Communities adapting to climate change – experiences from CBA9

CBA9 Nairobi 2015 001 Maasai leaders LR bright

The Ninth International Conference on Community-based Adaptation – otherwise known as CBA9 – has come and gone, thankfully before the worst of the flooding experienced last week in Nairobi, where this year’s event was held. If the theme of CBA9 was ‘Measuring and enhancing effective adaptation’, then one of the main sub-themes was money. Or rather, the lack of it – so far – for adaptation.

As Atiq Rahman, Executive Director of Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies and one of the founders of the CBA conferences said in his opening address, currently only 14% of the international funding for climate change goes to adaptation, while 86% is spent on mitigation initiatives. And, within these figures, we need to ask to what extent organisations actually finance the most vulnerable communities. This was a point made by Saleemul Huq, of IIED and the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) in Dhaka, and leading light of the CBA conferences with Atiq.

So there is a strong case to be made for ramping up the amount of money spent on adaptation, as increasing climate variability is already hitting many countries hard. All sources of funding will be important for this. The Green Climate Fund has recognised the need for a 50:50 split between adaptation and mitigation, and slowly there is some filling of its coffers, but speaker after speaker highlighted the lack of private sector funding for adaptation. The same is true for implementation. As Tom Owiyo of the African Development Bank noted, 60% of the $2.1 billion funding allocated by multi-lateral development banks (MDBs) for mitigation in sub-Saharan Africa in 2013 was delivered by the private sector, while all of the $952 million spent by the MDBs in the same year on adaptation was public-sector delivered.

The four days of discussions at the Safari Park Hotel conference centre were preceded by three days of field trips, in which many of the 400 participants headed out to see for themselves what communities in Kenya were doing about adapting on the ground. Groups visited Lake Naivasha to see sustainable fisheries management and water harvesting, witnessed how communities are adapting to drought and changing rain patterns in Narok, and gained insights into forest community-based conservation and reforestation initiatives around Mount Kenya.

Back in Nairobi, rich discussions at the conference segment of CBA9 revealed ways in which community-based adaptation was being enhanced, such as UNEP’s work on using bio-indicators to enhance early warning systems in Turkana – you can view the poster on this, as well as the other CBA9 posters, here. Simon Anderson of IIED faciiltated an out-of-the-box session on radicalising adaptation, which considered how local people could use adaptation principles towards making adaptation more far-reaching and far-sighted – check out his session interview here.

CBA9 Nairobi 2015 017 Ww factor lightened

Many organisations are using information and communications technologies (ICTs) in innovative ways to track effective adaptation, including combining ICTs with indigenous knowledge to enhance adaptation responses. There were some good examples of this in the laugh-out-loud ‘Wow factor’ session that highlighted CBA monitoring and evaluation (M&E) tools, facilitated by Tom Tanner of ODI and Nambi Appadurai of the World Resources Institute India, complete with bow ties. And I was impressed with more evidence of initiatives linking CBA, ecosystem-based adaptation and disaster risk reduction. This kind of integrated approach was evident in the winning entries for the poster competition that I judged – but more about that in my next blog.

The end of the conference saw the release of the Nairobi Declaration on Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change, with clear messages for COP21 in Paris, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) process. 2015 is a really crucial year for addressing our key sustainability – and survival – challenges. Although people – including Christiana Figueres – are cautioning against too high expectations for Paris, there is a growing feeling amongst a broader community that if we don’t get a meaningful agreement in Paris in December, then the UNFCCC might as well shut up shop – see Saleemul Hug’s piece on this, originally published in the Dhaka Tribune. So, the Nairobi Declaration emphasises how vital it is to address the needs and interests of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the international agreements on sustainable development, development finance and climate change that need to be concluded this year.

At the end of the conference, sitting in a taxi in a partially flooded road on my way across town, I realised there is just no getting away from the centrality of two things: money and concerted action. This is what we really need to see happening this year. Outdated infrastructure like Nairobi’s stormwater drainage systems needs to be upgraded to deal with increasingly heavy downpours – and that needs money. And commitment to spend the money in the right way. This is where leadership comes in. Globally, COP21 in Paris needs to – finally – set in place a binding agreement with ambitious emissions reduction and financing goals. No more ‘shoulds’ – let’s stick to the ‘shalls’. With enforcement mechanisms.

And all of this needs to take place within a framework that recognises our instrinsic links with nature, our vital – and inescapable – interconnection with our planet and its biosphere. As Salaton Ole Ntutu, Maasai cultural leader, and Stephen Ole Kisotu, of the Medungi Conservation organisation made clear in their opening talk at CBA9, “don’t cut yourself from nature”. Because, basically, you can’t – we need to “protect this umbilical cord”. (Here’s an interview with them.) Or, in the words of Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General, “If we can’t all swim together, we will sink. There is no Plan B, because there is no Planet B”.

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2 thoughts on “Communities adapting to climate change – experiences from CBA9

  1. Dear Penny, this is a fantastic summary of a very important conference! I guess the difficultly with attracting suitable finance lies in the difficulty of donors and beneficiaries clearly demonstrating that the money has led to successful adaptation. Financing a mitigation project is more attractive because an actor can state that they have reduced emissions by x or have implemented low carbon technology. Ultimately, decision makers and the private sector have to see the net-benefits of adaptation!

    1. Thanks Alex! And I agree with you – seeing the net benefits of adaptation is crucial. I think that going beyond one’s own narrow agendas is also important – yes, the private sector would need to see a ‘business case’, but probably to get to that point, people might need to first be convinced of the need for us all to act, in different ways. Perhaps seeing the heightened vulnerability of some communities already, and really getting it that we are all in this together, might be the trigger.

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