FEATURE: Resilient housing – A flourishing sector

FEATURE: Resilient housing – A flourishing sector

CDKN’s Miren Gutierrez looks at the potential for the prebuilt housing sector to increase the resilience of its products to climate change.

Modular, prebuilt homes are in fashion to the point that, in the United States, the demand for prefabricated housing is forecast to expand 15% annually through 2017, according to a 2013 report. Some of the expertise in the prebuilt housing sector is also dedicated to exploring new ways in which a house can withstand climate-related disasters.

The housing problem is no longer quantitative, but qualitative, according to the Global Compact Cities Programme. The organisation notes that “people tend to constantly improve and adapt their dwellings in order to better accommodate their changing needs.” Because housing is “a process, not and end”, say authors Sandra Moye-Holz and Constanza Gonzalez-Mathiesen in a report about Chile’s case published by the Global Compact Cities Programme.

But what does it all entail? Do all hazards pose the same sort of challenges? Is resistance the same as resilience? Tuan Anh Tran notes in a book about “Developing Disaster Resilient Housing in Vietnam” that there is a lack of consensus in defining resilient housing and a gap in academic literature on this vital matter for many communities around the globe.

For example, with regard to flooding, one of the most destructive climate-related disasters, Planning Practice Guidance  notes that “flood-resilient buildings are designed and constructed to reduce the impact of flood water entering the building so that no permanent damage is caused, structural integrity is maintained and drying and cleaning is easier”, while “flood-resistant construction can prevent entry of water or minimise the amount that may enter a building where there is short duration flooding outside with water depths of 0.6 metres or less.”

Picturing a flood-resistant house, one can think of most constructions along the channels of Venice, which are protected by double, water-resistant barriers. But what does a resilient house look like?

Under the Sheltering from a Gathering Storm project, with CDKN funding, the Institute for Social and Environmental Transition-International (ISET-International) –an organisation that works with local partners to build resilience— launched in 2012 a “Resilient Housing Design Competition.”  It called for innovative storm resistant shelters for low-income households, and the winning model selected to be constructed was analysed for its resistance to typhoons, including strong winds and heavy rainfall.

Characteristics of these resilient houses include: the ability to absorb shocks; reinforced spaces that can protect inhabitants even if other parts of the house are destroyed or flooded; escape gateways; the employment of water-resistant materials in sections that are likely to be hit by floods; redundancy and modularity that allow the interaction of different components of the building; solid structures; simple forms easily built locally with local materials; and a flexibility allows expansion and adaptation when needed.

(Double click on the graphic below to increase its size for ease of reading.)

da nang

The competition involved local architecture schools and professional businesses, and called for climate-adapted shelter designs that are low cost, technically effective and culturally acceptable; the best-judged shelters were the subject of the cost-benefit analysis research.

“Shelter accounts for the highest monetary losses in climate-related disasters and is therefore a significant cost for governments, the private sector and non-governmental organisations working on disaster risk reduction or post-disaster reconstruction,” according to findings from the CDKN project.

The Sheltering From a Gathering Storm: Typhoon Resilience in Vietnam – one of three case studies in this project— focuses on key issues related to housing and providing insights into the economic and non-financial returns of adaptive, resilient shelter designs that take into consideration hazards such as typhoons, flooding and temperature increases.

The two-year research programme targeting peri-urban areas in India, Vietnam and Pakistan –where cities face risks from typhoons, flooding and extreme heat— identified practical solutions for resilient shelters and the long-term economic returns of investing in such shelter structures. The project was led by ISET-International in partnership with Hue University (Vietnam), Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (India), ISET-Pakistan and ISET-Nepal.

The Vietnam report concludes that some of the innovative housing solutions are affordable and economically viable, and replicable in other regions. In spite of this, since families with low incomes have limited resources, new public policies are needed to provide subsidies, promote micro-insurance, require multi-hazard construction standards, bridge low-income communities with experts, and improve awareness.

In Pakistan, in 2010, about 12 million homes were destroyed or damaged by heavy monsoon rains, according to a report by the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC). This is especially serious at the household level, since “the shelter is often the single largest asset owned by individuals and families, and the failure of shelters to protect people from hazards is a significant risk to lives and livelihoods,” according to the CDKN project.

Resilient housing is even more important when post-disaster response and relocation is considered. According to HPN, “normally, only 10 to 20% of housing needs are met, frequently with temporary rather than more permanent housing. To cite a few examples: one year after Cyclone Sidr the number of dwellings built by aid agencies in Bangladesh (2007) represented 7% of need; in Padang, Indonesia, after the 2009 earthquake it was 14%; and in the Pakistan floods (2010) it was 2.5%.”

In Da Nang, Vietnam, the community was involved in the “Resilient Housing Design Competition  and participated in voting for the winning designs. “This helped to create awareness of the possibility to build homes which could withstand recurrent storms at little additional cost,” says a CDKN guide[1]. A total of 244 climate-adapted houses were built. And the structures “withstood Typhoon Nari, which hit during the course of the project, and minimised human and economic losses compared with other homes.” The Da Nang city government has since introduced a policy that means all housing plans in the city should apply resilience principles.

[1] The guide’s title is “What does it take to mainstream disaster risk management in key sectors?” And the Da Nang case is already part of the literature on the subject.

Image credit: DFID

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OPINION: After Paris – “Opportunities rest in the space for dynamic interactions”, Farhan Helmy

Indonesia is one of the key developing countries for the success of the Paris agreement, to the point that some speak of it as ´pivotal´. It is not only one of the most populous countries in the world, but also one of the biggest carbon emitters, and contrary to what happens in many smaller developing countries, Indonesia needs to take decisive actions on mitigation to support a shift towards a sustainable development globally. Farhan Helmy, Chair of the Thamrin School of Climate Change and Sustainability, speaks to CDKN’s Miren Gutierrez and Mochamad Indrawan, CDKN’s Strategic Advisor for Indonesia about how the conversation after Paris has been part of an increasingly dynamic Indonesian national process.   This is one of CDKN’sAfter Paris: Perspectives from developing countries.

The Paris Agreement created an ambitious mandate for the global community. Does it change the national conversation in Indonesia about action on climate change? If so, how?

In Indonesia, a substantive outcome will depend on the dynamics of national and subnational entities alike. For instance, in order to be successful, Urban Low Emissions Development Strategies (known as Urban LEDS) need to have the backing of the individual heads of districts and municipalities, and likewise, activities to reduce emissions from deforestation and other forest degradation, known as “REDD+”[1] needs commitment at the subnational level, including enforcing the rights of local communities.

We talk of the ‘means of implementation’ for the national climate plans that were included in the Paris Agreement, and these include funding schemes, capacity building activities and technology transfer. Many of these ‘means of implementation’ are not necessarily within the domain of governments. Non-state actors need to establish systems for monitoring, reporting and verifying progress against national targets.

Eventually, the social media revolution must be factored in since it has helped the public to take a more critical stand on how development should take place. Social dynamics have led the government to increasingly occupy the roles of regulator and facilitator. The government may facilitate and mediate between local communities and their proposed requirements, for instance.

Could you mention some concrete plans being devised in mitigation and adaptation?

Three key institutional elements must be consolidated before 2020: (1) action on mitigation and adaptation, (2) putting in place a monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) system, and (3) generating the means of implementation.

On (1), Indonesia’s 2011 action plans for greenhouse gas emissions mitigation defined no less than 70 activities, including emissions reductions in the forestry and energy sectors.

