Climate change adaptation and mitigation: harnessing local capacities

Durban, South Africa, 5 December, 2011: Storms and typhoons are battering the community of Da Loc in coastal Vietnam on an increasingly frequent and intense basis. In 2005, Typhoon Damrey forced some 330,000 evacuees from their homes in Vietnam alone, with regional damages resulting at US$1.2 billion.

Almost seven years later Da Loc commune continues to suffer the impacts of the saltwater Damrey swept several kilometers inland, destroying rice fields and seeping into fresh water wells.  In the wake of this disaster one thing was clear: those areas that had been buffered by mangrove forests were left relatively unscathed. Those that did not continue to experience the repercussions.

With support from CARE International, the community established mangrove forests along the mudflats lining Da Loc and were awarded some of the country’s initial mangrove community forestry certificates. In addition to the protective functions the mangroves play in extreme climate events, they serve as a tremendous carbon sink. While this was not an underlying objective in the planting of the mangroves, which was foremost an adaptive strategy, it serves as a powerful ‘additionality’ contributing strongly to mitigation aims.

Adaptation and mitigation have long been treated in isolation at international levels, in sectoral planning and in academic discourse. At local levels however, they are often two sides of the same coin.

As we resign ourselves to the need not only to reduce our carbon emissions, but to adapt the way we live and sustain ourselves in the context of climate variability, it is becoming clear that the distinctions between adaptation and mitigation are blurred.  Moving forward we must seek to link and harness the synergies between these two approaches, particularly when considering entry points offered by REDD+.

As Bruno Locatelli, CIFOR scientist and leading researcher on the link between forests and climate change adaptation, notes:

Adaptation and mitigation can clearly work together in forest projects. Adaptation can increase the local legitimacy and acceptance of REDD+ projects, because adaptation is focusing on local needs, whereas mitigation is sometimes perceived as driven by global interests.”

On the other hand, according to Locatelli, adding mitigation components to adaptation projects can bring new funding opportunities from carbon funds or markets.

These sentiments were echoed at the REDD-net side event on December 2nd at COP17 on the synergies and tradeoffs between adaptation and mitigation.  Panelist Resham Dangi, Joint Secretary of Nepal’s Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, pointed out that while the potential for adaptation and mitigation initiatives to be mutually enhancing is compelling, the implementation of this and its effectiveness is highly context dependent.

Unraveling site-specific dynamics is no small feat, but will be necessary to strengthen the positive contributions of mitigation to adaptation and vice versa, as well as avoid negative tradeoffs between them.  Local communities understand the intricacies of local contexts better than do outsiders, regardless of how much technical expertise they bring.

The key to maximizing potential synergies between adaptation and mitigation lies with harnessing the capacities and wealth of knowledge at local levels.

Written by Regan Suzuki, REDD-net Asia Pacific Coordinator, RECOFTC at Durban, South Africa for the COP17. Read more about RECOFTC’s presence at Durban on our website, and check back for more blogs from the conference!

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  2. Climate change adaptation and mitigation: harnessing local ... | adapting to climate change | Scoop.it
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