Climate risk reduction at community level

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1 6 Report from Workshop 1 Climate risk reduction at community level Theme: Aims: Facilitators: Lessons from community-based climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction programmes in developing countries To share experiences, identify common challenges, and offer recommendations to strengthen community-based climate change adaptation programmes Saleem Huq, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED); Danielle Hirsch, Both ENDS Coordinator: Madeleen Helmer, Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre, Vulnerabilities to climate change Climate change, and particularly the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, will have negative impacts on global development. People in the least developed countries and island states are likely to be most affected. At the community and household level, the poorest and most vulnerable groups will be worst hit, including women, children, the elderly and disabled. Climate change will exacerbate current vulnerabilities to drought and flooding. Cyclones, heat waves and cold spells may move to new latitudes where people are not used to them, increasing risks of fatalities and damage. Moreover, many communities will also experience gradual changes in their environment, threatening their livelihoods. Growing experience to share Only recently have development and disaster professionals begun to consider the risks of climate change, and many remain unaware of scientific assessments that show that climate change will severely challenge sustainable development efforts. Their focus has been on poverty reduction strategies, in particular the Millennium Development Goals.

2 7 Policy makers for agriculture, water management, public works and other sectors have rarely included climate change considerations in their analyses. Climate change professionals, meanwhile, have shifted from only reducing greenhouse gas emissions to also addressing the immediate risks of climate change. The shift followed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change s (IPCC) Third Assessment Report and the Marrakech Agreement (2001) reached at a Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention to Climate Change (UNFCCC). Under the Marrakech agreement, climate change policy makers have addressed climate change risks in developing countries through mechanisms like the National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs). National programmes have addressed climate change from either a sustainable development or disaster risk reduction angle. Civil society organisations have some early experience in integrating climate change risks into local projects and their overall policies and programmes. In general, civil society organisations play a key role in development at local, national and international levels, through policy dialogue with governments, development and humanitarian actors. Local organisations implement programmes with rural and urban communities in education, health care, disaster risk reduction, water and sanitation, and other sectors. Some have become aware that climate change risks must be considered to reduce poverty and disasters at the community level. Local projects supported by CARE Bangladesh, AEDES in Peru, and Cordaid partners have addressed climate change from an integrated perspective, linking it directly to sustainable development activities and disaster risk reduction. Experiences of community-based climate risk reduction work in developing counties have been shared at several levels. At the national level, civil society organisations have met to exchange and discuss experiences in countries such as Bangladesh, Nicaragua and Vietnam. At the organisational level, international civil society organisations such as the Red Cross/Red Crescent, the Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG) and CARE have presented pilot programmes on climate change at internal meetings. At the donor level, civil society and development organisations have met to share climate change risk reduction experiences, and engaged in policy dialogue with governments of the UK, Netherlands and Germany. At the international level, civil society organisations have presented their experiences at international meetings, including sessions at the Adaptation and Development Days at the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC. To strengthen the role of civil society organisations in climate change, the first international workshop on local communities and climate change was organised in January 2005 by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS), the Regional and International Networking Group (RING) and IIED. Its focus was on the Asia and Pacific region. A second International Work Conference on Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction followed with inputs from community- Climate risk reduction at community level

3 8 based climate risk reduction programmes: the Red Cross in Nicaragua, Vietnam and South East Asia; Care in Bangladesh; ITDG in Southern Africa; South Asia and Nepal; Cordaid s drought cycle management programmes in East Africa; ZERO in Zimbabwe; South South North in South Africa; and the Both ENDS and partners initiative Local Contributions to the Rio Conventions. The lessons so far Experiences so far suggest lack of knowledge and understanding about the concrete implications of climate change adaptation. Common approaches and lessons have emerged which show how to strengthen adaptation efforts at local, national and international levels from the perspective of sustainable development and disaster risk reduction. Here are the lessons so far: 1. Consider climate change risks in the context of participatory vulnerability assessments Consideration of climate risks should be integrated in community-based risk assessments, which are widely used by development and humanitarian organisations to design programmes and identify risks to livelihoods at the community level. Trends in hazards due to climate change may be identified among other risk factors, such as lack of access to natural resources, unstable market prices and lack of health care. Community-based risk assessments can be complemented by verifiable scientific information and appropriate research into the local impact. But more experience is needed to match current scientific knowledge with local knowledge. It is also difficult to validate climate change risks at community level over other risks due to the uncertainties about extreme weather events. General risk perceptions should be taken into account. Climate change risks can only be judged in the context of other risks such as diseases, youth unemployment, or lack of electricity, which may be given higher priority. Changes in the weather pattern may not be identified as a serious threat. 2. Raise awareness about climate change risks in the community Raising awareness is a key component in community-based programmes. Climate change is a new phenomenon, and little is known about the associated risks. Relevant entry points should be found to raise awareness: Where local people note a change in weather patterns could be one starting point; for example, if they need more blankets at night or if rain comes at odd times. Disasters and plagues provide another opportunity, although the link between single extreme weather events and climate change is uncertain.

