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Caribbean communities on the front lines of climate change adaptation

Photo Credit: Stuart Claggett

Newly-released analysis from CDKN has identified a series of approaches to help community-level organisations to increase climate resilience. The analysis focusses on the Caribbean, but has widely applicable lessons for community-based adaptation in other parts of the world. Will Bugler and Olivia Palin explain further:

The research acknowledges that the success of adaptation measures is highly dependent on local context, and shows how multi-level governance approaches can deliver locally-appropriate adaptation actions. By using approaches and methods such as network analysis, community-based vulnerability assessments and a ‘local adaptive capacity framework’, the research suggests that communities can improve the efficacy of climate action at the local level. What’s more the analysis also finds that more co-ordinated action at the local level can lead to increased influence on regional and national decision making.

The new analysis draws on outputs from three CDKN-funded projects spanning a decade’s worth of applied research in the Caribbean region. A summary of the findings is presented in a single ‘knowledge package’, comprising a policy brief, an infographic and a short video. This provides an overview of the multi-level governance approach, and illustrative examples of how it has been applied in Caribbean countries including Jamaica and Saint Lucia.

The key messages from the knowledge package are:

  1. Adapting to climate change is, to a large extent, a local process. Effective solutions to climate challenges should be sensitive to local context.
  2. Multi-stakeholder, multi-level governance approaches are increasingly recognised as best practice for local adaptation.
  3. Local networks of stakeholders can be analysed and shaped to maximise their effectiveness for dealing with external shocks like those from climate impacts.
  4. Community-based approaches to understanding local vulnerability and adaptive capacity can provide useful insight for climate resilience building.
  5. Such approaches also stimulate conversation at the local level, raising awareness and understanding of climate change.
  6. Local level approaches are not effective in isolation, and require good links with regional and national government to maximise their impact.
  7. CDKN funded research offers tools and methods for analysing networks, assessing vulnerability and scaling up local action.

The package consists of an information brief, video and infographic. To access these and to find out more about the research on which they were based visit: www.cdkn.org/caribbean.

Credit: Climate & Development Knowledge Network (CDKN)

Caribbean communities take on climate change

Children playing in the water at sunset in the harbour of St. George’s, Grenada, November 27, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

When powerful storms tear through the islands of the Caribbean, it’s often fishing families and famers in coastal villages who bear the brunt of flooding and damage – and it’s those same people who can help lead climate change adaptation, say experts.

Across the region, decision makers are realising a top-down approach isn’t always the way forward, and often those who live and work in high-risk areas – whether they grow coffee, run small businesses or work as tour guides – best understand the particular issues they face, and have ideas about how to tackle them.

Those local insights can positively shape policy at a national level in the climate-vulnerable tropical island nations, a discussion hosted by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) heard this week.

“It’s saying ‘this is a two-way street, a two-way conversation’,” said Will Bugler, a senior consultant at Acclimatise, who gave a rundown of Caribbean climate change adaptation tools and research.

But local efforts alone are not enough, and communities need strong links with regional and national governments so they can draw on their expertise, influence and spending power.

The problem is that linking up groups with different levels of understanding – and sometimes competing interests – can make hammering out climate resilience strategies a long and frustrating process, according to a report published by CDKN.

Today, a raft of sophisticated new technologies harnessing high-quality data on climate and weather patterns are being used to develop community vulnerability assessments and help companies, governments and development banks inject climate change resilience into their plans.

Sharon Lindo, policy advisor at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), said Grenada was one country now consulting CCORAL, an online tool highlighting climate change vulnerabilities, before making policy decisions. Some regional banks are using it as part of their risk assessment processes, she added.

“What that showed us was that just a small incremental cost makes the investment climate-resilient,” Lindo told the webinar.

DATA GAPS

While these tools can be used to track multiple scenarios – such as the chance of storm damage, drought or even dengue outbreaks – there are still gaps in the data, as some of the tiny islands scattered across the Caribbean lack comprehensive monitoring.

A planned project to install additional monitoring stations could start to fill in the picture, said Dr. Ulric Trotz, CCCCC’s Deputy Director and Science Advisor, who highlighted the need for well-documented environmental data to go with meteorological information.

“If we want to really target agriculture… and watershed management appropriately, we need to also have stations within areas on these smaller islands to really capture that data that can feed into the model and give a more robust analysis,” said Trotz.

And in climate-vulnerable countries, it seems you’re never too young to learn about the impact climate change may have on your future. A pilot project in Belize is trying to integrate climate change into the curriculum for schoolchildren, said Trotz.

“Individual countries could start initiatives in schools. We’re particularly keen on … introducing a system of school gardening right across the region,” he said.

With this, students could find out about new techniques like drip irrigation, greenhouse cultivation and aquaponics, he added.

Credit: Thomas Reuters Foundation News
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