Vulnerable communities lead in adaptation to climate change
As climate change impacts become evident around the world, many communities and countries are beginning to take actions to adapt to the adverse effects. Some of the most proactive actors are the vulnerable communities themselves, both in developed as well as developing countries. This area of adaptation has come to be termed as Community Based Adaptation (CBA) and has grown rapidly over the last few years from a few dozen communities in a few developing countries to many hundred communities in dozens of countries, including some developed countries.
The actors involved are mainly from civil society, with some governments also now entering this arena. The practitioners and proponents of CBA have been meeting periodically to share latest experiences and knowledge gained at a series of international conferences on CBA.
The fifth international conference (CBA5) was held in Bangladesh in 2011 and was attended by over 300 participants from around the world. The conference was opened by the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina and closed by Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The theme of that conference was "Scaling up CBA" and a book on the topic is being published by a renowned international publisher. It is expected to be included in the IPCC's fifth assessment report which is currently under preparation.
The sixth international conference on CBA (CBA6) is going to be held in Hanoi, Vietnam from April 16 to 22 this year, which will be hosted by the government of Vietnam. The theme of CBA6 will be "Communicating CBA" and there will be a strong presence of international media at the event. The proceedings of the conference will also be webcast and be available on a daily basis on the internet during the conference.
Emerging lessons on CBA:
While the practice of adaptation to climate change generally and CBA in particular is still in its infancy, some lessons are already beginning to emerge.
The first lesson is that while the poorest communities are often amongst the most vulnerable to the adverse climatic impacts, once future climate change is taken into account, the vulnerable communities will also include the non-poor.
The second lesson is that while better development and improved Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) efforts are excellent first steps towards building adaptive capacity, they are not enough by themselves. Adapting to climate change is more than just good development or DRR.
The third lesson, related to the second, is that adapting to future impacts of climate change requires a long-term planning horizon of decades rather than just a few years. It also requires enhanced inputs from the climate science community as there will always be uncertainties about the future climate.
The fourth emerging lesson is the need to distinguish between adapting to climate variability (such as floods, droughts and cyclones) and adapting to climate change (which is a longer term uncertainty about future climate).
So far, most of the CBA activities have focused, quite rightly, on adapting to climate variability but a few are now beginning to make the transition to adapting to climate change.
Bangladesh leads the way on CBA:
Bangladesh is emerging as a world leader on CBA due to the many CBA activities being undertaken by both NGOs as well as the government. Many of these activities are now being brought under the umbrella of the Action Research on Community Adaptation in Bangladesh (ARCAB), which is a consortium of NGOs and research institutes in Bangladesh to carry out long-term action-research on CBA and share the knowledge being generated both within Bangladesh as well as internationally.
Under this programme there have already been a number of regional level CBA conferences in Rajshahi, Khulna and Sylhet (others will follow in Chittagong, Mymensingh, Rangpur and Dhaka) and a National Conference on CBA was held in Dhaka on April 8 and 9, whose outcomes will be taken to Vietnam by a large contingent of Bangladeshi participants who will be attending CBA6 there.
The seventh international CBA conference (CBA7) will also be held in Bangladesh in April 2013, when the world's planners and practitioners on CBA will come here again to see the latest developments in CBA. The theme for CBA7 in 2013 is likely to be "Mainstreaming CBA into National Planning" and it will involve governments from both developing as well as developed countries.
Thus, adaptation to climate change, and specifically CBA, is emerging as a global activity in which the developing countries are leading the developed countries and in which Bangladesh is emerging as a global leader.