Using intermediaries

Knowledge for Action: Overcoming barriers for a successful adaptation

By 12 December 2017

Anyone who has been at a COP (the annual meeting of the decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or UNFCCC), or who follows it through social media or news, knows how difficult it is to cover everything that is happening. Every day, hundreds of events, meetings, discussions, and debates are taking place at the same time, which results in the loss of some very important information. This also happens at a higher level: the lack of information and access to high-quality data and information promotes the maladaptation of individuals, communities, and countries, and impedes the successful scaling up of adaptation.

Country representatives want to overcome the knowledge barriers that hinder adaptation to climate change. To identify the knowledge gaps and disconnections between knowledge-holders and beneficiaries the UNFCCC, through the Nairobi Work Programme (NWP), created the Lima Adaptation Knowledge Initiative (LAKI) to join the efforts of partners and key organisations.

Adapting to the terrible consequences of climate change has been and will continue to be a priority for all countries, especially for the developing and least-developed countries particularly affected by climate change impacts. During the COP20 in Lima, Peru, the Parties of the UNFCCC, and the expert organisations participating in the discussions agreed that some of the main challenges to successful climate change adaptation are: the absence of locally usable knowledge, the lack of access to high-quality information or data, and the deficiency of appropriate tools and methods to process knowledge into actionable form.

Three years later at COP 23 a side event showcased LAKI’s multi-partner collaboration and highlighted the systematic processes and methodologies that had produced a credible list of priority knowledge gaps in the relevant sub-regions. Key players at the meeting included country representatives, scientists, policymakers, experts, and practitioners from organisations such as the Global Development Network (GDN), the Mountain Institute, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), the World Food Programme, the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation (AGWA), the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), among others.

Here are the knowledge gaps in easy and digestible numbers:

  1. 85 priority knowledge gaps were identified, which can be filled through a better understanding of these gaps based on the evidence collected and experiences shared by practitioners and policymakers on the ground, aiming to facilitate and catalyse the planning and implementation of efficient response actions at regional, national and sub-national levels.
  2. 6 sub-regions were considered: Andean, Western Asia, North Africa, Hindu Kush Himalaya, Indian Ocean island countries, and Southern Africa.
  3. 38 countries are part of these sub-regions: 13 African states, 11 Least-Developed Countries and 3 Small Island Developing Stated (SIDS).
  4. 24 priority knowledge gaps were related to agriculture. These include the lack of actionable knowledge on the sensitivity of agro-ecological zones, appropriate climate risk management, and climate-smart agriculture.

LAKI intends to identify then fill these knowledge gaps to scale up adaptation during its second phase. Several organisations addressed the role of traditional knowledge, the need to enhance the linkage between data collection and application, and the urgency of identifying impoverished rural communities in the mountainous regions. Additionally, Francesco Obino, Head of Programs of the Global Development Network (GDN), recognised that GDN could help fill the knowledge gap identified by the first phase of LAKI in one or more sub-regions by mobilising existing local research capacities and by leading a global study on the political economy of adaptation decision-making across sub-regions.

Identifying knowledge gaps is a very interesting first step towards achieving better and more effective adaptation, even more so in developing countries. It is important to involve government actors throughout this entire process, which will make the adaptation planning more effective and efficient. As said by Jason Spensley, Senior Specialist of Project Preparation and Adaptation Planning from the Green Climate Fund: ‘the identification of adaptation knowledge gaps can be useful input for countries to consider when designing their National Adaptation Plans and other adaptation planning processes, depending on their national circumstances’. But, how can we plan effectively to deal with these development challenges if we don’t have access to high-quality information, or even worse, if our institutions and researchers don’t have the capacity or ability to obtain, interpret and analyse data? In that sense, international organizations like GDN, UNFCCC, Green Climate Fund, UN Environment, among others, are looking for ways to address these important challenges.

The transboundary work (regions and subregions) is also very important for learning and understanding the challenges and opportunities of the consequences of climate change. Mobilising local researchers and research institutions is crucial to develop these type of projects and programmes in a more sustainable and efficient way. We are sure the LAKI’s Phase II will be as successful as the first, and hope that new organisations and institutions will get involved in this important task.