Adapting to Climate Change IIED

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  • 8/14/2019 Adapting to Climate Change IIED


    An IIED Briefng

    Published by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)


    Institute for

    Environment and



    Climate change is now very much with us, and or the poorest o the poor the implications are particularlydaunting. These oten remote or marginalised communities are so burdened they will struggle to meet the

    coming challenges. Adaptation learning to cope with rising temperature and other eects o climatechange is a difcult but essential task or these vulnerable millions. This briefng paper defnes climatechange adaptation and shows why it matters, who needs to adapt most, and what shape adaptation musttake across a range o scales and sectors.

    How we are set to cope with the impacts

    Hannah Reid and Saleemul Huq, IIED

    What is adaptation and why does it matter?

    Within the science community, there is now broad consensuson the reality o human-induced climate change. The expertpanel o scientists who make up the Intergovernmental Panel on

    Climate Change (IPCC) conclude, in their Fourth Assessment,that it is 90 to 99 per cent likely that the rise in globalatmospheric temperature since the mid-19th century has beencaused by human activity. The report predicts that the averageglobal temperature may rise by about 3 degrees Celsius by theend o the 21st century, while sea level could rise by as muchas 59 centimetres. Some projections point to summer seaice in the Arctic disappearing completely by the year 2100.Heatwaves and periods o heavy rainall are very likely tobecome more requent, but tropical cyclones, though theymay become more intense, could be less requent.

    There is now clear scientic evidence that climate change

    is real. But what can we do about it? In essence, there aretwo types o response. The rst, mitigation, involves reducingemissions o greenhouse gases to slow or stop the process oclimate change. The second, adaptation, is learning to copewith the temperature increases, foods and higher sea levelsassociated with climate change. (See the box on the back pageor a range o concepts and terms associated with adaptation.)

    The spotlight is now on adaptation or two reasons. First,people are realising that some climate change impacts areinevitable. Even i emissions o all greenhouse gases were tostop immediately, average temperatures would continue to

    rise or some time because o lags in the Earths naturalprocesses. As a result, adaptation and mitigation are not


    alternative strategies but rather, complementary ones: both needto be pursued together. Secondly, while scientists are clear onthe need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to stop globalwarming, action on the ground by politicians, businesses andindividuals has been slow. Inadequate mitigation thereore

    makes the need to adapt to climate change impacts all themore pressing.

    Who needs to adapt most?

    Climate change is a global problem, so all countries mustwork to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and learnhow to cope with the impacts o climate change. Developingcountries, however, have relatively small greenhouse gasemissions, so mitigation is less important or them. Adaptationis more relevant or poorer nations because o their relativevulnerability to the impacts o climate change, which stemspartly rom geographic location in areas such as drought-prone

    sub-Saharan Arica or food-prone Bangladesh. These countriesadaptive capacity is also lower than that o developedcountries because o their limited nancial resources, skills andtechnologies and high levels o poverty. Reliance on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture and shing is also high.

    The IPCC recognises the entire continent o Arica to be one othe most vulnerable to climatic variability and change becauseo multiple stresses, such as poverty, and its low adaptivecapacity. O Asia, the IPCC says that coasts, in particular thecrowded mega-delta regions o South, East and Southeast Asia,will be at greatest risk rom fooding rom the sea and, in some

    delta regions, rom rivers. The panel also cites small islands inboth the tropics and higher latitudes as especially vulnerable to

  • 8/14/2019 Adapting to Climate Change IIED


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    the eects o climate change, sea level rise and extreme events.Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are also identied by theUN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)as among the most at risk rom climate change, and as suchreceive support to identiy their most urgent adaptation needsthrough National Adaptation Programmes o Action (NAPAs).

    How is adaptation shaping up?

    International strategiesDeveloped countries that are party to the UNFCCC arerequired to help countries most at risk rom the eects oclimate change meet the costs o adaptation. A ully conceived,integrated and unctioning regime or adaptation, however,has yet to emerge. Progress has been made on identiyingvulnerable countries and regions and adaptation options,and there has been some capacity building to prepare oradaptation, but ew adaptation measures are in place. In partthis is due to limited unds. The costs o adaptation are likelyto be high, running at several billion dollars a year ordeveloping countries alone.

