Past, present, and future of locally led adaptation

Photo source: GCA website.
Community-based afforestation is one of the top most priorities for the coastal areas of Bangladesh –

The need for the world to adapt to the potential adverse impacts of human induced climate change has been known since the publication of the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2001. This was then followed by the 7th session of the Conference of Parties (COP7) in Marrakech, Morocco where the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) was set up to support the LDCs to prepare National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPA).

At that time I was based at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) in the United Kingdom, and I set up a network of research partners in a number of the LDCs under a programme called Capacity Strengthening in LDCs on Adaptation to Climate Change (CLACC), where we engaged with the national governments to ensure that their respective NAPAs were able to engage effectively with their most vulnerable communities in each country, which was a requirement of their NAPA methodology provided by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Thus we started with our team of country level CLACC Fellows to engage with the most vulnerable communities in each of the LDCs in Africa and Asia where we not only provided their inputs into their respective NAPAs but also started to engage in finding out how we could provide knowledge and capacity building to enable them to adapt to the new risk of climate change. Then in 2007, we brought together a number of the different groups who were working with these vulnerable communities together into the first International Conference on Community Based Adaptation (CBA) held in Bangladesh, where we were able to share information with each other and learn from each other’s experiences.

Since then the international CBA conference became an annual event which has been held in different countries each year where several hundred participants from all over the world come together for a week. The format of the conference was that it started with a three-day field visit (in several groups) to stay with some local communities in the host country. Then the format of the meeting was highly interactive (PowerPoint presentations were banned) in order for each person to maximize the networking opportunities to make as many new friends as possible. In the subsequent years, the annual CBA conference has been held in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Vietnam, Nepal, Malawi and Ethiopia. Over the years it established a Community of practice on Community Based Adaptation with several thousand practitioners from around the world.

In April 2019, at the 13th annual CBA conference held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia we were visited by the Commissioners and Secretariat from the recently set up Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) under the leadership of Mr Ban Ki-moon, Bill Gates and Kristalina Georgieva and we held a number of sessions to discuss how the community of practice on CBA might be able to engage with the GCA going forward. The CBA Community agreed to engage with the GCA to support the creation of an action track on Locally Led Action (LLA) which was one of eight Adaptation Action Tracks that the GCA identified in its flagship report that was released at the United Nations Climate Action Summit held New York in September 2019.

The GCA then declared a year of action for each of the eight Adaptation Action Tracks that they had identified which would culminate in a Global Adaptation Summit to be held in the Netherlands in October 2020.

However, because of the COVID19 pandemic the Adaptation Summit has been postponed to 25th January 2021 and will now be held as a 24-hours long rolling event starting in the Pacific and then moving around the world with the sun with Anchor Events in certain locations which will be focused on one of the eight Action Tracks. The LLA themed anchor event will be held in Bangladesh possibly with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina making the keynote speech followed by involvement of communities of practice led by Dr Musa who heads the International NGO BRAC and is one of the Commissioners of the GCA.

It is expected that the Regional Centre on Adaptation to be set up in Dhaka with support from the Global Centre on Adaptation bases in the Netherlands will become the global centre for LLA going forward.

Between now and the Adaptation Summit in January 2021 the LLA group will be developing its own ten year plan of action to be launched at the Summit where it is expected that the most vulnerable communities in each and every country will be involved in designing, implementing, monitoring and ensuring accountability for all national and global financing for adaptation around the world. The principal that will be ensured is that vulnerable communities not be regarded as ‘targets’ or even ‘beneficiaries’ but as genuine partners with their respective Governments as well as other Development Partners.

The aim is to put into practice the demand that came out of CBA13 in Ethiopia that Adaptation plans must be developed with vulnerable communities and just for vulnerable communities.

I will also be advising the Global Centre on Adaptation to embed LLA into their Programme of Bold Ideas taking up the action tracks on Cities, Agriculture, Water and Africa where we will make sure that the vulnerable communities are treated as partners in developing each of the other Bold Ideas as well over next five to ten years.

The ideas presented in this article aim to inspire adaptation action – they are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Global Center on Adaptation.

Originally this article was published on July 14, 2020 at Global Center on Adaptation Website.
The author Prof. Saleemul Huq is the director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) at the Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB).