Empowering local communities defends against climate change

05 December 2011 | International news release

Durban, South Africa, 5 December 2011 (IUCN) — The world’s poorest people are on the frontlines of climate change, with everything to lose and little to cushion the blow of its far-reaching impacts. A new position paper by the Ecosystems and Livelihoods Adaptation Network (ELAN) illustrates how empowering local communities to pursue sustainable livelihoods while managing their natural resources can contribute to better adaptation in the face of climate change.

The paper, titled Integrating Community and Ecosystem-based Approaches in Climate Change Adaptation Responses, is part of a partnership that includes IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), Care International, the International Institute for Environment and Development and WWF (World Wildlife Fund). It asserts that integrating approaches to adaptation based on promoting human rights and on restoring and conserving natural resources can offer many complementary benefits for people and the ecosystems on which they depend. For example, supporting investments in nature-based solutions – such as using mangrove barriers to reinforce sea dykes – can be a cost-effective way to defend against climate change impacts, increase the resilience of local communities, and complement existing adaptation measures to reinforce their sustainability over the long-term.

“Climate change poses one of the greatest threats in history to the realization of sustainable development, as climate hazards are increasingly impacting vulnerable human communities and ecosystems,” says Carina Bachofen, IUCN, Global Coordinator of ELAN. “This paper looks at ways to better integrate Community-based Adaptation (CbA) and Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA)—two approaches to adaptation which, up until now, have been seen as separate and even antagonistic.”

Given the many similarities in practice between the emerging two adaptation approaches, as well as the scale, complexity and urgency of the challenges climate change delivers, increased collaboration and joint learning between CbA and EbA professionals must be achieved. ELAN partners advocate for EbA and CbA practitioners to work together to integrate these approaches and mainstream adaptation into decentralized development, as well as into conservation and disaster risk management planning processes. For example, conserving and restoring woodlands can protect against landslides and floods triggered by intense rainstorms, while also ensuring that people have continued access to the vital forest products such as fruits and firewood that support their livelihoods.

“No single organization can do everything,” says Pascal Girot, Senior Climate Change Advisor for Latin America and the Caribbean, CARE International. “The need for enhanced cross-sectoral partnerships and rapid learning to promote integrated approaches to adaptation must be recognized if we are to enhance adaptation thinking and practice. This entails building on community innovation and sharing successes as well as challenges from experience with adaptation around the world.”

Significant opportunities exist for professionals from the development and conservation sectors to generate and share knowledge on “doing” adaptation differently by integrating community-based and ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation—vital for informing planning processes that can manage climate variability and change. States meeting at the UN Climate Change Summit in Durban at the end of November must recognize the need to help people adapt while at the same time restoring and conserving the structure and functions of the world’s natural resources.

For more information, please contact:

• Brian Thomson, IUCN Media Relations, m SA +27 74 186 8665, m CH +41 79 721 8326, e brian.thomson@iucn.org
• Daniel Shaw, Communications Officer, m SA +27 74 184 7969, m CH +41 79 345 1404, e daniel.shaw@iucn.org
• Maggie Roth, IUCN Media Relations, m +1 202 262 5313, e maggie.roth@iucn.org