    Adaptation to climate change needs to be mainstreamed intodevelopment policy and practice at international and regionallevels. For example, meeting the Millennium DevelopmentGoals will become even more dicult as climate change bites.Ensuring that adaptation is a part o international agreementsis also important. For example, the ecosystem approachadvocated in the Convention on Biological Diversity in manyways demonstrates good adaptation practice. Investmentprojects rom bilateral or multilateral institutions and the privatesector need scrutinising and modiying to ensure they are bothclimate proo and climate riendly.

    National strategiesClimate risks need to be integrated into national developmentprojects and strategies. In most developing countries this willrequire greater institutional capacity. With a ew exceptions,most national policymakers are largely unaware o potentialimpacts o climate change in dierent sectors. As we haveseen, the LDCs are currently preparing NAPAs, which alongsideother national strategies and plans could help bring knowledgeon climate change impacts and adaptation into national policyand planning processes.

    While mainstreaming climate change risks into developmentpolicy (such as Poverty Reduction Strategy Processes) andpractice is needed, this demands a more strategic approach.Ensuring a country can adapt well to climate change goes wellbeyond the need to ensure that individual projects are climateproo. Vulnerability can be reduced or increased by the choiceo development path, and each country needs its own plansand institutions to ensure adaptation is both mainstreamed intodevelopment and actored in at a strategic planning level botho which demand unding.

    Local strategies

    Because the poor will suer most rom many adverse climatechange impacts, adaptation at the local level is essential.Climate change models at the local (and oten national) level

    Adaptation unding

    Several nancial mechanisms to support adaptation existunder the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol, particularlyin developing countries. The ollowing our unds containa total o over US$310 million to date:

    1. The Least Developed Countries Fund has alreadysupported the development o National AdaptationProgrammes o Action (NAPAs) and will likely assist theLeast Developed Countries (LDCs) to implement their

    NAPA projects. It is based on voluntary contributions romwealthy countries.

    2. The Special Climate Change Fund is or all developingcountries and covers adaptation and other activities. It isalso based on voluntary contributions.

    3. The Adaptation Fund is meant to support concreteadaptation activities. It is based on private sectorreplenishment though the 2 per cent levy on CleanDevelopment Mechanism projects (which channelcarbon-cutting energy investments nanced by companiesin developed countries into developing countries), plus

    voluntary contributions.

    4. The Strategic Priority on Adaptation containsUS$50 million rom the Global Environment Facilitysown trust unds to support pilot adaptation activities.

    A number o bilateral unding agencies in countriesincluding Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, theUnited Kingdom and the United States have allocatedunding or adaptation activities, including researchand some pilot projects. To date, bilateral donors haveprovided around US$110 million or over 50 adaptation

    projects in 29 countries.

    Towards climate-screened investment

    Climate change is not high on the agenda o mostinternational donor organisations and governments.The International Monetary Fund and World TradeOrganization, or instance, give it short shrit in theirprojects. As much as 50 to 65 per cent o developmentaid in Nepal was given to climate-sensitive sectors.

    Clearly, international donor agencies need to assess theextent to which their investment portolios in developingcountries might be at risk rom the eects o climatechange, and take steps to reduce that risk. Several bilateraland multilateral development agencies and NGOsrecognise this and are starting to take an interest. At leastsix donor agencies have screened their existing projectsto assess how they rate in actoring in climate risk andaddressing vulnerability to that context, and to identiyopportunities to incorporate climate change explicitlyinto uture projects.

  • 8/14/2019 Adapting to Climate Change IIED


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    are not very accurate. But a community that is vulnerable tocurrent climate variability is likely to be vulnerable to utureclimate change, so it is not always necessary to wait or moreaccurate local orecasts to start building adaptive capacity.Strengthening community institutions to help them providesocial saety nets and develop new coping mechanisms is a keyway orward.

