This working paper sets out a framework to scale up locally-driven solutions to ecosystem decline, climate change and poverty.

Key Findings

  • To attain the MDGs, rural development strategies will have to adjust. Effective strategies must enhance the livelihood opportunities of the rural poor while sustaining the ecosystem services on which they depend; must be able to achieve sufficient scale to have a broad effect; and must be designed to increase economic, social, and ecological resilience to climate change.

  • Three decades of development experience has shown that action at the local level—with local organizations as key actors—underpins the success and sustainability of most environment and development initiatives. Poverty reduction strategies and climate change interventions can’t succeed without being rooted in the perspectives, capabilities, and actions of local organizations.

  • Local ecosystem-based initiatives have a demonstrated potential to generate economic, social, and environmental benefits for the participants. There is a direct relationship between the health of ecosystems and the opportunities of the poor to build assets, increase their food security, improve their health, reduce risks, and have more secure lives— in short, to achieve the MDGs.

  • Scaling up such local ecosystem-based initiatives is necessary if they are to achieve sufficient impact. This requires effectively channeling resources and developing capacity at the local level, combined with supportive policy and institutional reforms at higher levels.

  • Now is the time to act on the potential of local action and to tackle the challenge of scaling up successful ecosystem-based approaches to poverty reduction and the threats of climate change and ecosystem decline. Interest in local approaches is growing; funding for local efforts at climate change adaptation is increasing; and the international community has renewed its commitment to achievement of the MDGs. A joint effort to provide the enabling conditions for scaling up local ecosystem-based initiatives could be an effective route to localizing the MDGs, sustaining ecosystem services and biodiversity, and improving rural adaptation to climate change.

Executive Summary

This Working Paper has been jointly produced by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the high-level event on Biodiversity, Ecosystems and Climate Change: Scaling Up Local Solutions to Achieve the MDGs, in support of the UN MDG Review Summit (September 2010).

Ecosystem decline and climate change together are altering the rules of development, bringing a new urgency to the MDG agenda. Because ecosystem services typically account for a substantial portion of the incomes of the rural poor, current trends in ecosystem decline threaten the very basis of their household economies. Climate change will place additional stresses on ecosystems and further intensify the challenges facing the rural poor, undermining efforts to accelerate and sustain progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Framework for Action

An action framework to scale up local ecosystem-based initiatives should include five key elements.

  • Forging an enabling policy environment that provides the poor with secure resource rights, market access and fair regulations, and a voice in local and national decision-making.
  • Building local capacity and providing support services, to ensure that local groups have the skills and support they need to sustainably manage local ecosystems and run successful enterprises.
  • Ensuring equitable access to finance, from both traditional sources and from emerging sources of environmental and climate finance, so that local groups have sufficient investment and operating capital to carry out their plans.
  • Facilitating learning and knowledge sharing, in order to share best practices, speed up the innovation cycle, and to inform policymakers and policy processes.
  • Adopting a programmatic approach to scaling up that goes beyond a project-by-project focus to adopt a comprehensive and coordinated effort among government, NGOs, international development agencies, and the private sector to foster the enabling conditions for scaling.