Politics Of Climate Change

Adaptation to climate change: Some emerging concepts

As the adverse impacts of climate change become more and more self evident around the world, from drought in North America to cyclones in the Pacific to floods in China, countries and researchers around the world are beginning to act and learn about adaptation to climate change which is emerging as a new science.
One manifestation of the emergence of this new global science of Adaptation to Climate Change (ACC) is the setting up of a new series of global conferences every two years on adaptation science which started with the first conference in Australia in 2010 and was followed by the second in the United States of America in May of 2012. These conferences will now be held every two years under the aegis of a new global initiative called ProVIA set up jointly by Unep, WMO and Unesco and the next conference will be held in Fortaleza, Brazil in August 2014.
As this new science of adaptation begins to develop a number of new concepts are beginning to emerge within the community or practice and research on adaptation.
A few of these emerging concepts are described briefly below.

Adaptation and development
One of the first aspects of adaptation to climate change that had to be tackled was to find the linkages and differences with normal development. This issue has largely been resolved with the realisation that adaptation must be linked to development planning and practice, but it also brings with it several new dimensions which are not usually part of development as currently practiced around the world. One is the need to link with climate science, especially long-term climate impact models which can provide information on climate impacts. The second is to take a long-term perspective in planning investments as climate change is a decadal scale problem and not only a short term one.

Adaptation planning
Many countries have already started planning national as well as local adaptation plans, with the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) starting first with their respective National Adaptations Programmes of Action (NAPA) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which are now being followed by National Adaptation Plans (NAP). Bangladesh has already played a pioneering role as one of the first LDCs to carry out a NAPA and has gone on to develop its Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan.

Mainstreaming adaptation into national planning:
As countries have started national adaptation planning they have realised that adaptation cannot be done in isolation from development planning so the concept of "mainstreaming adaptation into development" has emerged. This is beginning to be done in a number of developing as well as developed countries both at national as well as local levels.
Bangladesh has also been at the forefront of mainstreaming adaptation both within government ministries through the Planning Commission as well as in other groups such NGOs.

Climate resilient development
The combination of adaptation with development and the mainstreaming of climate change into development planning and practice is meant to lead to "Climate Resilient Development," which is another term that is gaining coinage in development planning circles.

Local level adaptation
As many of the communities that are most vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change are also amongst the poorest communities, both rural as well as urban, the concept of local level adaptation is fast developing around the world. An example of such local level adaptation is the Local Adaptation Plans of Action (LAPA) that were pioneered in Nepal and are being adopted in other countries as well.

Community based adaptation
A sub-set of local level adaptation that has also emerged in recent years is Community Based Adaptation (CBA), which involves the empowerment of vulnerable communities with knowledge and support to become more adaptive themselves. This area of practice has been led mainly by civil society and NGOs and has already developed a community of practice which meets in an annual conference on CBA. The sixth international conference was held in Hanoi, Vietnam in April 2012 and the seventh will be held in Bangladesh in April 2013.

Adaptation in situ and migration
Initially the concept of adaptation was thought to focus almost exclusively on adaptation in situ. Or in other words trying to enable communities to adapt to climate change impacts and continue their livelihoods in their localities. However, it is now clear that for some of the most vulnerable communities, such as those living in low-lying coastal areas or drought-prone areas, they will not be able to continue their livelihoods over the next few decades in those locations. Hence the concept of migration as an adaptation strategy is beginning to emerge.

Loss and damage
This is a very new concept that has emerged after the last conference of parties (COP17) of the UNFCCC held in Durban, South Africa in December 2011. It looks at the limits to adaptation and residual loss and damage after adaptation actions are taken. Bangladesh is contributing significantly to the UNFCCC work-programme on Loss and Damage, which will be discussed further at the next COP to be held in Doha, Qatar in December 2012.

Adaptation to climate variability
One area of work that has preceded climate change impacts is Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) which governments, NGOs and communities have been practising for some time now. It is now clear that DRR, which deals with adaptation to short term climate variability, is not sufficient and needs to be combined with longer-term adaptation to climate change as well.
Again Bangladesh has been playing a pioneering role through its Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme (CDMP), which is increasingly combining DRR with adaptation to climate change.

Transformative adaptation
This is the newest term to emerge and refers to the opportunity that adaptation to climate change presents to not just become more "climate resilient" but to transform countries, societies and communities, from the current state of vulnerability to a new and better state of development.

Even though adaptation science is a new and emerging science that has started over the last few years only, it is already growing at a very fast pace and new concepts are emerging very quickly to enable countries and communities around the world to gain knowledge to help them adapt to both current as well as future impacts of climate change. Two further aspects of adaptation science are the need to develop our knowledge through "action-research" that combines efforts from researchers with planners and practitioners. The other new aspect of this new science is that it presents a potential to further greater South-South collaboration between developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America as they share many common problems and their solutions will be more applicable in other developing countries than solutions that the richer countries develop. Bangladesh has the potential to be a global leader of both practice and learning on this new and emerging science of adaptation to climate change.

The writer is a Senior Fellow at the London based International Institute for Environment and Development and Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development at the Independent University, Bangladesh. E-mail: [email protected]


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