Mainstreaming adaptation agenda

February 7, 2021

Climate change needs to become a priority concern

Climate adaptation efforts are gradually gaining ground around the globe. Even though climate change can impede development goals and be affected by development choices, there are still various challenges in integrating adaptation efforts into the broader development agenda. From vested interests to lack of relevant climate information; such challenges exist not only at the level of international/national policy-making but also the design and implementation of individual adaptation projects. To ensure that development as usual does not unintentionally increase existing susceptibilities, there is a greater need for more intersection between climate adaptation and development.

Adaptation activities focus on the future and tend to address anticipated yet unknown problems.

Objectives of adaptation interventions are not necessarily progress towards a better future; instead, they aim at making living possible under future circumstances. According to a report, “integration is when specific adaptation measures are added to the design and implementation strategies”. Another term for integration, i.e. mainstreaming, is defined as incorporating environmentally sustainable aspects into the design of programmes and initiatives. Integrating climate change adaptation is an interconnected and multidimensional process, involving different actors at different stages of politics, policy, practice and processes. These actors exercise a significant influence over one another, where one player’s actions could directly or indirectly affect others’ activities in connected ways.

Pakistan is a developing country with an agrarian economy. The country is particularly susceptible to extreme effects of climate change, due to its location in an area with a potentially higher than average increase in temperatures and fast glacial melting. There are already visible effects of climate change through heavier rainfall in coastal areas, frequent flooding, severe droughts and shorter cropping periods. Despite significant threats, work on climate change adaptation is still in its initial stages in the country. When it comes to adaptation mainstreaming, many challenges persist.

Lack of coordination within the donor community and thereby scarcity of funding is one reason. This has also been the critical factor behind the broader misalignment between climate change, poverty reduction and disaster management efforts. On the other hand, funding agencies face challenges when it comes to working with the public sector. Research suggests that, as climate change is not holistically addressed with current environmental targets and reforms agenda, it is not always a priority concern in Pakistan. Despite the current government’s focus on the environment, bureaucratic constraints persist. Overall, the donor community cannot support the making of climate change a priority issue within their functioning, especially given the current socio-economic conditions and the ongoing pandemic’s impacts.

Besides, there are challenges relating to capacity building and institutional strengthening for implementing climate change action plans. The critical mass of experts and leaders across policies need to be identified and actively managed. The country’s scientific capacity needs an overhaul to stay abreast of new tools, research and developments. More recent research on Pakistan shows that public institutions have the least financial capacity, followed by a scarcity of physical and human resources to tackle climate change. The study shows that gaps in management, non-availability of financial and physical resources and lack of training are the critical bottlenecks for limited adaptation support from public institutions.

Evidence suggests that many adaptation interventions focus only on worsening current climate problems and the existing climate rather than the future climate change, primarily due to a lack of relevant information. In the absence of pertinent information, the adaptation projects do not comprehensively consider all potential social, political and economic dimensions and their interacting relationships, particularly in project design. Also, the prioritisation and costing of different adaptation options and the systematic evaluation of implemented projects depend on the relevant information and accuracy. These components, in turn, influence the integration potential of adaptation work into regular development activities. One of the reasons behind the lack of capacity in sound decision-making on climate change is insufficient local knowledge and lack of mechanisms for translating policy impacts. The mapping of vulnerabilities and effects or information to drive evidence-based decisions remains scant.

Adaptation to climate change and its integration means bringing about far-reaching changes in things starting from fuel choices to economic policies. In a country like Pakistan, integration of adaptation into national policy framework is the first and most important step towards mainstreaming, followed by proper prioritisation down to the grassroots level. The success of mainstreaming adaptation requires an integrated approach where the adaptation interventions need to be supported by correct information and awareness and adequate participation, capacity and buy-in of all relevant stakeholders.

In conclusion, the mainstreaming agenda is hard to pursue in silo, and the best solution is the adoption of a unified approach to push this critical work forward.

The writer is a development practitioner with experience in poverty alleviation and emergency response in Pakistan. She tweets @rafia12361

Mainstreaming adaptation agenda