An Approach that Works at Multiple Levels

Submitted by Andrew Maclean | published 30th Mar 2011 | last updated 31st Mar 2011

Climate change is rapidly moving communities beyond their capacity to cope, and so while working at a community level is necessary, on its own it is not a sufficient response to support effective adaptation. In addition, climate change is a long-term issue for people living in poverty, irrespective of the outcome of international negotiations, and so the state will play an increasing and fundamental role in reducing communities’ vulnerability to climate change. To give some examples:

•Increasing temperatures will soon take some crops beyond their physiological limits (e.g., maize in Southern Africa). Developing heat-tolerant varieties is not something that can be done by each community, and so influencing agricultural research and extension to develop varieties that are appropriate for smallholders will be a critical part of adaptation.

•Rains and seasons are becoming increasingly unpredictable, meaning that traditional techniques for deciding when to cultivate, sow, and harvest are becoming increasingly ineffective. Supporting meteorological services to work with farmers to allow access to reliable, appropriate, and appropriately communicated forecasts can play an enormous role in maintaining and increasing smallholders’ yields.

Listed below are ways of working that could take place with local and national government and at an international level to help enable communities to adapt to climate change (there are of course other levels, such as provincial and regional, but it may not be feasible to work at all of these at the same time).

Local government

Working with local government (such as municipal or district) is critical because it is this level that implements (and to some extent influences) many government policies. It is also the level at which the impacts of climate change are most clearly manifested. Based on an analysis of climate change impacts and the adaptation interventions that will help communities, Oxfam can help integrate local adaptation through:

•Collation of local information on climate impacts and local adaptation responses to raise awareness of the issues and solutions;

•Provision of human, financial, and technical resources and services to support local adaptation.

National government

This is the level at which strategic decisions are taken to create an enabling environment for affected communities. It is also at this level where medium- to long-term development and poverty-reduction strategies are established. To facilitate the integration of adaptation nationally Oxfam should advocate for a number of priority actions to be taken. These include:

•Commissioning national assessments of climate change impacts, vulnerabilities, and adaptation options;

•Working with different parts of government to support a ‘whole-government’ approach (climate change is typically the formal responsibility of the Ministry of Environment, which often has little influence over other parts of government);

•Incorporating considerations of climate change risks within long-term visions, and strategies for poverty reduction and sustainable development;

•Holding government to account for the development and implementation of adaptation policies for vulnerable communities;

•Ensuring that vulnerable people, and especially women living in poverty, are represented in decision-making.

International level

Oxfam has focused its international campaigning and advocacy work on the UNFCCC Conference/Meeting of Parties in Copenhagen (December 2009). This is the meeting that has the potential to agree a global reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation) and the size and management of funding for adaptation. Whether a successful deal is reached or not, holding the international community to account for providing adequate adaptation funds will for decades remain a vital and continuing part of reducing poverty and vulnerability, either for Oxfam directly or for local civil society networks that we support that are working on climate change.

Source: Introduction to Climate Change Adaptation: A Learning Companion. Oxfam Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation Resources