Regarding (2) MRV systems and other processes, Indonesia has been developing a greenhouse gas emissions inventory. It is also working on its BUR (Biennial Update Report)[2], and SIDIK, which is the country’s system to generate vulnerability information. At the same time, BAPPENAS (the Ministry of Planning) has developed a mechanism to monitor, evaluate and report on development plans which have implications for the environment and the climate. Financing instruments have been developed, included the establishment of the Indonesia Climate Change Trust Fund, and markets have been created by the Joint Credit Mechanism, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), and the voluntary carbon market.

On (3), the means of implementation, the focus on capacity building and technology transfer is already captured in the national action plan for greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, which also includes training for writing up subnational mitigation action plans.

Taking about Indonesia´s ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contribution’ (INDC)… What will it take to get from ‘intended’ to ‘implemented’? What are the big opportunities and challenges?

Challenges are manifold.  There needs to be effective engagement with multiple stakeholders.  Climate change responses should be integrated in the context of development.  For instance, there is an increasing acknowledgement that emissions reduction can be a good part of development. And this would require effective, consolidated master planning.

Decision processes should be based on the varied interests of the different stakeholder groups. Further, inclusive governance needs to be translated into working plans, for instance, determining how the government and diverse sets of non-state actors could put into place the common greenhouse gas emissions accounting system, or at least a protocol for data and information exchange.

By 2020, all these elements must be consolidated. By then, we must know how to mainstream climate into development plans. Before that, tools must be agreed. However, barriers exist. For instance, it has to be determined whether climate finance should be the responsibility of the Ministry of Finance exclusively, or whether MRV systems should be tackled only by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (known as KLHK), or whether an alternative  mixed approach is needed in order to make things more fluid and functional than structural.

The opportunities rest in the space for dynamic interactions. Consolidation is the beginning.  For instance, multi-sectoral institutionalisation of trust funds is now progressively being discussed.

Indonesia is one of the biggest recipients of climate finance, with more than US$430.9 million according to the Climate Fund Update. Most of it, more than US$412 million, is dedicated to mitigation projects… How do you expect this to evolve? In fact, the Climate Action Tracker rates Indonesia’s Nationally Determined Contribution (‘NDC’ – the plans submitted to the UNFCCC in advance of the Paris climate summit) as ‘inadequate’. Do you see this changing?

Indonesia has developed scenarios both unconditional, and conditional to international support being available. For instance, Indonesia´s INDC had scenarios of 29% and 41%, respectively[3].

Indonesia does not necessarily lack resources. However, its leverage will be stronger if there is substantial pressure from other global players (for instance, this could happen if the funding for the REDD+ agenda comes from international quarters). ‘Development partners’ (Editor: also known as ‘international donors’) actually have a substantial contribution to make. To implement REDD+, governance must be adapted to common norms and values, such as clear land ownership and tenurial rights as well as inclusive processes. International development partners often champion and help to institutionalise these values.

The Paris Agreement calls for limiting average global temperature rise well below 2C, as close to 1.5C as possible. Indonesia´s emissions are among the highest in developing countries, and growing– what hope to see economic growth and human development with lowered emissions in the specific case of Indonesia? Concretely how do you go about reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector, addressing food security and climate change, as well as sustainably increasing agricultural productivity?

To begin with, there must be effective efforts in developing green infrastructure. Here there is also space for consolidation.  For instance, the use of information and communication technologies, and progressive urban engineering can allow an accelerated transfer of goods and services without necessarily increasing energy consumption.  The needs for MRV systems, for example to estimate an individual’s use of motor vehicles, may also be applied in the near future.

Measures are also under way in order to increase efficiency and sustainability in agriculture.  There is an emphasis on adaptation and mitigation as co-benefits, with attention to enhancement of soil carbon stock, and integrated farming systems (including biogas). Integrated field schools promote the systemic intensification of rice production, including organic and bio-pesticides.

On land use, and land-use change and forestry (known as LULUCF), the drive to undertake REDD+ is already an achievement. One particular challenge to watch is the recurring peat fires. The valuable establishment of a national Peat Restoration Agency needs to be backed by strong support, including funding.

Have you any reflections on how the process Indonesia went through to come up with its NDC will affect what happens next?

Firstly, Indonesia’s NDC was made at a time of transition, with the merging of ministries of environment and forestry, which included consolidation of four climate change and REDD+ related institutions into one directorate general under the new Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK). There is also the Ministry of Planning (BAPPENAS), which is tasked to treat climate change as part of development.

The equation for the NDC should represent multiple stakeholder interests. Yet, the NDC had to be formulated before effective consolidation of the KLHK happened, and thus deeper elaboration and consultation would have helped. The NDC process ended up targeting potential sectors for action. It may be updated by taking into account the most recent dynamics, such as increasing forest fires and the birth of Peat Restoration Agency, as well as decreasing prices of fossil fuels and contemporary government policy, which encourages an increase in switch to gas.

One idea that the Ministry of Planning championed is the evaluation of the national action plan for greenhouse gas mitigation prior to revisiting the NDC.

The SDGs have many climate-related components, as well as a dedicated climate goal. What are some of the ways that the SDGs will influence the planning and practice of development in Indonesia in the coming years?

To see climate change as part of planning and development, leadership has been concentrated in the hands of one institution that is responsible for development, in this case, BAPPENAS. Subsequently, climate action must be captured in the larger development framework, e.g. what are the implications of a 29% emissions reduction for employment, health and other areas of development that are part of the SDG commitments?



OPINION: After Paris – “For El Salvador, this is a matter of survival”, Jorge Rodríguez

On her return from the Paris climate talks (COP21) last December, El Salvador’s Minister of Environment Lina Pohl seemed satisfied that the new agreement embraces old demands of the Central American region and other vulnerable countries, writes CDKN’s Miren Gutierrez. Among these: the fact that the agreement is legally binding, and that it includes efforts to maintain temperatures below 1.5C of warming; the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities; and an explicit distinction between adaptation, and loss and damage. Countries vulnerable to climate change seized the moment at the start of the UN climate talks in Paris by challenging Europe, the U.S. and China to increase their aspirations and establish a long-term temperature goal of 1.5C, rather than the 2C, of warming. The Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR–RC) is a principle within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that recognises the dissimilar capabilities and responsibilities of countries facing climate change. Before the Paris Agreement, the issue of loss and damage had been previously treated as a sub-category of adaptation.

In this interview, Jorge Rodríguez, country representative, offers a view on the future of El Salvador´s climate change commitments:

The Paris Agreement created an ambitious mandate for the global community. Does it change the national conversation in El Salvador about action on climate change? If so, how?

In Paris, El Salvador presented qualitative contributions related to its mitigation plans. The Ministry of Environment is expected to start work on its quantitative contributions this year. For the Government of El Salvador, the issue of the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution is very important because it is a way of putting the issue on the table at a national level. Their strategy is to establish the contributions of the country, to have them ratified by Congress, and from there on, to apply the commitments to different sectors.

As you said, El Salvador submitted its INDC – what will it take to get from ‘intended’ to ‘implemented’? What are the big opportunities and challenges?

El Salvador is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change. Besides, it is a country that has failed to grow economically for the past 20 years (the GDP growth rate is similar to the population growth rate). In this context, decisions about how to employ our resources generate a lot of socio-political conflict and tension, and this has become the biggest challenge El Salvador is facing right now.

