the need to define what inclusion and engagement mean for LLA, and outline steps to make this happen.

The importance of the inclusion and participation of marginalised groups is widely recognised, but there is still room to involve all groups in climate change discourse and action. Currently, climate actors still generalise participation and inclusion without answering questions such as: Who should participate in what? How can they participate? What is the long-term impact? 

Organisations should clarify their expectations from their target population and how they intend to reach them: whether through co-creating adaptation plans, identifying local trainers or material suppliers, or funding local businesses to deliver certain activities. For instance, initiatives such as the ‘Dragons’ Den’ at CBA conferences give young people opportunities to conceive climate adaptation ideas, transform them into bankable, practical enterprises and develop funding proposals. This means they become actively involved in climate adaptation. 

However, when participation in adaptation ends at ‘consulting the marginalised people’, it may not address the challenges people face. In their participation strategies, policymakers and organisations should outline where they need local or Indigenous knowledge, along with their plans for capturing this and monitoring impacts.

Mobilising the private sector

The private sector must be mobilised and involved in LLA debates and implementationCBA18 delegates said. Without a strong private sector, effective climate change adaptation may be unsustainable. 

We know the private sector – from small rural kiosks to multinational companies – provide goods and services that support livelihoods. For instance, through building and operating water services, supplying inputs to farmers and creating markets where other stakeholders have paved foundations. 

Therefore, climate adaptation actors should work more effectively and more often with a range of private enterprises and intentionally bring them to various climate adaptation forums, including the upcoming COP29. 

Currently, no private enterprise has endorsed the LLA principles. This implies a need to create more awareness of and opportunities for the principles within private companies: particularly those with climate action and social engagement at the heart of their business, who can be strong allies. Engaging them in discussions is one way to raise awareness of the principles and ensure they endorse them.

However, we cannot ignore the fact that parts of the private sector prioritise profit over people and planet, and care little about their negative climate and environmental impacts or about supporting adaptation adequately. Civil society actors should educate them on the business case for adaptation and LLA, while also acting as a watchdog to report on and limit any negative impacts.

Reforming funding mechanisms

Finally, CBA participants recommended that donors should continuously review and reform funding mechanisms to align with LLA aspirations. 

Funding locally-led initiatives remains a challenge due to several factors. These include limited information on funding opportunities, stringent donor requirements and limited capacity to develop funding proposals, manage finances or report on spending. 

Funders should work with all stakeholders to ensure that finance targets the critical enablers of LLA and meets the different needs of frontline communities. This can include providing incremental funding to local initiatives, so they can slowly and effectively build their capacity to manage and account for larger funding. 

Such approaches will ensure local entities are better placed to meet most funders’ stringent proposal and reporting requirements, which cannot always be simplified, particularly when the funders are public bureaucratic agencies. Where possible, donors should also develop simplified processes to ensure grassroots organisations can access their funds, and should support flexible, community-led monitoring.

From endorsement to action

In summary, moving from widespread endorsement of the LLA principles to their implementation will require a range of actions. These include more targeted funding to local levels and the co-creation of knowledge and programmes, through the inclusion of diverse stakeholders and celebrating intersectionality. 

In order to deliver, the LLA principles must move outside the bubble of current LLA endorsers and towards wider climate adaptation communities, including those convening at forthcoming climate forums. 

Let’s be clear: LLA is not a separate issue or a pilot. It is a mechanism to do adaptation in an equitable and fair way that reaches the most vulnerable communities with the greatest impact.