10 July, 2018

Adaptation Futures — a spotlight on climate adaptation in developing countries

Maria Bertrand, Inga Menke, Adelle Thomas, Kouassigan Tovivo, Delphine Deryng

For the first time the Adaptation Futures conference was held in Africa — an opportunity to shine a light on developing country adaptation issues. Six Climate Analytics experts had the opportunity to present their work and facilitate a number of sessions. Here's their perspective on the key threads at the conference.

Agriculture in places like Madagascar faces many risks of climate change impacts.

Scientists and practitioners from over 600 organisations working in the field of climate change adaptation came together for the 5th Adaptation Futures conference in Cape Town, South Africa.

For the first time the conference was held in Africa – an opportunity to shine a light on developing country adaptation issues. Six Climate Analytics experts, including regional scientists from Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) had the opportunity to share their work in a number of sessions focused on stakeholder engagement in adaptation planning and governance of resources from a vulnerable country perspective, as well as present new climate services tools. They identified some of the key threads that connected over 180 sessions, panel discussions and exhibits

Adaptation barriers and solutions

There is quite a lot of research on identifying barriers to adaptation, such governance and institutional barriers, or finance and knowledge gaps.

Several sessions mentioned the lack of proper vertical governance integration of adaptation and the resulting knowledge barrier at the local level. Concerning governance & institutional barriers, research presented from two SIDS showed a gap of mid-level governing authorities, which causes an obstruction of communication (and ultimately adaptation implementation) between the local and national level.

Read more: Making use of latest science in adaptation planningClimate Analytics experts looked into barriers and ways to overcome them at a workshop during the Adaptation Futures conference.

An interesting study in a European country showed that the vast and complex web of institutions involved in adaptation, and a lack of defined responsibilities among them impeded integration and implementation.

Regarding the finance barrier, it was stated repeatedly that adaptation funding does not adequately reach the local level. Some solutions proposed to overcome institutional barriers were ensuring local ownership of adaptation implementation and increased knowledge exchange between the local, regional and national level.

The finance issue remains a challenging topic that was brought up in several sessions at Adaptation Futures. Specific subtopics addressed included multi-sectoral financing strategies, micro-financing instruments, and private sector involvements. Furthermore, discussions focused on mainstreaming climate risks into various financing mechanisms across scale and timeframe and highlighted the need for multilateral stakeholder engagement.

Ecosystem-based adaptation

Mainstreaming ecosystem- or nature-based solutions for climate adaptation was the focus of several sessions. A session that brought together lessons learned from science, stakeholders and on-the-ground implementation presented ways in which ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) strategies can be harnessed to build resilience and strengthen adaptation to climate change.

This session drew on lessons from different perspectives and the discussion helped identify three key recommendations for mainstreaming EbA into policy and practice.

First, it is key to clearly define the incentive for personal involvement in EbA from the community side and not just from the governance level, so that the community embraces the new practices. Second, good communication channels are a must and need to be set up at the very beginning of a project to ensure the co-design of the research questions with all the stakeholders. Third, better ecosystem valuation and social evidence of benefits are needed (not just economic indicators) to adequately represent the benefits and trade-off associated with EbA.

Stakeholder engagement

The need for stronger stakeholder engagement was discussed not only in the context of Ecoysytem-based Adaptation, but was a red thread connecting many themes at the conference.

During the EU JPI Climate workshop Mr. Leluma Matooane of the Department of Science and Technology of South Africa talked about stakeholder engagement not just in project implementation, but also called for more engagement at a much earlier stage, namely when designing the research question.

A number of “tool shed” sessions introduced climate services and tools that were developed with strong stakeholder engagement. This included examples of citizen science such as the climate scan tool, and ISIpedia, presented by Climate Analytics’ Inga Menke. ISIpedia will be a user-friendly, freely accessible online encyclopaedia for consistent impacts projections across sectors, and is currently under development, following extensive consultations with key stakeholders to shape it to their needs.

Many sessions focused on how to involve stakeholders at the local level and how to improve communication with stakeholders. University of Wageningen led an interesting session on “Creating new narratives for integrated approaches to climate change adaptation (CCA), disaster risk reduction (DRR) and transformation,” which included discussion on the different use of language in different sectors such as CCA and DRR, but also the need for better translation for climate change relevant vocabulary to ensure indigenous population integrates adaptation measures.

The Climate Analytics-led session on “Methods for enhancing the co-production and application of science-based evidence into adaptation planning in LDCs and SIDS” reached similar conclusions – the need for building trust and the feeling of ownership of the outputs is one of the key to success in successful implementation of climate adaptation measures.

Loss and Damage

A session organised by International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) focused on ‘climate risk management and transformation: working towards solutions for dealing with risks ‘beyond adaptation’. The session aimed to synthesise research and experiences with loss and damage to inform policy.

Two key takeaways include the need to (1) understand the many perspectives of loss and damage that then influence what is seen as appropriate action and (2) conduct objective analysis demonstrating limits of current adaptation strategies and the need for transformative adaptation.

Different perspectives on loss and damage are related to views on how loss and damage should be addressed in the global policy arena and support approaches as varied as compensation for climate impacts to increased funding and focus on adaptation and mitigation.

Experiences from adaptation practitioners showed the limitations of expanding existing adaptation measures as climate impacts increase, highlighting the demand for research that demonstrates the benefits of transformative and more effective adaptation strategies to reduce future loss and damage.

LDC concerns for adaptation

Least Developed Countries (LDCs) presented various perspectives on adaptation work in their countries, particularly on the challenges surrounding adaptation planning. Access to and use of scientific tools and information to plan effective adaptation arose as one of the major concerns for developing countries.

During the Climate Change Adaptation policies and their implementation in LDCs session for instance, delegates shared cross-country experiences and accessible and adjustable tools for country-specific needs and priorities, leading to improved knowledge on successful adaptation policies and planning.

The Integrated Assessment Framework currently being developed by the University of Vanderbilt (Tennessee, USA) to analyse root causes, flood scenario and community resilience building has emerged as an additional tool available for LDCs to plan adaptation and build resilience. The framework is creating a web-enabled climate projection tool that can be used by various users from different parts of the world.

Access to adaptation funding was another important topic that retained the attention and participation of LDCs. Discussions aimed at identifying and analysing the necessary capacity needs to bridging the gap between available climate finance and access to it.

The two main takeaways include (1) the necessity for countries to devise strategies that facilitate access to adaptation funding in addition to regular Official Development Assistance (ODA) through project proposals that resolve attribution issues using scientific evidence of their vulnerability and the separation between adaptation and development benefits, and (2) the enhancement of project development skills that embed proposals with indicators that can track the economic gains of adaptation proposals to attract private sector funding.

Evaluation of adaptation

Measuring adaptation progress and success has been identified as one of the ways in which the adaptation conversation can move from dialogue to solutions. The ability to define and track climate adaptation success is imperative for donors, implementers and researchers alike.

One of the sessions was aimed at assessing global adaptation progress. In this session, participants agreed that it is imperative to do some type of global stock-take. The complexity of conducting a global stock-take quickly became evident with the following questions being asked: “What will we be comparing? Countries? If countries, do we compare them to each other? Is this fair, considering the capacity gaps and challenges?”

Considering these complexities, the participants were then asked to reflect on what the research game changer will be to ensure an adequate global stock-take. Participants agreed that one of the main research game changers would be coming to an agreement on what adaptation really is. How can we measure adaptation when we do not have a common understanding of what it is? Perhaps that is the entry point to measuring adaptation

Climate Analytics researchers working on the IMPACT project currently study how suitable adaptation measures are identified, and once compared with other potential measures, prioritised over others.