The “development first” approach to climate change adaptation has been tested in over 30 countries ranging from Mali to Kazakhstan. Now it’s time to bring it to scale.
That was a key message participants heard at a USAID symposium held March 16-19. The Advancing Climate-Resilient Development Symposium brought together more than 350 climate change adaptation and international development experts with key decision-makers. Participants discussed their experiences and exchanged ideas on best practices for efficient implementation of climate adaptation actions.
The main focus was lessons learned from USAID’s Climate Change Resilient Development (CCRD) program, a four-year effort that winds down in late 2015.
CCRD is led by USAID’s Global Climate Change office and implemented by Engility/IRG and a consortium of NGOs, universities, and private companies. The program operates globally, delivering guidance, technical assistance and capacity building to countries and communities to help integrate climate-smart approaches into policy, planning and project activities.
Guiding these efforts is CCRD’s major publication – the Climate-Resilient Development (CRD)Framework. The framework starts from the development goals of a community, region or country before assessing vulnerability to the most relevant climate and non-climate stressors. From there, countries and communities are better equipped to identify, plan and implement concrete actions to ensure plans and activities are climate-resilient.
“The framework allows you to make sense of the context,” said John Furlow, USAID’s lead adaptation expert and an originator of the CCRD program.
In engaging and often lively presentations, participants shared lessons and identified ways to carry this approach forward. Three key themes emerged:
1-CCRD’s flexible approach engages stakeholders early and considers development options.
In Iloilo in the Philippines, poor management and oversight of water resources had to be addressed in order for efforts to build resilience to climate change to have an impact, said Jason Vogel, a policy analyst with the CCRD team.
In Jamaica, CCRD helped create a National Adaptation Plan by starting with the country’s Vision 2030, an overall development strategy - and then bringing a wide range of ministries together to make the work cohesive, said Charlotte Mack, an adaptation specialist with the CCRD team.
2- Climate information is crucial – but so are local knowledge and cultural norms
Best-available climate information, such as a drought forecast, can be extremely valuable. But climate information services must fit with local knowledge and culture to be used effectively. For example, Kazakhstan is among the world’s largest wheat exporters and a critical supplier of wheat across Central Asia. The wheat sector is moving from a state-run farming system to a private supply-and-demand model, an evolution that directly affects how farmers view and access food commodities markets. Exacerbating these shifts, climate change is destabilizing the wheat sector, and future projections predict increasing impacts caused by warmer winters, higher winter precipitation, and lower summer precipitation.
CCRD is working with the U.N. Development Program to strengthen Kazakhstan’s ability to manage, cope with, and recover from climate-related risks by helping local farmers access new forecasting technology, plant drought resilient crops, and diversify traditional land-management techniques.
3-Pilot projects have value – even if they struggle
Pilot projects are critical for learning, and to accelerate learning it is critical to evaluate early. To make a pilot a successful, achieve an early win, link with strong partners, focus on local hazards and set a clear course. Pilots can be catalytic, especially if tied to a phased approach, with larger projects to come, said Monica Bansal, an environment officer with USAID’s Energy & Infrastructure Office.
Four years of learning and accomplishments
Four years of CCRD experience shows that a development-first approach to climate change adaptation works in a variety of contexts. Ongoing implementation and evaluation will be crucial, said Dr. Glen Anderson, who leads the CCRD consortium.
CCRD has led or contributed to global and regional efforts, including:
National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) identify medium- to long-term climate change adaptation priorities and integrate climate considerations into national development planning, in alignment with the U.N. climate negotiations. CCRD worked with Jamaica, Tanzania and the West Africa region to help them develop NAPs.
The Climate Services Partnership (CSP) helps climate researchers and information providers share lessons about what works with donors and users of climate information. CCRD provides technical support as well as training and evaluation.
The High Mountain Adaptation Partnership (HiMAP) brings together global experts working on climate change adaptation in high mountain regions such as the Andes and Himalayas. CCRD has helped share expertise between Peru and Nepal to manage the risks from rapidly melting mountain glaciers.
The Climate-Resilient Infrastructure Services (CRIS) program is helping increase climate resilience in urban planning and infrastructure in several developing countries. Pilots are nearing completion in mid-sized cities in Peru, Mozambique, Vietnam and the Dominican Republic.
The Adaptation Partnership, chaired by Costa Rica, Spain and the United States, fostered communication among institutions and catalyzed action to scale up climate adaptation from 2010- 2012. CCRD supported this global effort.