Why we need to globalize locally-led climate resilience

By High-Level Climate Action Champions for COP26 and COP27, Nigel Topping & Mahmoud Mohieldin | May 3, 2022
  • Communities across the world are coming up with locally-led solutions to help communities adapt to the impacts of climate change.
  • The challenge of the decade is how to support and finance climate resilience initiatives at a global scale, urgently.
  • Economy-wide collaboration will enable us to globalize locally-led climate adaptation, without losing the local focus.

People around the world are coming up with locally-tailored ways to help communities adapt to the impacts of climate change and thrive in spite of worsening droughts, floods, diseases, heat, cold, storms and other changes.

The challenge of the 2020s is to bridge the need to support and finance this on-the-ground work with the need to build climate resilience at a global scale, urgently.

Resilience varies according to local conditions, cultures, ecosystems, industries and impacts. One community may need early warning systems, another to diversify its crops, another to restore its mangroves.

Locally-led solutions for global climate resilience

Perhaps as a result, climate adaptation work has not drawn as much finance and attention as emission reduction projects. This needs to change. We need to pool locally-led solutions into global coalitions that share single messages – for example, on regenerative agriculture or mangrove restoration – without losing sight of how to apply these solutions locally, worldwide.

Uniting as a single force like this will give the people and organizations working to build resilience greater clout to influence multilateral agreements, investments, business strategies and local government policies worldwide, and share lessons and innovations.

The UN-backed Race to Resilience is already working to foster collaboration and amplify those overarching messages. Launched last year by the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions, the campaign mobilizes businesses, investors, cities and regions behind robust efforts to build resilience by 2030 for the 4 billion people who are most at risk from climate change, and sets metrics to measure progress.

Understanding of resilience work increasing

The global understanding of climate resilience work is growing. People living with and adapting to the impacts of climate change were given a new platform from which to share their experiences at last year’s UN COP26 in Glasgow, at the Resilience Hub. Its events made clear that the most pressing climate concern for many is the need to build resilience to the losses and shocks they are already undergoing.

We heard, for example, about how the YAKKUM Emergency Unit in Indonesia is working with local women’s groups to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change, assess the challenges, and allow them to come up with actions. YAKKUM then helps them access funding, with benefits extending to the families and communities that these women support.

We heard about how The Gambia’s Mansakonko Area Council is helping make young people and women more employable, increase their access to finance and technical training, and create jobs. The money goes to much-needed projects such as building bridges, creating gardens and maintaining roads – and management remains local.

And we learned about how the Homeless People’s Federation in the Philippines has built new housing and communities for people displaced by typhoons. It works with academics and architects to construct cost-effective homes that can withstand typhoon winds and cut emissions. Local governments now consult the federation on flood protection, city shelter planning and local economic development.

These conversations will carry on at the Resilience Hub at November’s COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. Many worry, however, that while these voices are being listened to, they aren’t being acted on.

More action needed on climate resilience

This is true – there is still a need to strengthen the nexus between political decisions and the initiatives forming across cities, regions, civil society, funders and the private sector. But action in the real economy will spur more ambition from governments.

Businesses, investors, cities and regions jump out ahead, leading governments to raise their targets, in turn allowing the private sector, cities and regions to go further and faster, and so on in an ambition loop.

The ambition loop is already pushing up targets to cut emissions across the economy. Now it needs to extend to resilience. Mitigation will prevent further impacts, but it won’t suffice because we already live in an era of climate change and losses.

Up to 3.6 billion people are highly vulnerable to climate change, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s scientific report in February. Millions are exposed to food and water shortages, and physical and mental health is deteriorating as a result of extreme heat, the increased spread of disease and trauma.

Invest in climate resilience to minimise losses

These losses must remain central to all our efforts to tackle climate change this decade. We can minimize future losses and damages by investing in climate resilience and ensuring that the most vulnerable can recover more rapidly from disaster, for example by mobilizing risk finance and improving disaster relief readiness.

Initiatives like this are cropping up, many through the Race to Resilience. The Global Resilience Index will improve the way insurers, financiers and investors measure the resilience of countries, companies and supply chains.

The Scale for Resilience initiative aims to provide 3 million smallholder farmers with access to nature-based solutions and the conditions to finance them, while the Developing Risk Awareness Through Joint Action project uses data, telecommunications and local media to improve weather and information services, including early warning systems, in Tanzania and Kenya.

The Glasgow Climate Pact calls for cities, regions, businesses and investors to do more to address losses and damages. In response, the High-Level Champions will convene meetings over the year to identify actions from non-state actors that address climate related losses.

Through this kind of economy-wide collaboration, we will begin to globalize locally-led climate resilience – without ever losing the local focus.

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