On the one hand, climate change and weather-related disasters are generating great losses at social and economic levels in El Salvador, as well seriously affecting key sectors, such as agriculture and infrastructure. On the other hand, opportunities are being created as well, since solutions to this quandary can be found in green growth, with the possibility also to access climate finance: this way both economic development and a reduction of vulnerability would be produced.

The Paris Agreement calls for limiting average global temperature rise well below 2C, as close to 1.5C as possible. El Salvador’s emissions are very low, what hope is there to see economic growth and human development with low emissions in the specific case of El Salvador? Concretely how do you go about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, addressing food security and economic development, and climate change, as well as sustainably increasing food productivity?

El Salvador’s motivation is not fighting against global warming per se; this is a matter of survival. The increase in average temperatures in this country already exceeds 1.5 C. Most ecosystems, as well as the soil, are already degraded. We are also experiencing problems with water availability, along with droughts and extreme rainfall, which are causing havoc in the country’s economy.

In this regard, El Salvador does not have a commitment with the world, but a commitment with itself to reduce its vulnerability to climate change. That is why an approach to mitigation based on adaptation has been assimilated.

Under the Bonn Challenge[1], the Minister of Environment pledged to restore one million degraded hectares. In a 24,000 km2-country, this is more than a relevant dimension. With this initiative, the idea is to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases, but really its main purposes are bolstering our water resources, restoring soils so they regain their productive capacity and generating spaces that are safer for the people living in them, among other benefits.

If you check most INDCs from developing countries their emission reduction targets are subject to technology development, international climate finance and capacity building. What would happen if the means of implementation does not flow? 

While international support is important, El Salvador is taking steps as far as its own resources allow it. Some examples include the creation, at an institutional level, of a space for interinstitutional coordination, called Office of Environmental Sustainability and Vulnerability. This highlights how high this matter is in the political agenda. There are other initiatives, for instance, to create funds to encourage the restoration of ecosystems and landscapes, to which the private sector is contributing. The government is changing the regulatory framework as well in order to facilitate these measures.

El Salvador is a highly vulnerable country that has suffered the human and economic impact of a string of tropical storms in the past few years… Meanwhile, the SDGs have many climate-related components, as well as a dedicated climate goal. What are some of the ways that the SDGs will influence the planning and practice of development in El Salvador in the coming years?

The SDGs are already beginning to be incorporated into the planning processes of different areas. This is a process that is just beginning, and I cannot say that it is widely established. It is expected to gather more speed in the coming years. One of the important effects is envisioning is that, unlike the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals), the SDGs have a more holistic approach and reflect interconnections within different issues. In this sense, they are likely to foster joint initiatives, both at nationally and at regional levels.


References and further reading:

Read more about CDKN’s work in the country on the El Salvador page (in English or Spanish)

El Salvador is satisfied with the results of the universal climate change agreement in Paris (in Spanish)

Environmental sustainability and vulnerability cabinet (in Spanish)

Image: maize and beans for sale, El Salvador, courtesy Neil Palmer, CIAT.


[1] The Bonn Challenge is a global aspiration to restore 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded lands by 2020.

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Mujeres, factor principal en la acción contra el cambio climático

Mujeres, factor principal en la acción contra el cambio climático. Por (*) Miren Gutierrez

Miren Gutierrez.- Aunque en los discursos a menudo se hablar de la “perspectiva de género”, frecuentemente solo se trata de un mero recurso retórico. Tras el acuerdo de París, un nuevo informe muestra cómo incluir los puntos de vista y necesidades de las mujeres en las respuestas al cambio climático y las iniciativas de desarrollo no sólo es más justo, sino también tiene más sentido.

Fotografía:  Patricia Espinosa

“Aunque el cambio climático y la pobreza se entienden cada vez más como  interdependientes, las respuestas a estos problemas a menudo se centran sólo en sus aspectos científicos y económicos. Sin embargo, la integración de una dimensión de género puede ser la clave para el éxito”, dice Dr Virginie Le Masson, investigadors en el Overseas Development Institute (ODI) y experta en género del Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN)

Comparando tres estudios de caso en Gorakhpur (India), Ancash y Cajamarca (Perú) y Kisumu (Kenia), una nueva investigación llevada a cabo por Practical Action, en colaboración con Institute for Development Studies y ODI, documenta las experiencias de hombres y mujeres que viven en entornos urbanos afectados por el cambio climático. Los informes se basan en 89 entrevistas (54 hombres y 35 mujeres) y 33 grupos de discusión para reflexionar sobre las estrategias de adaptación.

En las respuestas al cambio climático, las mujeres se perciben generalmente como “víctimas”, lo que contradice la realidad y la contribución que pueden aportar en la mitigación y adaptación al cambio climático.

El Acuerdo de París fue celebrado como un ambicioso compromiso para limitar el calentamiento global a un nivel por debajo de los 2 grados centígrados, y si es posible 1.5C, con el fin de evitar los impactos más peligrosos del cambio climático sobre las personas y el medio ambiente. Para lograr esto, sin embargo, requerirá enormes niveles de cooperación.

Pero ¿qué es lo que se pierde cuando las mujeres carecen de voz en los planes contra el cambio climático? Las mujeres tienden a pensar más a largo plazo, y aumentar la resiliencia. Por ejemplo, el estudio de la India muestra que, en las familias donde las mujeres juegan un papel en la decisión de qué hacer con los ingresos, el dinero se gasta en educación, salud y alimentación. Por otra parte, en todos los grupos de discusión, los participantes coincidieron en que los hombres suelen gastar el dinero en alcohol y alimentos.

En la India, al papel de las mujeres en la planificación y la ejecución de proyectos (en lugar de ser simplemente receptoras de servicios) se le atribuye el logro de una mayor sostenibilidad de los proyectos, incluidos mejor acceso al agua potable, servicios públicos más eficientes y la captación de resistentes al clima agrícola técnicas. Por otra parte, las mujeres a menudo dan prioridad a grupos marginados como los beneficiarios de las intervenciones de proyectos.

Varios miembros del proyecto ACCCRN acordaron que: “Si no hubiera habido mujeres como participantes activas, los resultados del proyecto hubieran sido considerablemente inferiores, entre un 10 y un 20%, de lo que se logró. El proyecto ha sido sostenible  hasta el momento en gran parte por las mujeres involucradas en él”.

En Perú, fueron las mujeres quienes demostraron una mayor conciencia sobre el cambio climático y parecían ser más impactadas por éste.

Los peligros de no integrar los enfoques desde el principio en la planificación se exploran también en el informe.

“Los autores escucharon, por ejemplo, cómo las mujeres de Mahewa, en el distrito indio de Gorakhpur, ayunan durante el monzón, poniendo en peligro su salud, con el fin de evitar peligrosas salidas para defecar”, dice el doctor Le Masson. “Las mujeres dijeron tener miedo a ponerse en cuclillas, ya que grandes gusanos se adhieren a sus piernas”.

Las mujeres tienen que participar en la toma de decisiones y la planificación de los proyectos desde el principio para que sus necesidades sean tomadas en cuenta.

“Otra dimensión que ha sido explorado en el estudio son los diferentes desafíos y oportunidades que las ciudades representan para las mujeres en comparación con los de las zonas rurales, y de hecho este nuevo enfoque constituye un aporte al análisis sobre asuntos relacionados con el clima y el desarrollo”, dijo Sam Bickersteth, Jefe Ejecutivo de CDKN.

