Box 75 Climatechange adaptation and local government

Threats and opportunities presented by climate change are typically focused at a local scale; and it makes sense for local authorities, including mayors, to consider adaptive responses. Climate change can threaten lives, property, environmental quality and future prosperity by increasing the risk of storms, flooding, landslides, heatwaves and drought and by overloading water, drainage and energy supply systems.

Local governments around the world already play a part in climate-change mitigation, but they can also play a role in adaptation (see Chapter 14, Section 14.5.1; Chapter 18, Section 18.7.2), as guarantors of public services and as facilitators, mobilising stakeholders - such as local businesses, developers, utilities, insurers, educational institutions and community organisations - to contribute their technical and even financial resources to a joint initiative, such as the one formed for London (London Climate Change Partnership, 2004).

In many cases, in fact, good governance is a key to climate-change risk management strategies. For example, effective zoning can prevent the encroachment of housing on slopes prone to erosion and landslides; and adequate investment in and maintenance of infrastructure will make the settlement less vulnerable to weather extremes.

regional water supply planning and infrastructure development (Rosenzweig and Solecki, 2001a; Bulkeley and Betsill, 2003). Often, settlements exist in a splintered political landscape that makes coherent collaborative adaptation strategies difficult to contemplate. Policy responses and planning decisions are also hampered by the reactive nature of much policymaking and by the failure to co-ordinate across relevant professional disciplines, related mainly to current obvious problems, when climate change is viewed as a long-term issue with considerable uncertainty.

One approach for improving the understanding of how settlements may respond to climate-change impacts is to consider 'analogues' - circumstances in recent history when those settlements have confronted other environmental management challenges. In Vietnam for example villagers have been forced over the centuries to clean, repair and strengthen their irrigation channels and sea dykes before the start of every annual tropical storm season (UNISDR, 2004). In many cases, settlements have acted under the pressure of immediate crises to seek solutions by going beyond their own borders. Cities such as Mexico City have both drawn upon water from and sent sewage water to hinterlands outside their boundaries to deal with weather-related water scarcity and floods. These actions have imposed externalities on those hinterlands (Romero Lankao, 2006).

7.6.6 Social issues

There has been a recent shift in perceptions of how settlements and society can better adapt to climate related disasters, away from humanitarian and post-disaster actions toward more anticipatory integrative risk reduction measures that include environmental management, structural measures, protection of critical facilities, land-use planning, financial instruments and early warning systems (UNISDR, 2004). These strategies recognise (a) linkages between risks, vulnerability and development, (b) the importance of creating community assets and capacity to face sudden and slow onset disasters, (c) the key role of a democratic implementation of such strategies, and (d) the need to relate those actions to sustainability goals (UNISDR, 2004; Velásquez, 2005). This approach is practised successfully in countries such as the Philippines, Bangladesh, India, Cuba, Vietnam, Malaysia, Switzerland and France (UNISDR, 2004). In Manizales and Medellin, Colombia, and Uganda, for example, the economic damage and death toll due to landslides and floods has diminished noticeably, thanks to actions such as reforestation, improved drainage systems, poverty reduction and decentralisation of risk avoidance planning (Velásquez, 2005). On the other hand, the experience of a disaster is likely to reduce the adaptive capacity of the affected society for a time; adaptive capacity is often reduced during periods of recovery.

The most difficult challenges occur when decision makers lack training and access to information about climate-change implications, risk management and possible responses, when fiscal constrains limit local flexibility, and when infrastructure, technological and institutional capacities for coping with any major challenge are inadequate (UN-Habitat, 2003). However, in the best-case scenarios, policy focusing on adaptation has the potential to create positive synergies between outcomes (better managed natural and social systems) and processes (governance that promotes democratic decision making, participatory management strategies, equity, transparency and accountability), which in turn will result in more resilient systems (UNISDR, 2004; Adger et al., 2005b).

Yet adaptation is not limited to purposeful actions to reduce societies' sensibility to climate change, alter the exposure of the system to it, and increase the resilience of the system to it (Smit et al., 2000). It also includes spontaneous actions which can be implemented at different scales, from individuals to systems, and are not uniform. Individual adaptations may not produce systemic adaptation, and adaptation at a system level may not benefit all individuals (Thomas and Twyman, 2005). Indeed, some adaptations (e.g., warning systems) may not reach poor communities or not fit their information needs (Ferguson, 2003). They may increase the vulnerability of some peoples and places. For example, coastal planning for increased erosion rates includes engineering decisions that potentially impact neighbouring coastal settlements through sediment transport and other physical processes (Adger et al., 2006). As climate change and adaptation becomes a widespread need, there is likely to be competition for resources - investment in one place, sector or risk will reduce the funds available for others, and possibly reduce funding for other social needs (Winchester, 2000).

