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On Climate Change Adaptation, Put Local Communities First

How can we make climate change adaptation measures more effective? I recently traveled to Dhaka, Bangladesh to discuss ways to address that very question.

I took part in the 7th annual Community-Based Adaptation Conference (CBA7), hosted by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and the Bangladesh Center for International Studies. The conference provides a forum for organizations working on climate change adaptation to come together, learn from each other, and identify shared interests and needs. The organizations involved mainly work at the grassroots level with poor and vulnerable people in the developing world, but the conference also attracts a growing number of government representatives.

One of the conference’s main themes was that stakeholders at the local and national levels must work together to foster locally grounded, community-based adaptation efforts. I elaborated on this theme in a video interview with IIED. Check it out below.

Another critical theme running throughout the conference was the issue of equity. People’s vulnerability to climate change varies greatly depending on their gender, occupation, wealth, and access to safety nets (among other things). This differential vulnerability often stems from entrenched social injustices. These inequities marginalize certain groups and constrain their abilities to effectively adapt to climate change.

WRI and the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice (MRFCJ) hosted a CBA7 conference session looking at rights-based approaches to adaptation as one way to address some of these inequities. Most of the session consisted of an interactive discussion with more than 100 participants, focused on key questions related to equity and justice in adaptation. Participants’ inputs will feed into the ongoing Climate Justice Dialogue that WRI and MRFCJ are convening for the next two years.

The session also included presentations on climate-related migration, international laws related to adaptation, and an address by Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner on Human Rights. “When people realize they have human rights, it energizes them, they begin to participate, and they feel empowered,” said Mrs. Robinson in an interview with IIED. “It’s an extraordinarily important part of being very sure that communities themselves are able to cope with increasing weather shocks and increasing climate change.” Check out IIED’s full interview with Mrs. Robinson below.

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