Adapting to A Changing Climate: Guide to Local Early Action Planning (LEAP) and Management Planning

Published: 7th April 2014 13:34Last Updated: 19th July 2016 11:01

This document is based on natural resource management planning guidance that was prepared in 2006 for the Pacific Islands Managed and Protected Area Community (PIMPAC), by Scott Atkinson of the Community Conservation Network. An updated version to include vulnerability assessments and climate change adaptation was developed through a collaborative process with community members, resource managers, conservation practitioners, representatives from various sectors (e.g. food security, fisheries, and disaster risk management) and climate experts in Micronesia. Through this process the initial draft was prepared in 2011 by Meghan Gombos of Sea Change Consulting, Scott Atkinson, as an independent contractor, and Dr. Supin Wongbusarakum, for The Nature Conservancy. It has since been modified over time based collective experience through trainings, field-testing by natural resource organizations and partners in communities throughout Micronesia, and advice from community practitioners and climate experts. Additionally, the US Coral Triangle Initiative Support Team adopted and adapted the tool for the Coral Triangle region to reflect regional needs for climate change adaptation.

A summarised version of the booklet is provided below, to download the full version, see the feeatured document in the right-hand column. Please note that this document is an updated version of the original (last updated in 2016).

About this guidebook

This guide is designed for practitioners working within and with local governments and communities that normally facilitate capacity development at the community or local level. The guide was developed to support facilitators in community-based processes and includes outreach material, key messages, and instructions for group exercises that support awareness and planning. This community-based Local Early Action Planning (LEAP) process will help you determine key actions to take to improve health and resilience of natural and social resources and reduce your vulnerability to climate change.

This guide is organized into Four Steps that include getting your team organized, raising awareness about climate change, collecting information about your community, and adaptation planning. Each step will help guide communities through a series of sessions and exercises to develop a Local Early Action Plan that identifies activities that can help lessen the impacts of climate change on their natural and social resources.

Steps include :
1. Step One: Getting Organized for Raising Awareness and Planning
2. Step Two: Understanding Climate Change and Your Climate Story
3. Step Three: Conducting a Threat and Vulnerability Assessment
4. Step Four: Developing Your Local Early Action Plan

The result of this process will be a Local Early Action Plan or LEAP document. The LEAP is intended to be a simple document of a few pages that can be used to guide actions that a community can take to start addressing existing threats and potential impacts from climate change.

There are very likely technical actions that may be identified that a community cannot pursue by itself. We highly recommend seeking expert advice before tackling any technical actions, such as enhancing shoreline protection through any physical structures. This guide does not provide advice on these issues, but focuses on supporting communities to start doing what they can as early actions. 

Some sessions of this planning process should be carried out by the entire community while for other sessions it will be more efficient to carry them out with a planning team only. Many communities may have already completed some or many of these steps for other planning processes. If your community has completed any of these steps or similar steps, be sure to gather this information and utilize it in the LEAP process. You may find it helpful to update materials such as community-maps that were generated during previous planning processes. For example, if you only need to carry out awareness, you can carry out Step Two only. Or if your community has already been through participatory and learning activities (such as mapping) or a resource management planning process (such as problem/solution tree), information and products from those activities can be used to support this process. You should collect and review the information from earlier planning efforts as a foundation for the exercises in this document. In some cases, you might need to collect additional information while in other cases you may find that you already have enough information and can skip an exercise instead of doing it again.

What is climate change?

Key messages

1. Human and natural activities are causing the earth’s temperature to increase, which is causing climate change.

2. Human causes are related to the burning of fuel, coal, oil, wood, etc. to power cars, trains, planes, factories, and agriculture which causes the release of gases that accumulate in the atmosphere.

3. Natural causes include forest fires and volcanic eruptions, which also release gases.

Why is climate change happening?

Image courtesy of SeaWeb

4. Once in the atmosphere, these gases form a sort of blanket that traps the heat from the sun. This warms the entire planet much like how a car parked in the sun with the windows rolled up gets hotter.

5. This increase in temperature causes changes in climate patterns around the world called “climate change”. This may include noticeable changes in the seasons in specific areas. For example, the rainy season may come later or be shorter as climate patterns change.

6. The climate has always changed over long periods of time in the earth’s history.

7. However, as the human population and industry have grown in the last 200 years, humans have burned more fuel thus releasing more gas. As a result, the amount of gas trapped in the atmosphere has increased, and the rate of warming has increased more rapidly than it would naturally. Humans are the main cause for this rapid change in temperature we are now experiencing

What changes and impacts are we noticing in our community

Diagram represents a community seasonal calender

The objective for this exercise is that people review the normal seasons and the major social and ecological events that happen in each season to understand changes in these seasons that may be occurring and the ecological and social impacts they are having. These types of changes may become more common as climate change continues.

