Reflecting on the learnings from the 7th Adaptation Futures Conference in Montreal

The 7th Adaptation Futures Conference (the Conference) took place in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, in November 2023. The Conference brought together decision-makers, practitioners, business representatives, and communicators to exchange knowledge and co-create solutions for climate change adaptation. This Conference was enlightening and rewarding to me for the following reasons: witnessing the intellectual presence of Indigenous Peoples, sharing the adaptation-related research findings from Bangladesh, which focused on local leadership and embracing the rich culture of Montreal City.

Attending the Conference was also fulfilling for the learnings highlighted below.

Masterclass on Co-creation of knowledge:
Before the Conference officially started, Adaptation Research Alliance (ARA), and CDKN organized an interactive masterclass session on ‘operationalizing co-production for transformation’. Co-creation is a method that focuses on engaging stakeholders, beneficiaries, and partners in the decision-making process to harness the collective proficiency, knowledge, and resources for driving change.

The ten principles of ‘good co-production’ encompass:

  1. Tailoring to the context and decision-making,
  2. Building trust,
  3. Enhancing diversity,
  4. Keeping flexible,
  5. Supporting conscious facilitation,
  6. Communicating in an accessible manner,
  7. Ensuring value-add for all involved,
  8. Timely delivery,
  9. Improving transparency and accuracy of forecasts, and
  10. Enhancing inclusivity.

While taking part in the breakout rooms, these principles resonated a lot. They made me realize how co-production is not a one-size-fit solution. Supporting a culture of listening, empathizing, and understanding various needs and perspectives is also vital.

Unravelling Equitable Adaptation:
The Conference had several sessions that focused on key enablers of equitable adaptation, such as accessible, adequate financing, adopting a human-centric approach for national policy establishment and reformation, working with a diverse cohort of traditional stakeholders and inviting the private sector to play a larger role in adaptation. However, major challenges lie ahead in ensuring equitable adaptation. In adaptation interventions, we seldom explore how supporting local leadership might reinforce power dynamics and undermine adaptation interventions. In many cases, participatory research methodology can be extractive and might only serve elites’ interests. A session titled “From locally-led metrics to international adaptation frameworks: Capturing diversity of adaptation needs and outcomes in communities across Africa and Asia” highlighted a co-designed livestock tool for tracking adaptation. The tool had 96 indicators reflecting context-specific hazards, impacts, adaptive capacity, socioeconomics, institutions, technology, and gender dimensions and captured differentiated needs of marginalized livestock communities. Government officials in Kenya and Ethiopia use this web-based tool to assess adaptation outcomes across scales. However, there are trade-offs between the level of detail and practicality while utilizing the tool.

Another session focused on ‘equity and justice in adaptation measurement’. It stressed the need to incorporate local and traditional knowledge while innovating and co-producing for the marginalized pastoralists. There is still an increased need to focus on land governance and alter land rights for pastoralists when supporting their diverse adaptation strategies.

Key Lessons Learnt:
Going forward, focusing on curating long-term capacity-building strategies for vulnerable climate communities will be imperative. This will help them to acknowledge their needs and receive and utilize adaptation funding that resonates with their contextual challenges. However, ‘poor national data’ is still an obstacle when it comes to designing financing for developing nations.

Now is the right time to redefine monitoring and evaluation when it comes to measuring adaptation. The real question is, how can we measure adaptation for vulnerable climate communities by capturing their voices? Who is the audience? Who are we measuring for? One session shared an interesting community-based monitoring tool that allows fishermen to fill out an online form to gather information on the fish they caught, its quality, waterbody, and health.

Uniqueness of Montreal:
Montreal showcased an infusion of intriguing culture, food, and architecture. I was lucky enough to enjoy and witness the second largest French-speaking city’s unique park, the Mont Royal Park; the ravishing church Notre-Dame Basilica; Saint Joseph’s Oratory; the picturesque botanical garden; Vieux-Port – the historic port; McGill’s mesmerizing campus and the local shops and boutiques of the old city. All in all, it was a wholesome experience.

About the Authors: Afsara Binte Mirza works as a research officer at ICCCAD. Her research interest lies in locally-led adaptation, just transition in developing countries and value-based adaptation.