on 11th December 2015

A little less conversation, a little more action at COP21

As the COP21 negotiations continue into the night to try and achieve an equitable and inclusive agreement which will put the world on a path to a low carbon, climate resilient future, the people who are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change are not even aware that such a deal exists.

What keeps the people living with climate change impacts awake at night? They will worry whether the rains will come, and if they will be enough for a decent harvest. They will worry about their homes, whether the field of maize they recently planted will withstand the impact of the next cyclone. They will worry about water, will there be enough to sustain their animals through yet another drought.

So whilst the importance of the outcome of the negotiations cannot be underestimated, the urgent work on adapting to the impacts of climate change has already started and will continue to be a priority for those people living on the front line of climate change.

These people need support to prepare and deal with the impacts of climate change, as well as to take advantage of arising opportunities, to transform their livelihoods so that they are resilient whatever the climate.

But what does this really look like?

To answer that question, CARE International’s Adaptation Learning Programme for Africa hosted a side event at the COP21 climate talks, bringing together a diverse group of people for, in the words of Elvis, ‘a little less conversation and little more action’. The participants shared learning from successful approaches to supporting communities in Africa and Asia to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Nafisatu Yussif from ABANTU for Development Ghana who host the Gender Action on Climate Change for Equality and Sustainability Network (GACCES) kicked off the discussions by stating that gender equality is the essential piece in the adaptation puzzle, giving an example from Ghana of where access to land was restricting women’s ability to develop climate resilient livelihoods.

Colin Mcquistan from Practical Action talked about how some actions taken in the name of minimising risk in Nepal actually resulted in unintended negative consequences highlighting the importance of doing a thorough vulnerability and capacity assessment at the local level.

Emma Bowa from ALP in Kenya introduced the importance of climate information in supporting informed and flexible decision-making in relation to livelihoods and risk reduction activities.

Margaret Bharihaihi from ACCRA spoke about the importance of building the capacity of government in Mozambique, Ethiopia and Kenya to provide an enabling environment for adaptation measures.

Hop Vu Thi Bich from Sustainable Rural Development Vietnam and Aurelie Ceinos from CARE France together gave examples of how to tackle the challenge of food security and the need for increased production whilst applying a climate resilient agriculture approach.

Key messages coming out of the discussion were that the participation of communities in deciding, developing and implementing their own responses to climate change is essential, addressing gender equality is key to effective adaptation, availability and access to reliable information at the local level is critical, but that effective governance structures are also needed to support such local level action.

Whatever the outcome of the COP21 negotiations on paper, it’s reassuring to see these activities are already happening in practice on the ground. The challenge is how to secure finance to scale up and increase the impact of such approaches to truly address the magnitude of the challenge poor people face.

Nicola Ward, Learning and Evidence Specialist, Africa Adaptation Learning Programme, CARE International


Nicola Ward

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