    Adaptation in dierent sectors

    Many developing countries have a good core o proessionalplanners and managers operating in key sectors, but they areusually unaware o the potential impacts o climate changeon their respective sector. Climate risk assessment needs tobe incorporated into development activities by all o theseproessionals.

    Agriculture and ood securityThis sector is at great risk rom climate change in mostdeveloping countries. The IPCC states that in many Aricancountries and regions, agricultural production, including accessto ood, is projected to be severely compromised by climate

    variability and change. Adaptation activities include usingdrought-resistant crops, introducing new arming techniquesand diversiying income sources. India and Mali, or instance,are known or their strong agricultural proessionals, andintegrating climate change concerns into policy and planning isquite advanced in both, but in other countries less progress hasbeen made.

    Water resourcesThe IPCC states that in Arica by 2020, between 75 and 250million people are projected to be exposed to an increase owater stress due to climate change. The amount o knowledge

    on climate change impacts varies according to region, withmore in South Asia than in Arica. For example, Bangladeshis renowned or the quality and strength o its water resourcemanagers. Proessionals involved in planning and managingor irrigation, food management and drinking water provisionneed to incorporate climate change risk management into theirregular practices or designing water structures and measures.

    Coastal zone managementThis is an important sector in South Asia (Bangladesh andIndia in particular) as well as in the Gambia, Senegal andTanzania in Arica. Planning or sea-level rise and vulnerabilityto storms and cyclones are both important. Coastal cities such

    as Alexandria in Egypt, and Banjul in the Gambia, will beparticularly vulnerable.

    Disaster managementClimate-related disasters such as foods, cyclones and droughtsare recurring problems or developing countries. In mostcountries, institutions and plans to deal with early warning,relie, rehabilitation and recovery exist. Some are quitesuccessul (such as the cyclone warning system in Bangladesh),but many are inecient and unlikely to be able to cope withuture disasters exacerbated by climate change. Strengtheningnational and local capacity in disaster risk reduction and

    disaster management by working with existing structures(such as the Comprehensive Disaster Mitigation Programme inBangladesh) is essential.

    HealthThe potential impacts o climate change on human health arehuge but poorly understood. Christian Aid estimates that 182million people in sub-Saharan Arica will die o climate changerelated diseases beore the end o the century yet healthproessionals have little understanding o what health impacts to

    expect, and how to cope with them.

    Community-based adaptation: Cavite City,the Philippines

    As a coastal town, Cavite City is very vulnerable totropical cyclones, drought and sea level rise. Currentclimate-related problems include coastal erosion, siltationand sedimentation, storm surges and urban fooding,saltwater intrusion into water resources and degradationo water quality. Poor people, especially shers andshellsh armers, are aected most. Some autonomousadaptation has already occurred, including:

    Accommodating sea level rise by building houseson stiltsStrengthening the physical structure o housesMoving to saer places during calamitiesPlacing sandbags along the shorelinesBorrowing money rom relatives or acquiring high-interest loans rom money lendersEngaging in alternative income-generating activitieslocally or in other areasChanging occupation.

    Such strategies, however, are inadequate and noteectively integrated into local development plans.The government has also instigated adaptation activities,including relie assistance, resettlement and shorelineprotection. These have reduced the vulnerability o coastalhouseholds, but are inadequate and costly. Adaptationstrategies proposed by local people are mostly non-structural measures such as policy and institutionalreorms regarding coastal zone management, propertyrights, micro-nance/insurance schemes disaster riskmanagement, sheries/aquatic resource management

    and community-based adaptation. Local capacitydevelopment was also deemed important, as wasimproving knowledge management.

  • 8/14/2019 Adapting to Climate Change IIED


    CONTACT:Hannah Reid (IIED)


    3 Endsleigh Street, London WC1H 0DD, UK

    Tel: +44 (0)20 7388 2117 Fax: +44 (0)20 7388 2826


    The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) is an

    independent, nonprot research institute working in the eld of sustainable

    development. IIED aims to provide expertise and leadership in researching and

    achieving sustainable development at local, national, regional and global levels.



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