Some of the questions to review include:

Question One: What are the normal seasons throughout the year? On the calendar, draw or list the normal weather conditions that dominate each season (rainy, dry, windy, waves, etc.) and other natural or social events that happen during each season (fruiting, turtle nesting, fish migration, harvesting).

Question Two: What changes have you noticed in the seasons? If the group has filled out a circular calendar they should list down any changes that they are observing next to the calendar on the Flipchart paper. If they are completing a table, have them draw an identical table below the first one and note the changes they see to each month. This method can be done each year to monitor changes in seasons over time.

Question Three: How might these changes impact things such as food, livelihoods, and health? Write these on the flipchart.

Question Four: What changes are of most concern and why? For example, the dry season lasts longer, or mango season is shorter which is a concern because it is a key crop for the community. Also note how long these changes have been noticed. Write these answers below the circular or table calendar.

Telling your climate story

This section will draw from information you’ve collected in the previous sub-steps to develop a climate story that reviews the history of climate events in the community and future climate scenarios to try to get an understanding of:

  • What climate events have happened in the past? 
  • How climate events and seasons are changing in the community? 
  • What resources have been impacted by climate events? 
  • What is likely to happen in the future? 
  • What climate events are of most concern to community members?

How will climate change impact a healthy and unhealthy community

A healthy community

A unhealthy community

  • Both communities with healthy and unhealthy resources will be impacted by these changes. 
  • For example, as air temperature rises, plants may become stressed in both communities. As sea temperatures rise, both communities may experience coral bleaching. As sea levels rise and if storms become more severe, both communities will experience storm surge. 
  • However, the community with healthier resources will be able to either withstand or recover from these impacts more successfully. This is called RESILIENCE. For example, plants in the healthy community may recover from heat stress while plants in the unhealthy community may die, more corals in the healthy community may survive coral bleaching where as the unhealthy community has weakened coral and less coral survival, and storm surges will cause more flooding and erosion in the unhealthy community due to lack of coastal vegetation to buffer the surge. The unhealthy community is more VULNERABLE to the impacts of climate change because the social and natural resources are already weakened.
  • Having healthy resources does not guarantee that these resources will survive the impacts of climate change; however, it provides a much higher chance that the resources can withstand or recover from impacts thus helping to protect and provide benefits to the community in the long-term.

What can communities do to make a difference?

Key Messages

There are lots of things that a community can do to improve the health of their natural and social resources and reduce the impacts of Climate Change. These communities are taking action:

1. Namdrik Atoll, Marshall Islands: Threats the community is experiencing are accelerated rates of coastal erosion, severe droughts in the past ten years that threaten drinking water supplies, and decline in fisheries. Actions the community is taking are: 1) completed a “vulnerability assessment” and “management and adaptation planning” process; 2) planted vegetation around coastline to stabilize the shoreline; 3) installed household water tanks to catch rainwater for consumption; and 4) establishing marine protected areas to protect important food fish and other marine life that are important to them.

2. Ngarchelong Community, Palau: Threats the community is experiencing are mass bleaching of coral reefs occurred in ‘97/98, concerns that high water temperatures and bleaching coral could lead to the large-scale death of coral reefs and have a negative impact on the fisheries, tourism, and local way of life. Actions the community is taking include working with State government, local conservation groups, and scientists to establish a marine managed area that is designed to support the resilience of the coral reef and fisheries over time. The community planning team is considering climate change in the design and planning of the MMA, recommending additional levels of protection to areas that have shown resilience and/or recovery to past bleaching events, as well as important fish spawning aggregations.

3. Tegua Community, Vanuatu: The community of Tegua was located very close to the high-water mark on a low-lying atoll. The community had to stay in the same area as they shared one water tank and relied on freshwater springs at low tides despite the fact that these sources did not supply sufficient water for consumption and bathing. Threats the community experienced include regular inundation from tidal surges, increased erosion of the islands, flooding that created health problems from mosquitoes and water-borne diseases, and water scarcity because they had only one water tank and depended on freshwater springs at low tide for drinking and bathing water. Actions the community took involved relocating to higher ground and rebuilding homes. The community is confident in their decision and have no regrets. They no longer experience any of the flooding or water shortages like they did in the old location. They also installed several water tanks in the community, which resulted in an increase in the freshwater supply per family and health benefits from the ability to bath regularly in fresh water.

Suggested citation

Gombos, M., S. Atkinson, and, S. Wongbusarakum 2013. Adapting To A Changing Climate: Guide To Local Early Action Planning (LEAP) And Management Planning. Micronesia Conservation Trust: Pohnpei,
Federated States of Micronesia. 99 pp.