Inclusive Mitigation - A Transformational Approach
The economically disadvantaged and marginalized communities are the most vulnerable to climate change. Along with the rural and economically poor population of 900 million, vulnerable communities are found in urban areas too. The urban poor are not limited to developing countries alone; an estimated one billion people live in informal settlements globally. Climate change or development interventions conceived and implemented without any local input have made matters far worse for them. These failed interventions have a domino effect and create further problems for people and their governments.
Experience shows that involving vulnerable communities when developing adaptation approaches is essential for success. In both urban and rural contexts, both these communities are often best placed to understand local climate problems and identify solutions that governments and other agencies can support.
Local communities possess rich and dynamic knowledge of the local environment and have extensive experience and expertise in dealing with environmental change. These inputs can provide an important basis for effective climate change adaptation actions; complementing science, of course. Engaging vulnerable groups and communities in the planning stages would not only ensure effective implementation, but would also allow them to directly inform the identification and implementation of options that will be best suited to their particular circumstances. Integrating the knowledge of the indigenous peoples and local communities would also help acknowledge their role as knowledge and rights holders.
It is important to note that vulnerability varies over space and time due to multiple factors. New climate extremes, demographic dynamics, changes in disease patterns or emergence of new diseases, changes in differentiated responsibilities and rights of men and women, etc., will keep altering the vulnerability of a community or group, time and again. Furthermore, as adaptation measures are implemented, groups and communities can also become more resilient to the impacts of climate change. And that is why, it is important to understand how vulnerability and the resilience of the groups and communities continues to evolve over time. Only a very dynamic and flexible plan of action can ensure that appropriate adaptation measures are implemented on time to prevent catastrophic damages, failures and loss of life further on.
Incremental approaches usually tend to focus on current climate risks, where the escalating longer term impacts of climate change get downplayed. On the other hand, transformational approaches address the root causes of climate risks both into the future and for the wider population. They aim to tackle the ‘intergenerational inequity’ of climate change. These dynamic approaches are also significant because they aim for widespread and inclusive benefits. Such projects, if built on local knowledge and adaptation strategies, as well as on science, tend to be far more effective.
We are living on a ticking time bomb called Climate Change, but as human beings we are also wired to hope and survive. Once all the agencies striving to mitigate this challenge begin to understand that there is no one size fits all formula here, we will surely move towards more effective solutions.