Opportunities cobenefits and challenges for adaptation

This section extends some of the ideas outlined in Najam et al. (2003); they focus on mainstreaming climate-change adaptation into planning and development decisions with particular emphasis on participatory processes.

20.8.1 Challenges and opportunities for mainstreaming adaptation into national, regional and local development processes

An international opportunity for mainstreaming adaptation into national, regional and local development processes has recently emerged with the community approach to disaster management adopted by the World Conference on Disaster Reduction held in Kobe, Hyogo, Japan in January 2005 (Hyogo Declaration, 2005). This approach is described in, for example, UNCRD (2003). The results of an action research and pilot activity undertaken during 2002 to 2004 (APJED, 2004) have been reported, albeit on a limited scale in Bangladesh, India and Nepal, with support from World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and Global Water Partnership (GWP). The pilot activity focused on community approaches to flood management, and found that a community flood management committee formed in a local area, working in co-operation with the relevant local government and supported by national government policy, can significantly reduce adverse consequences of floods. There are, however, many challenges. Progress in carrying out analyses and identifying what needs to be and can be done can be documented, but action on the ground to mainstream adaptation to climate change remains limited, particularly in the least developed countries. National policy making in this context remains a major challenge that can only be met with increased international funding for adaptation and disaster management (Ahmad and Ahmed, 2002; Jegillos, 2003; Huq et al., 2006).

Socio-economic and even environmental policy agendas of developing countries do not yet prominently embrace climate change (Beg et al., 2002) even though most developing countries participate in various international protocols and conventions relating to climate change and sustainable development and most have adopted national environmental conservation and natural disaster management policies. Watson International Scholars of the Environment (2006) has offered some suggestions for improved mainstreaming within multilateral environmental agreements; they include fostering links with poverty reduction and increasing support designed to engage professionals, researchers and governments at local levels in developing countries more directly.

Even as economic growth is pursued, progress towards health, education, training and access to safe water and sanitation, and other indicators of social and environmental progress including adaptive capacity remains a significant challenge. It can be addressed through appropriate policies and commitment to ending poverty (WSSD, 2002; Sachs, 2005). Strengthened linkages between government and people, and the consequent capacity building at local levels, are key factors for robust progress towards sustainability at the grassroots (Jegillos, 2003). Social and environmental (climate change) issues are, however, often left resource-constrained and without effective institutional support when economic growth takes precedence (UNSEA, 2005).

20.8.2 Participatory processes in research and practice

Participatory processes can help to create dialogues that link and mutually instruct researchers, practitioners, communities and governments. There are, however, challenges in applying these processes as a methodology for using dialogue and narrative (i.e., communication of quantitative and qualitative information) to influence social learning and decision-making, including governance.

Knowledge about climate-change adaptation and sustainable development can be translated into public policy through processes that generate usable knowledge. The idea of usable knowledge in climate assessments stems from the experiences of national and international bodies (academies, boards, committees, panels, etc.) that offer credible and legitimate information to policymakers through transparent multi-disciplinary processes (Lemos and Morehouse, 2005). It requires the inclusion of local knowledge, including indigenous knowledge (see Box 20.1), to complement more formal technical understanding generated through scientific research and the consideration of the role that institutions and governance play in the translation of scientific information into effective action.

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