Locally Led Adaptation: How to Deliver on Momentum From COP27
This post was written by Tamara Coger. Stefanie Tye, Ariana Karamallis, Afsara Mirza, MD, Bodrud-Doza, and Eileen Mairena Cunningham contributed to this blog, which was adapted from an original post on wri.org. To learn more, check out WRI’s research paper, Locally Led Adaptation: From Principles to Practice.
Climate change is a global crisis, but its impacts are felt locally.
Projects to adapt to the impacts of climate change, however, are rarely locally led.
Design of adaptation programs, plans, and other decision-making processes tend to be top-down, with more powerful actors like funders, large intermediaries or central governments driving the key decisions. Smaller, local organizations and communities get boxed out, and are often unable to access the funding and other resources they need to build resilience to floods, droughts, heat waves and other climate impacts.
This is not only unjust, it’s often ineffective. Many adaptation measures require a nuanced understanding of the local context and priorities. Recent studies show that locally led adaptation projects can enhance efficiency and effectiveness, avoid duplication, and mitigate unintended consequences of climate and development programs.
The Push for Locally Led Adaptation
Influential actors are now starting to acknowledge the need to shift away from the status quo of top-down adaptation. Last year, USAID joined a growing group of organizations endorsing eight principles of locally led adaptation (LLA). These principles provide a framework for ensuring local partners have agency and access to resources to build climate resilience, and for taking local innovation and knowledge seriously to inform adaptation solutions.
COP27 clearly showed that the momentum for locally led adaptation is building. There are now more than 100 endorsements to the LLA Principles, which represents major funders, implementers, grassroots networks, local civil society organizations, research institutions and governments, all committing to decentralize adaptation finance and decision-making power to where it is needed most. One thing that stood out this year is the uptick in national governments endorsing the principles of locally led adaptation, which is now at 16.
The call for locally led adaptation was loud and clear across 90 side events at COP27, as well as a dedicated LLA pavilion. LLA has also come through as a priority in discussions about the global goal on adaptation through the Glasgow-Sharm El Sheikh work program. As more governments, funders and implementers commit to supporting LLA, more attention will be placed on how they are following through and making the changes required to shift power and resources for adaptation to the local level.
Delivering on Commitments to Locally Led Adaptation
Ensuring that adaptation is truly locally led is easier said than done. Systemic social and political barriers create power imbalances between local communities and national and international actors. Donors and governments are accustomed to directing funds to large organizations rather than smaller grassroots and local civil society organizations. Local groups may struggle operationally to access funding and navigate complex due diligence and other processes. The list goes on.
Despite the barriers, LLA is happening around the world.
A recent WRI working paper lays out 21 case studies of locally led adaptation. These projects are locally led, yet still involve collaboration with international funders, national governments and others working in solidarity with at-risk communities. They can provide models of how funders and governments can support adaptation in line with the Principles for Locally Led Adaptation.
Here are just a few:
Zimbabwe’s Urban Poor Collectives Upgrade Informal Settlements
The Gungano Urban Poor Fund was established in 1998 by the Zimbabwe Homeless Peoples’ Federation, a national network of women-centered, community-based savings schemes for urban poor communities in Zimbabwe. Today, more than 500 urban poor collectives operate savings and loan funds to finance sustainable livelihoods and settlement-upgrading projects.
The fund issues loans to grassroots collective savings groups, who then disburse funding to their members, including individuals, households and communities in informal urban settlements throughout Zimbabwe. Members then invest in climate resilience projects, such as installing dry toilets in areas prone to flooding; establishing solar energy systems to provide affordable, reliable power; or making household repairs after extreme weather events.
Gungano Urban Poor Fund is an example of quick, easy-to-access finance for low-income communities who would otherwise struggle to access credit and finance services. This approach has helped communities to rapidly mobilize resources to finance their own needs and priorities, including securing land tenure; building resilient, low-income housing; and improving reliability of sanitation and water management infrastructure, among other adaptation measures.
Pawanka Fund Invests in Indigenous Knowledge to Build Resilience Throughout Latin America
The Pawanka Fund is an Indigenous-led grantmaking fund supporting Indigenous peoples’ initiatives to promote traditional knowledge, rights and self-determined development to face the impacts of climate change.
Across Latin America, Indigenous communities are revitalizing ancestral conservation techniques to build climate resilience, restore territories and preserve culture.
In Belize, for example, Mayan communities are employing climate-smart agricultural practices such as Inga tree alley cropping, which entails planting crops in between rows of Inga trees. This approach helps enhance nutrients in the soil while keeping forests intact by limiting the need to clear land for food production.
Pawanka approaches funding recipients as genuine collaborators from the start, partnering in the design, implementation and monitoring of projects, and providing technical assistance to partners so they can meet legal and financial requirements to receive funding. One thing that sets its model apart is its emphasis on cultural due diligence, in addition to fiduciary due diligence. Cultural due diligence provides a framework for ensuring Indigenous community partners are actively promoting social well-being and equity in their communities.
The model shows how funders and their partners can work together to meet operational and administrative standards, as well as social justice standards.
Bangladesh’s Climate Bridge Fund Supports Climate Migrants
Bangladesh’s Climate Bridge Fund is a trust fund that provides grants to local nongovernmental organizations working with climate-induced migrants, women, youth, displaced peoples, and other groups facing disproportionate climate risks.
Community groups use the funds for a range of adaptation measures. Funds may support startup businesses that provide backup income to farmers and others whose livelihoods are threatened by droughts and other climate impacts. They may finance access to health services or awareness-raising campaigns about climate-related health risks, such as exposure to water-borne diseases and dehydration. Or they may use funds to fortify and repair community infrastructure in the face of climate impacts.
The fund was designed to move away from short-term project funding to a model that is durable over the long-term, with longer funding windows than typical adaptation finance initiatives and quicker, more predictable access for local partners.
Now Is the Time to Invest in Locally Led Adaptation
These are just a few examples of locally led adaptation being put into practice around the world. Funders and governments can look to them for inspiration in supporting locally led adaptation projects through their own programs and policies.
To learn more and endorse the Principles for Locally Led Adaptation, visit our site here.