Addressing climate change locally

Community-based and locally-led adaptation strategies are required to address climate change

Addressing climate change locally


limate change, often perceived primarily as an environmental issue, has become a catalyst for a broad range of security threats, exacerbating existing socioeconomic vulnerabilities and creating new ones.

The combined effects of rising temperatures, changing rainfall patterns and extreme weather events amplify vulnerabilities of local communities. These climatic shocks have cascading impacts on human security, as they directly affect livelihoods, health, food and water security, particularly for the most vulnerable communities.

According to the Global Climate Risk Index 2023, Pakistan ranks 8th among countries most affected by climate change over two decades. The floods in 2022 resulted in $14.9 billion in property destruction and $15.2 billion in economic losses. According to the post-disaster needs assessment, at least $16.3 billion is required to recover and repair the damage. Apart from the global and national response to the crisis, community-based and locally-led adaptation strategies are required to address this catastrophe.

These are two increasingly popular approaches to addressing the impacts of climate change at the grassroots level. These approaches empower local communities to develop and implement adaptation strategies tailored to their unique context, ensuring their effectiveness and sustainability.

Community-based adaptation is a bottom-up approach involving local stakeholders in identifying, designing, implementing and evaluating climate change adaptation measures. It emphasises the active participation of communities, particularly vulnerable groups, in decision-making and prioritises local knowledge and capacities. According to a study, CBA projects have been implemented in more than 70 countries, showcasing the growing global interest in this approach.

Locally-led adaptation refers to initiatives driven by local actors, such as community organisations, local governments or indigenous groups, who understand the local context and needs. LLA seeks to shift the power dynamics within the climate adaptation landscape, giving more decision-making authority and resources to those directly affected by climate change.

Despite their increasing popularity, CBA and LLA approaches face several political, economic and social constraints that hinder their effectiveness. These constraints may limit the scope of adaptation projects, create dependency on external funding and exclude marginalised groups from decision-making. Therefore, it is crucial to address these constraints to unlock the full potential of CBA and LLA strategies in mitigating the impacts of climate change, especially in countries like Pakistan.

Pakistan can learn from the successful outcome of community involvement to combat the impacts of climate change at the local level from countries like Bangladesh and the Philippines.

CBA has proven effective in enhancing resilience and preparedness in the Philippines, which is highly vulnerable to climate-related hazards including typhoons, flooding and sea-level rise. One such example is the innovative Purok system in the Albay province, which was introduced in 2009. The Purok system is a community-based disaster risk reduction and management programme designed to reduce disaster risks and build the resilience of local communities.

The Purok system comprises six key components: hazard mapping, vulnerability assessments, local early warning systems, capacity building, evacuation planning and relief distribution. In this programme, community members identify hazards and vulnerabilities, create early warning systems and prepare comprehensive evacuation plans. A major factor in the Purok system’s success is its emphasis on local knowledge and community involvement. The programme ensures that the community’s unique needs and perspectives are considered by engaging residents in decision-making.

This bottom-up approach empowers community members and fosters a sense of ownership over the adaptation measures, leading to more sustainable and effective outcomes.

The success of the Purok system was evident during Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded. Despite the catastrophic impacts of the typhoon, the Purok system significantly reduced casualties in the Albay province. In the aftermath of the disaster, the province was lauded for its effective disaster preparedness and response, primarily attributed to the Purok system’s community-based approach as highlighted by Global Commission on Adaptation, 2021. This case study highlights the potential of CBA strategies in building resilience to climate-related hazards.

By prioritising local knowledge and community involvement, the Purok system has demonstrated the effectiveness of a bottom-up approach in addressing the unique vulnerabilities and needs of communities exposed to climate change.

Similarly, LLA and Resilience Building in Bangladesh is also a key example for other regional countries including Pakistan. Bangladesh is one of the most climate-vulnerable countries globally, frequently facing flooding, cyclones and other climate-related disasters. To address these challenges, the government of Bangladesh, with support from international partners such as the USAID, initiated the Climate-Resilient Ecosystems and Livelihoods project in 2012. The project’s primary objective was to enhance the resilience of local communities and ecosystems through LLA measures.

The CREL project focused on empowering local communities to manage natural resources, develop CBA plans and implement context-specific adaptation measures. Key components of the project included capacity building, participatory decision-making and promoting sustainable livelihoods.

One of the project’s most notable successes was the establishment of community-based mangrove plantations. Local communities were planting and managing these mangroves, serving multiple purposes. The mangroves provided crucial protection against storm surges and coastal erosion by acting as a natural barrier, reducing the impact of climate-related disasters on vulnerable coastal communities. In addition to their protective function, the mangroves also offered livelihood opportunities for residents. Harvesting mangrove products, such as wood and honey, provided an additional source of income for community members, contributing to their overall resilience.

The CREL project’s achievements demonstrate the potential of LLA measures in building resilience and enhancing the adaptive capacity of climate-vulnerable communities. By prioritising local knowledge and community participation, the project could implement context-specific solutions that addressed immediate climate risks and contributed to long-term sustainable development. This case study underscores the importance of locally-led adaptation in addressing climate-vulnerable communities’ unique challenges.

The CREL project’s success in Bangladesh is an example of how empowering local communities to take the lead in adaptation efforts can result in more effective, sustainable and resilient outcomes.

CBA and LLA projects are critical in building resilience and addressing the impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities. These initiatives can be more responsive, equitable and sustainable by overcoming power dynamics, financial barriers and social exclusion. Knowledge sharing and cooperation among communities, practitioners and policymakers can contribute to developing innovative solutions and scaling-up successful adaptation measures. The exchange of experiences and lessons learned can help strengthen CBA and LLA efforts, ensuring that vulnerable communities are better prepared to face the impacts of climate changes.

Pakistan – a country with many resource constraints – can better cope with the emerging threat of climate change by strengthening the local communities to better withstand the climatic calamity.

The writer has a master’s in climate change, development and policy from Sussex University, UK. He is currently the operations director for the Punjab Food Authority

Addressing climate change locally