4 9 So what needs to be communicated about climate change risks at community level? What do people need to know to be better prepared? What would unnecessarily complicate and confuse? Through regular consultations, community development workers and climate scientists must shape simple and clear messages about risks, based on scientific knowledge about the local impacts of climate change. A decentralised structure has enabled some scientists to better understand the knowledge and information needs of communities. Popular education methods, like plays, radio serials and music contests, could simplify information about climate change risks to make it more understandable to larger audiences. Raising awareness at the local level will focus on the risks of climate change and the solutions to address them. The complicated causes of climate change are often beyond the scope of involvement of communities who hardly contribute to the problem. Awareness raising activities should not be limited to vulnerable communities, and should include other local actors. Local government institutions are often poorly informed about the risks of climate change and their responsibilities. Their cooperation could help to implement concrete solutions. 3. Take concrete actions to address climate change risks Concrete actions and activities are needed to reduce vulnerability to the risks of climate change. Many concrete solutions have been tried: Against floods, communities have built multipurpose shelters in safe places and drainage systems; against landslides and cyclones, they have reforested and replanted mangroves; against drought, cattle have been changed and cows substituted for camels; against rogue weather, new agriculture methods have been adopted and crops changed; against drought, water catch systems have been developed; and against extreme weather, radio early warning systems have been devised. Measures must be scaled to the climate risks. Feasible actions at household and community levels can be implemented with little means, but for others solutions, external expertise and financial resources will be needed. Concrete results at household and community level can stimulate more complex solutions that involve local, provincial or national government. Solutions that involve change of land use or structural measures will take more time and could undermine a community s interest and commitment. Measures must manage time against expectations. Immediate benefits may stimulate people s engagement in longer term solutions to create greater benefits over time. For example, installing a rainwater catchments system for households can be easily achieved with obvious benefits, but replanting trees or mangroves will produce few benefits for the first number of years. Climate risk reduction at community level

5 10 4. Adopt an integrated approach Climate change comprises many dimensions that affect different sectors and aspects of people s lives. It is rarely the only cause of change, and often just one of many risks that people and communities face. It may not be helpful, therefore, to single out climate change risks in community development and risk reduction strategies. Traditional knowledge and scientific information must come together if appropriate solutions are to be found to reduce vulnerability. Moreover, traditional risk reduction solutions often provide a solid base to build upon and will be sustainable. Traditional knowledge is deeply rooted. Climate change risks must be integrated into existing institutions, planning processes and programmes. Integration may be difficult because climate change is a new issue and other issues are pressing. It will require time, dialogue and a balance of short and long term benefits. New partnerships are needed to tackle climate risk. These could involve development and disaster reduction actors, researchers, and policy makers at local, national and international levels. Practitioners and academics together can effectively capture, document and disseminate experiences and lessons. A way forward These lessons and methods should be disseminated among the development and disaster risk reduction communities to enable testing, refining and replicating of these early experiences. This will contribute to increasing the coping capacity of vulnerable communities, and to increasing knowledge about community-level risk reduction. The lessons presented will be useful to organisations working on disaster risk reduction at the community level, development practitioners interested in climate risks, and climate change adaptation practitioners. New financing opportunities for community-based climate risk reduction, through the UNFCCC climate change funds, the Small Grant Programme of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and bilateral mechanisms could stimulate the development of similar programmes. Such support mechanisms will need to be fine tuned for communities, and information about them properly disseminated. Plugging these unique practical experiences into policy and funding discussions will enable approaches that reflect the realities of people coping with climate change, and concrete interventions that effectively reduce vulnerabilities to climate change.

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