One challenge to both private (including businesses and NGOs) and public actors is how to build adaptive capacity in the context of current institutional reforms, new trade agreements and changing relationships between the private and public sectors (Lemos and Agrawal, 2003), including roles of environmental organisations. On the one hand, the emergence of new governance structures at the global level (such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change -UNFCCC) and across the public-private divide (such as public-private partnerships) has provided new tools for policy design and implementation that may build adaptive capacity (Mitchell and Romero Lankao, 2004; Sperling and Szekely, 2005; Eakin and Lemos, 2006). On the other hand, a transfer of authority from the state to lower levels (through decentralisation and privatisation), in some cases related to developments with international regimes and organisations, may have diminished national government capacities to implement adaptation policies (Jessop, 2002; UN-Habitat, 2003). For example, while decentralisation in Latin America, in principle, allows for better decision-making at the local level, it also constrains the state's ability to regulate and distribute critical resources to adaptation (Eakin and Lemos, 2006). Similarly, West African pastoral Peulhs or Fulbes lost access to water and pastures at the hands of settled agricultural people who gained local power in the process of decentralisation (Van Dijk et al., 2004). In contrast, the design of participatory, integrated and decentralised institutions such as in Brazil's recent water reform is likely to build adaptive capacity to climate change in settlements and societies by improving availability and access to technology, involving stakeholders, and encouraging sustainable resource use (Lemos and Oliveira, 2004).

Adaptive capacity is highly uneven across human societies (Adger et al., 2005a, 2006). Among communities that rely on the exploration of natural resources, adaptation practices may benefit some parts of the community more than others. Even within countries with seemingly high capacities to adapt (based on aggregate national indicators for GDP, education levels and technology), there are likely to be some regions and groups that face barriers and constraints to adaptation (O'Brien et al., 2006). For a discussion of strategies for reducing vulnerabilities of the poor to climate change through adaptation, see UNDP et al. (2003).

Among rural communities in Africa and Latin America, one strategy to build adaptive capacity has been to diversify livelihood strategies (Thomas andTwyman, 2005; Eakin, 2006). Rural settlements can cope with a seasonal downturn in rainfall or a mid-season drought by moving livestock, harvesting water, shifting crop mixes and migrating (Scoones et al., 1996); however, without occasional high rainfall periods, and without institutional support, longer-term livelihood sustainability is severely compromised (Eakin, 2006; Eakin and Lemos, 2006). Measures focussed on reducing poverty and increasing access to resources (e.g., the referred landslide management programmes) may enhance the resilience of affected communities or economic sectors.

7.6.7 Key adaptation issues

The central issues for adaptation to climate change by industry, settlements and society are (a) impact types and magnitudes and their associated adaptation requirements, (b) potential contributions by adaptation strategies to reducing stresses and impacts, (c) costs of adaptation strategies relative to benefits, and (d) limits of adaptation in reducing stresses and impacts under realistically conceivable sets of policy and investment conditions (Downing, 2003). Underlying all of these issues, of course, is the larger issue of the adaptive capacity of a population, a community, or an organisation: the degree to which it can (or is likely to) act, through individual agency or collective policies, to reduce stresses and increase coping capacities (Chapter 17). In many cases, this capacity differs significantly between developing and developed countries, and it may differ considerably among locations, economic sectors and populations even within the same region (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005).

Many of the possibly-impacted activities and groups addressed by this chapter are capable of being highly adaptable over time, given information to inform awareness of possible risks and opportunities and financial and human resources for responses (Chapter 17). In some cases, adaptations to possible climate changes can offer opportunities for positive impacts, especially where those actions also address other adaptive management issues (Chapter 20). The knowledge base on disaster response suggests that a number of approaches may be helpful in enhancing and facilitating adaptive behaviour: systems to provide advance warning of changes, especially extreme events; institutional structures that facilitate collective action and provide external linkages; economic systems that offer access to alternatives; increased attention to adaptive structures that are locally appropriate, geographically and/or sectorally; contingency planning and risk financing, which may include strategic stockpiles; incorporating climate-change vulnerability into land-use planning and environmental management for the long term; public awareness/capacity building regarding risks of climate-change impacts; and in some cases physical facility investment, such as flood walls, beach restoration or emergency shelters.

Although the research literatures on adaptation prospects for industry, settlement and society are as yet rather limited, it appears that:

1. Prospects for adaptation depend on the magnitude and rate of climate change: adaptation is more feasible when climate change is moderate and gradual than when it is massive and/or abrupt. However, actual adaptation strategies and measures are often triggered by relatively extreme weather events (high confidence).

2. Climate-change adaptation strategies are inseparable from increasingly strong and complex global linkages. Industrial planning, human settlements and social development are not isolated from changes in other systems or scales. The urban and rural are interconnected, as are developed and developing societies. This issue is becoming more salient as the globalised economy becomes more interdependent. Adaptation decisions for local activities owned or controlled by external systems involve different processes from adaptation decisions for local activities that are under local control (high confidence).

3. Climate change is one of many challenges to human institutions to manage risks. In any society, institutions have developed risk management mechanisms for such purposes, from family and community self-help to insurance and reinsurance. It is not clear whether, where and to what degree existing risk management structures are adequate for climate change; but these institutions have considerable potential to be foundations for a number of kinds of adaptations (high confidence).

4. Adaptation actions can be effective in achieving their specific goals, but they may have other effects as well. These might be unintended consequences (e.g., increased flood risk downstream), reducing support for mitigation (e.g., higher energy demand with air-conditioning), or reducing resources available to address vulnerabilities elsewhere (e.g., budget constraints affecting other development goals). The benefits of adaptation may be delayed or not realised at all, for example, when design standards are raised to protect against a storm of a certain magnitude that does not occur for another fifty years, if then (medium confidence).

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