El estudio descubre una realidad compleja para las mujeres que viven en las ciudades. Por ejemplo, las mujeres en Kisumu, Kenia, informaron tener más mecanismos sociales de apoyo, en comparación con las zonas rurales. Sin embargo, existen menos redes sociales y más segregación de clases en las zonas urbanas que en zonas rurales, de acuerdo con Reetu Sogani, autora del estudio de la India.

Algunos de los obstáculos para la integración de género incluyen una falta general de voluntad política; el hecho de que la aplicación de la política por diferentes ramas del gobierno a menudo es descoordinada; y que los funcionarios públicos muestran una baja competencia en relación con las cuestiones de género y medio ambiente. Hay una falta general de conocimiento en lo relativo a las herramientas disponibles para incorporar el género en el desarrollo de una manera práctica y coherente también.

Con la creciente presión para la aplicación de medidas eficaces contra el cambio climático tras la firma del Acuerdo de París el 22 de abril, las autoras esperan que se dé una mayor participación de las mujeres y que la lucha contra las desigualdades de género se incorpore para asegurar la pertinencia y la sostenibilidad de la acción climática.

Nota: Puedes registrarte para participar en el evento de lanzamiento en Londres el 4 de mayo, 2016, en 14:00-15:30 GMT, en la sede ODI’s en 203 Blackfriars Road, Londres SE1 8NJ. O participar en línea en https://www.odi.org/events/4359-more-equality-and-justice-climate-action.

*Miren Gutiérrez es Directora de Comunicación del Programa para el Clima y el Medioambiente del Overseas Development Institute en Londres, Gran Bretaña

Creadores de Opinión Verde #CDO es un blog colectivo coordinado por Arturo Larena   , director de EFEferde y EFEfuturo

OPINION: After Paris – Indonesia’s biodiversity protection efforts also hold climate change solution

How important are biodiversity and ecosystems services in achieving post-Paris commitments? Mr. Sarwono Kusumaatmadja, Senior Advisor for Climate Change, Ministry of Environment and Forestry of the Republic of Indonesia talks about the role of biodiversity conservation in combating climate change, and the importance of such an approach for Indonesia. Mr. Kusumaatmadja is one of the most respected and senior politicians in Indonesia, and has previously served ministerial posts for marine affairs and fisheries (1999-2001), the environment (1993-8), and  administrative reform (1988-93).

The Paris Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP21), with its global commitment to keeping  average global temperature  under 2 degrees Celsius and as close to 1.5 degrees as possible, sets the desired milestone for most of the parties, including Indonesia. Now is the time to act on it, and at the same time, to continue to think critically.

Indonesia’s adaptation and mitigation concerns emphasise energy, water and land-based issues.  The latter include forests, peatlands, agriculture, and biodiversity – on which political economy comes to play.

Indonesia’s own commitment (its NDC – or Nationally Determined Contribution) reflects the importance of forests and peatlands as well as anticipates the country’s quickly accelerating energy use.   Whereas forests and peatlands account for close to 70%  of all Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions, by 2030, energy is likely to catch up,  i.e. through increased transportation.

With Indonesia’s extent of tropical  rain forest (which FAO’s 2010 data puts as 94,432 million ha) remaining, there is no other way to go but to ensure effective implementation of sustainable forest management.  This calls for a ‘nexus’ approach that considers not only the carbon but also the water, energy, and food provided by the forests. In the coastal areas that are battered by erosion, mitigation can only be ensured by safeguarding nature’s own infrastructure, namely the mangroves through restoration and adaptation measures

One may also need to redefine sustainable agri-business with emphasis on the proper use of biodiversity.   Indonesia has relied much on introduced species such as rice, sugar cane, coffee, tea, and even rubber from, respectively, India, Latin American countries, Africa, China, and Brazil. Indonesia’s indigenous plants, such as the multi-purpose sugar palm tree, originating from tropical moist forests, has yet to be developed as proper agribusiness commodity, despite its ability to co-exist with other plants and to  deliver a vast range of ecosystem services.

The problem of adaptation is especially serious for the island nation of Indonesia.  Socioeconomics play a crucial role, especially since decreased food supply associated with climate change does not impact rich communities but poorer folks instead.  Coupled with scarce livelihood resources, this makes for a vicious poverty cycle. Here, again, would be the role for natural forests as a means of adaptation in providing landscape level protection (e.g. from flood and drought) as well as livelihood sourced from non-wood forest products. In other words, sustainable forest management will allow adaptation and mitigation to go hand in hand.

Recurring forest fires in Indonesia has much to do with agriculture in peatlands, especially for palm oil production.  Oil palm companies’ tend to raze and burn degraded forest land (once the commercially lucrative timber has been extracted) as a cheap and easy way of clearing the land for oil palm plantations. However, the fires take hold deep in the peat-based soil and smoulder for weeks or months, and local authorities lack the capability to restrain the fires

The newly established Peat Restoration Agency, reporting directly to the President, is a welcome initiative.  To achieve results, it needs to prioritise its work given the limited time and financial resources available. Priority areas for restoration, for which peatland rewetting technology will be important,  have been identified; namely Jambi, Riau, Sumatera Selatan, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan and Papua. As a matter of course, restoration has to involve local communities and local NGOs, as well as being oriented for developing biologically diverse livelihoods.  Unfortunately, due to ‘palm oil fever’, local people have been abandoning their traditional lifestyle.

Recently President Joko Widodo imposed a moratorium on palm oil plantation expansion on peatlands and high carbon value forests. A transformation of agricultural practise is therefore on its way towards strenghtened sustainability.

In conclusion, Indonesia has a lot to do in order to  deal with in mitigation and adaptation.  With the importance for energy switch and land use reforms, there must also be a realisation that Indonesia is a mega diversity country with rich ecosystems (57  types  in terrestrial ecosystem according to Indonesia’s senior botanist, Dr. Kuswata Kartawinata), and needs to   sustainably utilise  ecosystem goods and services, and  to restore ecosystems accordingly.


FEATURE: Climate finance landscape – Developing countries still in great need, but private sector shifts give hope

CDKN’s Miren Gutierrez takes the measure of latest developments in the global climate finance landscape, including a read-out from Chief Executive Sam Bickersteth and developments in India and Nepal. 

Climate funds have been recently in the news because of a press release on May 25th in which the Green Climate Fund (GCF) admitted that, although 42 proposals worth $2.4 billion have been submitted so far, not all will be approved in 2016, missing a target to approve $2.5 billion in new projects.

It is not common that this issue hits the news, in spite of climate finance being crucial for the future of the planet and of its volume – there is a commitment to raise $100 billion a year by 2020 for adaptation and mitigation projects in developing countries. But where is international climate finance being spent? A look at specific countries suggests that, among other factors, it may depend on how smart countries are in submitting proposals and negotiating their requirements.

Least developed countries still need to get ‘climate finance ready’

Some countries are more successful than othersbecause they domestically are better able to tackle climate change. And that is essentially to do with resourcing, institutional capacity and leadership,” says Sam Bickersteth, Chief Executive of CDKN.

If you look at the landscape of climate finance globally in the world today (beyond the Green Climate Fund alone), the major recipients of approved project spending are all middle-income countries: Brazil ($846 million), Mexico ($720 m.), Morocco ($652 m.), Indonesia ($630 m.) and India ($608m.), according to the Climate Funds Update (CFU) which tracks the big picture.  These are countries that have invested in their negotiating power and boast skilful teams. They are also some of the biggest developing countries as well.

