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Adaptation to climate change goes local

A boy and his father in Nepal's remote Jumla District David Swanson/IRIN

In the next few months Nepal will start implementing local adaptation plans for climate vulnerable communities in its impoverished far-and mid-western region under the National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA).

NAPAs, submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, provide a process for Least Developed Countries to identify priority activities that respond to their urgent and immediate needs to adapt to climate change, and are seen by many as a defining step towards delivering climate finance to those most vulnerable.

There is a lot of global discussion around climate change, but “what there is a real shortage of, is practical implementation experience,” Simon Lucas, climate change and inclusive growth adviser at the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) in Nepal, told IRIN. “The world is watching these sorts of approaches.”

Nepal was the first country in the world to officially endorse a Local Adaptation Plan of Action (LAPA) as part of its 2010 NAPA framework. The bottom-up approach will be Nepal’s first attempt at translating central-level climate adaptation plans into tangible projects on the ground, including input from vulnerable communities.

“Government actions on climate change so far are focused at the international and national level. There are no specific actions at the local level,” noted a study conducted in 2010 to inform the LAPA piloting phase.

The government adopted a national LAPA framework in 2010, based on pilots conducted with DFID support in 10 of the country’s 75 districts. Nepal is now finalizing designs for 70 village-level LAPAs to address the needs of 400,000 people in 14 mid- and far-western districts, as part of a US$21 million commitment by DFID and the European Union.

Less densely populated, the mid-and far-western region has the highest human poverty and lowest human development levels in the country.

In a 2010 government climate change vulnerability mapping study, the area was found to be highly vulnerable to landslides and drought, as well as rainfall, temperature and ecological changes.

For each LAPA, communities prioritized projects they felt would improve their adaptive capacity. The plans reflect the precarious environment in the region, many focusing on improved drinking and irrigation water supply, landslide protection, and new agricultural techniques.

“The action plan was developed based on our needs,” said Govinda Pun, a Village Development Committee official in Hansipur town of mid-western Dang Deukhuri District for whom climate change was a new concept. “We are ready to implement it.”

Filtering the cash

LAPA implementation should begin by the end of 2012. The challenge now is to define a mechanism for the smooth transfer of resources from centre to periphery, say experts.

“On the one hand, the question is, does the money go to the local level? On the other hand, the question is, even if it does go, what to do with it?” pointed out Krishna Gyawali, secretary at the Ministry of Science, Environment and Technology (MoE).

Since MoE is primarily engaged in policy-making, with no district-level presence, the tentatively approved framework engages existing energy and environment units in district development committees under the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development. The units in each of the 14 mid- and far-western districts will be upgraded to energy, environment and climate change sections and act as the primary coordinating body to deliver LAPA projects.

But since the units' current focus is energy, "their capacity to immediately implement climate adaptation is weak,” said Sohan Shrestha, programme and services manager at Rupantaran, one of the local NGOs working to deploy LAPAs.

The government is trying to address this concern by providing additional manpower. Still, DFID’s Lucas recognized that considerable additional support is needed, especially since the region is difficult to access and “the government has problems getting staff there.”

Access becomes more difficult the more local you go - from district to village to ward.

Longer-term concerns

A longer-term concern is the inclusion of climate change under “environment” rather than mainstreaming it into environmental as well as other development efforts. “This presents a challenge to establishing climate change as a cross-cutting issue rather than an environmental one,” pointed out a 2011 report by the Capacity Development for Development Effectiveness Facility for Asia and Pacific, a “community of practice” which seeks to help countries share country level experiences in the Asia-Pacific region to enhance development effectiveness.

Ideally, “we shouldn’t have separate climate change projects,” Lucas said. “Local development should look at the needs in the area with climate change in mind.” However, there are currently no mechanisms to integrate climate change into regular or existing development work.

A case study by the UK-based Institute of Development Studies identified that LAPAs would “help bridge central planning and local priorities”, enabling a more flexible and iterative planning process.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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