How the Paris Climate Agreement will increase the momentum of adaptation
The UNFCCC Paris Agreement on climate change represents a historic commitment to tackling a global challenge and to ensure greener, climate resilient growth into the future, aiming to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees. Recognising that the impacts and uncertainties of climate change are happening now and will increase unavoidably into the future, Article 7 of the Paris Agreement establishes a global goal on adaptation of enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change, with a view to contributing to sustainable development. It goes further to promote adaptation approaches that are; ‘country-driven, gender-responsive, participatory, take into consideration vulnerable groups, guided by both best available science and traditional and local knowledge, and which are integrated into relevant socio-economic and environmental policies and actions’.
With these new commitments in place, now is the time to increase the momentum for action, and ensure that adaptation is implemented in ways that are effective in realising climate resilient livelihoods and sustainable development for all.
The Adaptation Learning Programme implemented by CARE International has experience from five years of implementing innovative approaches to community based adaptation in Africa. Learning on adaptation from ALP and other adaptation programmes in Africa and Asia was shared through the many side events and discussions that took place during the two week COP21 in Paris. Common and important messages emerged for what good adaptation practice looks like and therefore what adaptation finance should prioritise, which is reflected well in Article 7.
As the climate continues to change in uncertain ways, there can be no blueprint for action or a single stable ‘adapted’ state. Our resilience to climate impacts will require continuously shifting course, anticipating and responding as change happens, hence a mandate and process for locally determined and owned plans are essential. Strengthening access to needed assets, knowledge, information and services; fostering local innovation and institutional linkages and enabling more flexible and forward looking decision making will result in vulnerable people being able to adapt today, and to continue to make wise choices and investments for dynamic adaptation responses into the future.
The Adaptation Learning Programme for Africa (ALP) has commissioned studies in Kenya and Niger, which show that a $1 investment in these capacities leads to a return of up to $4 of social, environmental and economic benefits in all but the very worst combinations of climate and economic scenarios. Participatory community adaptation action planning in 40 communities across Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique and Niger has resulted in a wide range of livelihood priorities being selected which combine elements of development and risk management. The 2015 ALP Adaptation Strategies Compendium documents a range of strategies that men and women in these countries are implementing, showing how they contribute to both climate resilience today and ongoing adaptive capacity.
At the local level, gender inequalities among other underlying causes of vulnerability; hinder the full value of both men and women’s knowledge, capacity and aspirations from contributing to adaptation solutions. Ensuring that no one is left behind and that adaptation action also supports greater equality is an important factor for sustainable outcomes. ALP has been learning about the relationship between gender equality and adaptation through community interactions and analysis. A combination of integrating gender analysis and discussions with all community members, together with supporting inclusion and empowerment of women in livelihood actions and public decisions is leading towards more equitable adaptation.
High investment in adaptation is needed at all levels. Efforts and finance will be most effective when they enable those most affected to increase their adaptive capacity, determine and access what is needed to realise their own aspirations and resilient futures.
Fiona Percy, Regional Coordinator, Africa Adaptation Learning Programme (ALP), CARE International