However, needs lie in other places as well. Poor countries, such as Honduras, Myanmar, Haiti, Nicaragua, Philippines, Bangladesh and Vietnam, are among the ones with the highest long-term climate risk, according to a 2015 report by GermanWatch.

Let´s examine the factors that determine success in receiving climate finance.

“Certainly, the ability to negotiate has some impact on how successful a country is in accessing financial resources… This is also related to power relations at regional and international level,” said Ram Chandra Khanal, CDKN’s Nepal Strategy Advisor, in a previous interview.

“In addition to negotiation skills, the other equally important consideration is its institutional capacity to access funds, such as having capable institutions with robust administrative and financial systems –he adds—. It also related to human resources, which is required to understand the cumbersome process and write bankable proposals.”

Colombia ($187 m. in approved project spending) is another success story. “Countries like Colombia have highly sophisticated institutions, capability and universities, programmes and political systems that have generated a momentum,¨ explains Bickersteth.

While the climate finance ‘pie’ needs to grow – so does the portion for climate adaptation and resilience financing

Part of those trillions is going to be needed to tackle climate-related disasters. In 2012, there were 552 disasters costing just under $158 billion, according to an Australian Red Cross Report.

Investment in reducing risks from climate change (including extreme weather events) is currently far behind investment in climate change mitigation solutions, such as clean energy. Adaption projects have attracted so far $3.68 billion in funding, while mitigation projects gather $8.26 billion and REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation plus conservation) projects, whose primary focus is also climate mitigation,  attract $2.38 billion, according to the CFU’s thematic analysis.

An example is India, one of the biggest recipients of climate finance, where more than $821 million pledged (not approved) are to be funnelled towards mitigation projects. There is certainly a need there. India is the fourth emitter in the world, after the EU-28, according to theEmission Database for Global Atmospheric Research. However, this country also faces great adaptation challenges and in comparison only $18 million have been pledged for adaptation projects.

Mihir Bhatt, CDKN´s country leader for India, who leads All India Disaster Mitigation Institute (AIDMI), says that “a slow but steady evolution of climate finance is taking place in India” as managing climate-related  disaster risk takes a higher profile in investment.

“Let us not forget that these are years of heightened caution in the investment and finance sector,” Bhatt says, drawing links between climate-related risk and increased conservatism in the investment world, overall.

“At a meeting of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, the World Bank and Yes Bank demonstrated what can be done to invest in renewable energy, adaptation and in the household sector. Member of Parliament Kirit Somaiya, who chairs the Joint Committee for Energy, pointed out how rapidly the government is moving ahead to transfer investments where they matter. The Asian Regional Workshop on Sustainability, Energy and Development[1]discussed adaptation, mitigation and risk finance in detail. In addition, disaster risk finance in India is still evolving.”

“Risk transfer or insurance is an area where the state governments of Assam, Tamil Nadu and Odisha have taken initial steps to run pilot test programmes, with the Humanitarian Innovation Fund and local small businesses, to find out how best to protect the income and assets of small urban businesses,” adds Bhatt. “The German bilateral agencies, KFW and GIZ, have developed a growing interest in risk pooling”.

Where the greatest action can happen: in private investment

Looking to the even bigger picture of climate finance, the Green Climate Fund’s support will be just the beginning, says Bickersteth. “The US$100 billion in the Green Climate Fund (the annual amount which donor countries pledge to see flowing by the year 2020) is important for lots of reason, but it is a small amount. We need to mobilise trillions to make investments climate-resilient.”

For Bickersteth, a potentially transformative moment came at the UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris with “the engagement of the governor of the Bank of England and of businesses on the whole issue of climate risk to private sector assets, and the establishment of the Financial Stability Board to look at climate risk for international companies.

“The establishment of the Financial Stability Board together with the shift of private sector finance to be more climate-resilient, to move away from fossil fuel-based assets to clean, green technology is the most exciting thing that is happening today,” he says. “It is the opportunity to switch from dirty fossil fuels, the opportunity to build climate risk into the value of private companies; that’s what the Bank of England’s Financial Stability Board is driving for.”

Although the private sector from developing countries was inadequately represented during the business-led talks in Paris, “the issue now is get non-state actors in developing countries really behind what countries have signed up to, and that includes the financial sector. Not just businesses, it is not just NGOs, it is not just subnational authorities and mayors, but it is also banks and the financial sector… That is really the front line of where the change can happen. That is where the trillions are,” he concludes.

In summary, tackling climate change and accessing climate finance to do so take more than just negotiating skills.

Leadership, a sound long-term strategy, resourcing, institutional capacity and the collaboration of the private sector are key elements as well.


Image: India natural disaster, courtesy diariocritico, flickr.com

[1] The complete title of the workshop is Asian Regional Workshop on Sustainability, Energy and Development: Energy Sustainability, Renewable Energy and Climate Resilience. It was held on January 18-21, 2016, in New Delhi, organised by Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, UK, in partnership with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

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OPINION: After Paris – “Going from intended to implemented, that is the question” says Margaret Kamau, Kenya

Kenya aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030 relative to Business As Usual. This goal is subject to international support in the form of finance, investment, technology development and transfer, and capacity building. Margaret Kamau, CDKN´s Country Engagement and Project Manager talks to Miren Gutiérrez about what this target means for her country.


The Paris Agreement created an ambitious mandate for the global community. Does it change the national conversation in Kenya about action on climate change? If so, how?

Well before, for much of 2015, there has been quite a momentum in Kenya around preparations for COP21 [Editor: 21stConference of the Parties for the UNFCCC], the INDCs [Climate plans which countries submitted to the conference] and the Paris Agreement. A number of stakeholders were quite involved in the ‘road to COP’ process. I think that this kind of momentum has carried on in 2016.

From meetings that we had this February and March, we can tell there is a bit of uncertainty about “what next” with regards to the Paris Agreement. But the Government of Kenya is taking steps to clarify this. For example, in mid-February there was a meeting on the post-Paris situation with a wide range of civil society organisations and other stakeholders, where the government was able to explain what the next steps were and what the COP21 meant.

In two weeks, there is another stakeholder consultation session, now addressed towards developing the next steps after Paris. Now we are waiting to hear what the government has planned and what they need support for. I know they are also looking at the implications for Kenya’s growth and sustainable development. So I think the main influence COP21 has had is creating momentum before, during and after the event.

Ban Ki Moon visits geothermal plant, Kenya, courtesy UNEP

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon visits a geothermal power facility in Kenya; courtesy UNEP.

Are these consultations with civil society and stakeholders binding in any way, has the government been gathering their feedback, or are they just informative?

They have been mainly for information purposes, not to get feedback or to pass clear information on what the next steps are. But I believe the intention of the government is that the next meeting is to be more action oriented. Kenya’s civil society has challenged the government to take action to implementing the agreement. But not openly in the media.

As for coverage, media articles and news stories on climate change tended to be published before and during COP21, with different sectoral approaches. Since the Paris conference, we haven’t seen as much. Although that is not necessarily negative…

Kenya indeed submitted an ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contribution’ (INDC). What will it take to get from ‘intended’ to ‘implemented’? What are the big opportunities and challenges?

That is the question. In terms of implementation, we believe the next step the government should take is to lay out the key priority actions in the climate action plan, and take them forward. There is the realisation that the actions contained in the INDC have been ongoing actions. So it is about accelerating investment to support implementation in those areas.

The big opportunities are first at a sectoral level. The energy sector, the forestry sector, the transport sector have all seen significant growth in the last few years. So those would be quick wins: sectors where there has been ongoing work.

In the energy sector, for example, there is already significant investment [in low carbon energy], but there is room for more. The next steps would be: identifying the actions, the key people and institutions to take those actions and accessing the finance required.

Another opportunity would be leveraging the momentum that the Paris Agreement has created to make sure that all stakeholders are aware of it, and employing this ongoing interest and buy-in for activities.

Finance presents both an opportunity and a challenge. We have different financing opportunities, such as Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) and the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which may be accessed to implement the country’s NDC. A Kenyan entity has just been accredited as the National Management Authority to access direct funding from the GCF. These are opportunities that the government is already taking.

NAMAs are being developed for the bus rapid transit system, another one for a grid of renewable energy and waste management. A geothermal NAMA was developed and is explored in CDKN’s Inside Story on Climate Compatible Development.

In addition, there is bilateral and multilateral funding: the governments of the UK and Japan and institutions such as the World Bank are funding elements of the NDC as well.

In the finance arena, the Government of Kenya has faced hurdles in producing investment plans and proposals that actually attract funding. Here, some investment may be needed in enhancing capacity for proposal development. A current CDKN project is supporting the government to write an adaptation proposal for the GCF. We are responding to a direct government request to help them fill a gap.

Other challenges include coordination. Over the past years, I think the government has improved its coordinated approach towards climate change and development. This has been particularly evident recently during the INDC process. But coordination across government remains a challenge which they continue to address.

Nairobi skyline credit Jonathan Stonehouse

Skyline of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital; courtesy Jonathan Stonehouse

The Paris Agreement calls for limiting average global temperature rise well below 2C, as close to 1.5C as possible. Kenya’s emissions are not huge, but they are growing fast – what hope to see economic growth and human development with lowered emissions in the specific case of Kenya?  

Using the energy sector is a good example. We have seen a significant increase in investments in the renewable energy sector, particularly in geothermal and wind power. About 50% of Kenya´s electricity[1] comes from renewable sources, and this is a number that is increasing on a daily basis. We think that this it is not actually hampering economic growth, because before geothermal power became the focus, hydroelectric power was being produced from dams. Obviously, that meant that during the power crisis electricity was quite erratic because of the reliance on hydropower [Editor: linked to reduced rainfall and river levels – the CDKN Inside Story explains further]. So the focus on this new generation of renewables is actually supporting growth because it is a more reliable source of power and businesses now have more reliable sources of power.

In agriculture, initiatives such as the one led by COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) to reduce agricultural emissions across Kenya and several other African countries will help combat climate change while addressing food security, from the policy level to the farm level.

We have seen initiatives and interventions to improve forest cover and to improve forest conservation resulting in a better environment for people and the communities living around forests. And this translates to improved human development and better economic growth. So far it has not limited economic growth either.

This will continue being a trend for the next couple of years. We still have untapped solar and wind resources. We are expected to have a large 300 megawatt solar farm in the next few years, which will only reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and promote economic growth.

kenya ihub courtesy UNDP

Technology hub, Kenya; courtesy UNDP.

If you check most INDCs from developing countries their emission reduction targets are subject to technology development, international climate finance and capacity building. What would happen if these ‘means of implementation’ do not flow? 

Countries like Kenya have taken some steps towards building internal capacity and using domestic financial national resources to put in place climate change initiatives. This is evident in some government-enabled food security projects, as well as in the setting up of research institutions, industrial research institutions, with technology development. If the means are not put forward, it is not to say that countries such as Kenya will not take action anyway. But the view is that action will be slower because obviously there are other pressing needs that the domestic budget needs to serve. It won’t be a large allocation for a long time, so this will slow the process in achieving sustainable development.

Why are some countries more successful than others in attracting international resources to support climate compatible development? Does their ability to negotiate have anything to do with it? How would you rate Kenya´s performance so far?

Definitely the ability of a country to negotiate in the international arena plays a huge role in attracting climate finance. But also, one thing that stands out looking at these countries have taken initiatives on their own. Brazil, Mexico and Morocco may have allocated domestic resources towards climate change initiatives. And this can help make a case before they go and negotiate climate finance. I believe part of making the case is showing what you can do with our own resources. I think that these have been countries that have been successful in doing this, and when they go to international arena they are not just asking for money. They are saying: this is what we have done and now we need more money to grow this pilot initiate.

Finally, Kenya not very well known for its negotiation power, but I think being part of the African Group of Negotiators has helped Kenya and fellow African countries to try to negotiate collectively. But [its influence] could be improved with further international support.

The SDGs have many climate-related components, as well as a dedicated climate goal. What are some of the ways that the SDGs will influence the planning and practice of development in Kenya in the coming years?

There has not been a lot of communication on the SDGs locally, since the New York summit last September. CDKN helped convene an SDG dialogue process in 2014 – to provide a platform for Kenyan voices in developing the goals. And what came out of this process is that Kenya would need more integrated planning, not just for key economic sectors, making integrated planning a habit if the SDGs are to be achieved. Kenya is also in the process of writing up a green economy strategy, which looks at how to maintain sustainable development while growing the economy.


Image: Kenya, courtesy DFID.

[1] Kenya is looking to geothermal energy to power its growth and reduce reliance on imports. As of 2015, geothermal accounted for 51% percent of Kenya’s energy mix (up from only 13% in 2010). Kenya´s also investing on wind, with Africa’s largest wind farm (310 MW) set to provide another 20% of the country´s installed electricity generating capacity. Those two combined will help Kenya generate 71% of its electricity with renewables in the future, according to CleanTechnica.

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FEATURE: Da Nang – A rising star, menaced by extreme rainfall

Miren Gutierrez uncovers the measures taken by a CDKN project to protect residents in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang from worsening rainfall in a changing climate.

Da Nang is one of the major port cities in Vietnam, and a commercial and transportation hub on the Central Vietnam. With its easily accessible port, at the opening end of the Han River, Da Nang is the leading industrial heart of central Vietnam, and according to Vietnam News, it has set raising targets of its industrial production value. This city is also an international tourist attraction. As a result, its GDP per capita is one of the highest in Vietnam.

Da Nang is also very vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather events, such as typhoons and flooding.

According to 100 Resilient Cities, “for years, the city has been developing innovative models to enhance resilience to climate change… And despite the challenges, Da Nang has become an attractive destination in Vietnam for foreign investment. By late November 2013, Da Nang had attracted 279 foreign projects, totalling over US$3.31 billion.”

However, the tourism and service industries are likely to suffer “significant losses” when extreme weather events, such as typhoons and floods, strike the city, “if preventive measures are not carefully considered and incorporated,” says Phong Tran, the Vietnam Technical Lead of the Institute for Social and Environmental Transition (ISET).

Phong, a technical lead of ISET-Vietnam, has more than 15 years working on climate change resilience and disaster risk reduction in developing countries in the Asia and Pacific, particularly in Vietnam. ISET collaborates with local partners to build resilience and catalise adaptation to social and environmental change.

Rapid development in Da Nang is increasing flood frequency and severity in the city during extreme rain events. “Climate change will increase the intensity of extreme rainfall events in and around Da Nang,” says a report published by the Climate Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) in 2014. In 2007, for example, “a moderate rainfall event caused significant flooding in the city; flooding was clearly exacerbated by rapid development and urbanisation occurring in the floodplain.”

By the end of the 2020s, the CDKN report says, climate change could increase the rainfall intensity of such events by 3 to 24%.

In 2012 ISET, with funding from (CDKN), undertook a 2-year long analysis research project to evaluate the economic costs averted from building to storm resistant standards in Vietnam. TheSheltering From a Gathering Storm research programme, also implemented in India and Pakistan, targeted peri-urban areas in Vietnam to identify solutions for resilient shelters and the long-term economic returns of investing in such shelter structures.

The problem was that construction standards based on historical experience would not prepare houses and infrastructure for future events, which are to be more frequent and intense. “If the city continues to expand into low-lying areas without taking a multi-activity flood risk reduction approach and multi-hazard resilient construction, damage and possible loss of life may be severe even in areas of new construction,” concludes the CDKN report.

Da Nang sits on a long piece of lowland coastline, with the city centre resting along the Han river. Flooding occurs frequently and typhoons are yearly occurrences. The poor households of the city face insufficient access to housing and other services, such as health care, transport and education. This project helped “build and retrofit” –that is, adapt— hundreds of houses for the poor, says Phong.

But what is a storm-resilient house, exactly? Storm-resilient construction methods include “closed concrete frames” –single-piece concrete frames that are easy to assemble and are very resistant—; “ring beams at foundation and roof levels” –supports connecting walls and increasing the load capacity of the walls—; detached veranda, strong connections between roof parts, and tightened windows and doors,” says Phong.

There are also mitigation co-benefits in resilient building. Features included in resilient houses are “openings on both sides,” for example, which “enable natural cross ventilation and natural lighting inside the house and, thus, reduce energy consumption for artificial cooling and lighting equipment (fans, lightbulbs),” he adds.

The expectations from this project include –according to Phong— “wide replication of safe housing construction practices”, as well as “increased public awareness on safe housing”, the engagement of “a wide range of stakeholders in building a resilient housing system” with the support of the city; and “the mainstreaming of risk reduction measures” in granting building permits in vulnerable areas, he says.

On October 15, 2013 typhoon Nari landed in Da Nang city. Storm winds and heavy rainfall led to flooding, thousands of homes were damaged and many people were injured. According to the report of Da Nang City People´s Committee, the damage amounted to up to $40 million.

“No damages were incurred, however, in the homes built as part of the Storm Resistant Housing for a Resilient Da Nang City project,” says a report published by ISET in the aftermath of the typhoon.

The Storm Resistant Housing for a Resilient Da Nang City project has been funded by Rockefeller Foundation and administered by ISET, in partnership with the Da Nang Women’s Union, and it linked with the learning derived from the Sheltering From a Gathering Storm research programme, co-funded by CDKN.

“The retrofits were a great success and showed great added value,” says Kenneth A. MacClune, President and CEO of ISET.

“Beneficiary households strengthened their houses and prepared carefully to cope with the typhoon, therefore their houses were all safe. Meanwhile, many houses and public structures in their area, even right next to them had their roofs blown away and they suffered heavy damages,” says the ISET report on the consequences of Nari.

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OPINION: After Paris – “About money and determination”, a view from Mihir Bhatt, India

India emerged at the COP at Paris as a strong voice, demanding that rich countries show the way in cutting emissions and deliver more funds to poor countries, especially for adaptation purposes and “loss and damage” compensation. Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of this country of 1.2 billion people, the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, announced huge investments in solar energy, but at the same time reasoned that India’s growth should continue to be powered by coal and fossil fuels for many years. Three months after the deal was struck,Mihir Bhatt, CDKN´s country leader for India who leads All India Disaster Mitigation Institute (AIDMI), talks to CDKN’s Miren Gutierrez about the next steps that will be needed for implementing India´s commitment.

The Paris Agreement created an ambitious mandate for the global community. Does it change the national conversation in India about action on climate change? And on disaster risk management? If so, how?

The national conversation on sustainable development has evolved since the COP21 Paris Agreement. Shri Prakash Javdekar, Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has said that he would ensure that the country’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) becomes not only a national commitment, but also a commitment by the people of India. In one indication of the government’s eagerness to move, Shri Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Surface Transport, has urged Indian businesses to move to adopt the stringent Euro 6automobile emission standards before the deadline in 2020[1]. Sunita Narain of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), in fact, moved the conversation, even before the Paris conference, from negotiation, theory, data and scientific proof to what individual citizens are already doing and can do to both adapt to and mitigate climate change. The book Rising to the Call: Good Practices for Climate Change Adaptation”, published by CSE, was distributed to over a hundred key individuals shaping implementation of INDCs in India by the All India Disaster Mitigation Institute (AIDMI) and met a warm welcome from Minister Javdekar.

Similarly, on the Disaster Risk Reduction front, the conversation has moved from disasters and climate risk separately to addressing disaster risk in an integrated fashion, which may incude climate related risks. This is a big shift in a short time. However, what is needed is far more action on the ground. For example, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) needs to move boldly to take up climate change issues, such as mitigating the effects of heat waves, as part of its ongoing activities in India´s cities. Kamal Kishore, Member, NDMA, is striving towards this integration. The District Disaster Management Plans (DDMP) and the District Climate Change Plans (DCCP) across India must integrate with the District Development Plans. The Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG) is trying this integration in Uttar Pradesh, and the Odisha State Disaster Management Authority (OSDMA), in Odisha. Both efforts are supported by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN). In short, conversation and actions, both are focusing more on what can be done to integrate development with climate adaptation and mitigation measures, and how.

India submitted an ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contribution’ (INDC) – what will it take to get from ‘intended’ to ‘implemented’? What are the big opportunities and challenges?

It will take both determination and money to make the the INDC work on the ground. Road maps are being made by the government as well as by various civil society organisations at several levels. Key think tanks are busy working out ways to move ahead in implementing and verifying the implementation of India’s INDC. The government has set up the International Solar Alliance (ISA) to use more solar energy at home and abroad – India has contributed US$250 million as well as land and buildings for IAS, while the government of France has invested €300 million to lend to solar energy parks and related industries in India and in other developing countries. What is needed is a series of project development facilities (PDF) that pull together skills, vision, knowledge and initial finance to set the ball rolling.

I must also mention that Indians will approach the implementation of the INDC from many directions. There is the government’s “growth” approach, which dominates public expenditure. Civil society groups are also exploring the use of what is now called “bioeconomics” with focus on ecosystems. Meanwhile, leading economists are talking about the “Economy of Tomorrow”, with focus on much broader economics not driven by “growth” but shared prosperity for all including social and ecological gains. Artists are talking about “We in Climate Change” with focus on inclusion. Several concerned voices have been raised to put biodiversity, ecology, inclusion and jobs at the centre of INDC implementations. The way of Anubandh, or mutually beneficial, communities that reduce the distance between producer and consumer as a way of thinking more holistically about economic decisions is being promoted by women’s groups and Gandhian thinkers. There is definitely diversity and richness in the way India aspires to move ahead with the INDC.

