Adaptation strategies must be bottom-up

Local adaptation priorities, such as conserving and using crop biodiversity, can help manage climate change impacts in vulnerable countries around the world. Source: IIED

There are two major outcomes and messages on adaptation to climate change that have been mentioned in the recently published Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of Working Group II (WG2) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The first one says that the impacts of climate change are evident all around the world—in both poor countries and rich—necessitating a much enhanced investment in adaptation measures to be better prepared going forward.

The second message, which did not receive as much attention, was that of the hundreds of adaptation activities and investments that have been undertaken, a significant number either did not help or made things worse.

While there are many reasons for these past failures, a major reason is that almost all those investments for adaptation were done in a top-down way, where experts came up with the plans and the local communities, who were the supposed beneficiaries or even targets of this support, were merely made to implement what they were told to.

This was not only an extremely disempowering manner of dealing with the local communities, but also a mistake to ignore their own lived experiences and the experiential knowledge that they had on how best to adapt to the climate change hazards they had been facing.

This has led to a global movement to promote what is now called Locally Led Adaptation (LLA), and there are eight principles that over 50 global institutions, multilateral development banks, bilateral donor agencies and even a number of countries have adopted. The main principles include: consulting local communities before designing the interventions to be funded; involving those communities in implementing the plans; and having the communities themselves monitor and assess the effectiveness of such investments.

However, merely signing a pledge is not enough, if the practice doesn’t change on the ground. Hence the annual Gobeshona conference on Locally Led Adaptation and Resilience has become a venue for monitoring and evaluating the performance of the financiers and agencies supporting adaptation around the world.

The Gobeshona conference on LLA and Resilience, which was held online for the first time in 2021, has now become a global event where the institutions who have signed the LLA principles will be invited each year to share what they are doing in practice, and particularly bring the local adapters from around the world to share their experiences. Before, the conference was held in person, in Bangladesh.

The second annual Gobeshona conference on LLA is also scheduled to be held online, from March 27 to April 1, with a focus on connecting the local adapters to global decision-makers, keeping an eye on the upcoming 27th UN Climate Change Conference (Conference of Parties—COP27), set to be held in Egypt in November 2022.

The opening session on March 27 will be hosted by Bangladesh, and there are over 80 sessions already scheduled over the next six days. These sessions are set to be hosted and organised by different organisations and groups from around the world, and participants can join any sessions they wish to attend online—completely free of cost. Each session is aimed at finding a message for the upcoming COP27, and in the final session on April 1, the high-level climate champions for COP26 and COP27 will be interviewed. We will share the messages from the local adapters with the high-level climate champions and ask them how they can ensure that these messages actually influence the global decisions that are going to be made at COP27.

This annual conference, hosted and organised by the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD), is now aimed at becoming a standing item in terms of monitoring and evaluating the performance of the national and international agencies that are supporting adaptation activities around the world. It is expected to become as important an event as the UN climate summit. It will be able to track and monitor the actual implementations of LLA on the ground.

Originally this article was published on March 16, 2022 at Daily Star. The author Prof. Saleemul Huq is the director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) at the Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB).