As the adverse impacts of human induced climate change become apparent and irrefutable, more and more countries are developing national adaptation plans. Most of these planning exercises start by treating climate change impacts as risks to be adapted to and base the analysis on which parts or sectors of the country are most vulnerable and then develop plans to reduce their vulnerability. The Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP) is a good example of this type of plan.
However, as the magnitude and long-term nature of the climate change threat is realised it is becoming clear that simply implementing a set of adaptation projects, although useful, is not going to be sufficient. If long-term resilience is to be built then climate change adaptation (as well as mitigation) needs to be embedded (or mainstreamed) into regular national planning at all levels. The Planning Ministry in Bangladesh has started such an initiative to embed climate change into regular planning and also to have a climate change element built into the national budget.
The International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) at the Independent University, Bangladesh has also taken an initiative to train officials from ministries of planning in Asia and Africa through a series of short training courses on mainstreaming climate change into national planning.
The first training course for Asia was held in Dhaka last year and the second course for Africa was held recently in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Altogether over fifty planning officials from over twenty countries in Asia and Africa were trained. They have now, themselves, formed a network of Climate Change Planners.
Some of the lessons that have already emerged on this issue are described below.
Planning versus projects:
The first lesson is that while adaptation projects are a useful place to start, the long-term nature of climate impacts will require an altogether greater effort to develop a climate resilient economy. Thus, instead of developing separate, stand-alone, National Adaptation Plans (NAP) as many countries are doing, it is better to mainstream climate change into regular national plans. Therefore, the NAP process should be seen as a process of mainstreaming rather than producing a stand-alone plan.
Planning is needed at all levels:
The second lesson is that mainstreaming climate change into planning needs to be done at every level, not just national plans. Thus sectoral ministries such as water management, agriculture, health and others also need to mainstream climate change into their respective sectoral plans. Also very important is the need to mainstream into local level planning where possible. Some countries, such as Nepal, are developing Local Adaptation Programmes of Action (LAPA).
Focus on climate vulnerable poor:
The third emerging lesson is the need to focus on and prioritise the most vulnerable communities, who also tend to be among the poorest (sometimes called the Climate Vulnerable Poor) as they are the ones who will suffer the adverse impacts the most. This will be a critical requirement for international funds to support national adaptation plans and actions. It will therefore be necessary to put in place robust monitoring and evaluation procedures for adaptation funding.
International funding for adaptation:
As international funding for adaptation begins to arrive in developing countries an interesting, potentially contradictory, issue may emerge. This the fact that while international funds for adaptation will require activities they fund to be clearly identified and reported on, thus favouring a project approach, while the argument that such international funds will be most effective if they are in fact mainstreamed into national plans and budgets. This seeming contradiction can be dealt with by making clear identification of climate change funds within national budgets.
The community of practice of Climate Change Planners that is emerging and growing across Asia and Africa will have an opportunity to meet again at the seventh international conference on Community Based Adaptation (CBA7), which will be held in Bangladesh in April 2013 where the theme will be "Mainstreaming community based adaptation into national and local planning." One aspect of moving from project based adaptation to mainstreaming it into plans is to change the perception of climate change from risk to opportunity. In this case the opportunity is to transform the country into a climate resilient one over the longer term.
The writer is Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development at the Independent University, Bangladesh and Senior Fellow at the London based International Institute for Environment and Development.