India has committed to lower the emissions intensity of GDP[2] by 33% to 35% by 2030 below 2005 levels, to increase the share of non-fossil based power generation capacity to 40% of installed electric power capacity by 2030, and to create an additional carbon sink through additional forest and tree cover by 2030. India’s commitment has been rated by the Climate Action Tracker as ‘medium’, can more be done?

More can always be done! But first, all that can be done must be done. And that India is doing. Turning INDCs in to an operational plan is not easy for a country of India’s size and diversity.The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) is holding a consultation and discussion on the Paris Agreement and India’s INDCs, called “Enhancing Preparedness for Implementation and Tracking of Mitigation Actions, Plans and Policies”, on March 14, 2016 in New Delhi to determine possible ways of implementation. The discussions leading up to the March 14 event are exciting. There are calls for the involvement of youth and groups are demanding that the 100 Smart Cities initiative be made INDC compliant. Large business houses are looking to support rural livelihood creation in India’s craft sector as a low carbon activity. International financial institutions are trying to find ways to “Make a Business Case for the INDC”. The list is growing each week. CDKN in India has drawn up an innovative plan to use lessons learned not as an output but as an input to education, business, and governance that leads to climate compatible development

If you check most INDCs from developing countries their emission reduction targets are subject to technology development, international climate finance and capacity building. What would happen if the means of implementation does not flow?

If the means of implementation do not flow from the international community, it will give a very negative signal to India and to most other developing countries. Trust built over years of negotiations will be corroded. Developed nations will show themselves in very poor light. The recent World Trade Organisation (WTO) decision on solar energy and technology transfer has not gone well with India or with many Asian and African developing countries[3]. Pressure must be built to make money and technology flow to where it matters the most, and that is to the developing countries.

India is determined to move ahead, so even if technology does not come to India’s businesses and households, the country will attempt to stand on its own feet. Should India need to invent its own green technology such as for “carbon fixing” or advanced solar energy, or super wind turbines India is capable of doing so on its own, as declared by Piyush Goyal, Minister of State with Independent Charge for Power, Coal, New and Renewable Energy, at the recent Raisina Dialogue[4]. As a participant at the recent “We in Climate Change” film festival organised by CDKN and tve South Asia in Delhi, Anshul Ojha warned that “peace, resilience and jobs will be undermined” in a world where INDCs are used, directly or indirectly, to perpetuate poverty and disparity across or within countries.

The Paris Agreement calls for limiting average global temperature rise well below 2C, as close to 1.5C as possible. India’s emissions are fast growing – how do you reconcile this need to cut greenhouse gas emissions, in the specific case of India?

India is committed to moving ahead with co-benefits: that is, to reduce emissions and poverty both with the same effort. More planning is needed in setting up co-benefits focus so that one benefit does not grow at the cost of another. Plans are being made by the government to generate jobs in forestry; new employment in solar and wind energy; more livelihoods in water harvesting and traditional irrigation; new skills in renewable energy and craft sector and so on. All these, and many more initiatives aim at both, lowering emissions and lowering poverty. Needless to say, far more work is needed to align ambition with results in India.

Have you any reflections on how the process India went through to come up with its INDC will affect what happens next?

The process was most consultative! The INDC formulation process was as inclusive, open and inviting as a government process can be. Prakash Javdekar took time to meet and listen to the potential of this process. The UN system, think tanks, European countries, federation of businesses, civil society, farmers, youth and women were consulted on the direction, pace and content of the INDC in India. This was in addition to the engagement of experts, such as Dr Dubash of Centre for Policy Research, Dr. Parikh who headed Low Carbon Economy Task Force of Government of India; and Pradipto Ghosh of The Energy and Resources Institutes (TERI). As a result, there is wider ownership of the INDC and consequently, its implementation will also be widely owned.

To build on this wide-spread involvement, it is necessary that citizens make their own plans to implement the INDC at the individual level. To me this is most important. Similarly, cities must make their own plans and industries must make their own plans to lower emissions and fix carbon. “Many efforts from many directions to achieve one result” is the only way to go for India according to Dileep Mavalankar, Director of Indian Institute of Public Health Gandhinagar.

The SDGs have many climate-related components, as well as a dedicated climate goal. What are some of the ways that the SDGs will influence the planning and practice of development in India in the coming years?

The convergence of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the INDC has yet to take place in any formal and operative manner in India. Both may agree and overlap in many aspects, but both may still have elements that go in two different directions. And this is natural for any entity which is growing in many directions simultaneously.

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is leading meetings with the civil society to converge Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR), and COP21 Paris Agreement onto one platform for youth and children. The focus of these meetings is on the poor and vulnerable. Participants at a recent meeting in New Delhi hosted by UNICEF on Post-2015 Children in Changing Climate clearly indicated the need to converge and integrate various global frameworks such a SDGs, COP21 and SFDRR into a creative and concrete approach to human development.

Having said so, let us not forget that this is India, and we must remain prepared to have conflicting and contradicting elements coexist within each of these efforts. Far more efforts will be needed to harmonise these approaches than to standardise them. A focus on the basic human needs for water, food, shelter and connectivity is a good way forward for harmonising. Similarly, measures to enhance income and build assets of the poor are also vital steps in the direction towards the benefits of harmonising reaching the poor. We cannot leave out the importance of finance, access to finance, energy and markets either.


Are there any development initiatives in India that, for you, provide perfect examples of how the country can meet the high aspirations of the Paris Agreement and the SDGs?

There are several! Formal and informal, by the government and by civil society. Take the recent national planning meeting at the India Meteorological Department in Delhi, where a Heat Action Plan for 2016 was shaped by the government, with at least three state governments and officials of five cities. This upcoming summer should see over 10 million citizens of India get information and guidance on how to better protect themselves from the negative impacts of a heat wave. Furthermore, they will take part in efforts to reduce the possibility of heat waves in cities. First time in India, maybe in Asia, such a large number of citizens and cities are simultaneously addressing an adaptation and mitigation challenge as an urban development opportunity.

Measures such as boosting green plantation, water harvesting, constructing green buildings, covering roads, as well as measures to lower emissions, adapt to heat and protect the livelihoods and income of the poor citizens will be unrolled. Beginning with Ahmedabad in Gujarat, the heat action plan will move to Bhubaneswar in Odisha and Nagpur in Maharashtra. There is a great hunger to act, to do something, at the subnational level in India. To address this need, a strong effort is lead by Indian cities in collaboration with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) of USA, who is offering technical know how, and the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) UK, who is offering support.

There are many more examples of efforts by poor women to produce salt with solar pumps, and cooperative banks loans to enhance renewable energy and more. The reality of a vast and diverse nation like India is that we have such human resource, and great local innovation, that the country can tap to create its climate-resilient and low carbon future.

[1] This was at the recent Global Partnership Summit: Smart Cities: Smart India, organised by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) on February 10, 2016 in Delhi. “Most car manufacturers in India are making Euro 6 compliant engines in India and exporting them. They have the technology available and time till 2020,” said transport minister Nitin Gadkari. Bharat Stage-VI is equivalent to Euro 6 emission norms.

[2] Units of energy per unit of GDP. It is an expression of the energy intensity –which a measure of the energy efficiency of a nation´s economy.

[3] In February, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) found India´s solar initiative broke trade rules because it gives domestic manufacturers a 10% quota for the supply of panels. The government-funded programme includes a domestic content clause, which would require part of the solar cells to be produced nationally..

[4] Organised by the Ministry of External Affairs and the Observer Research Foundation in Delhi



Image: courtesy DFID

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