Monday, December 12, 2011

Adaptation Discussion at Durban

This 3 page memo is a promising step for having an honest discussion about climate change adaptation.  To repeat my long held view.  Climate change is a real challenge that is exacerbated by economic growth in population and per-capita income.  The world free rider problem precludes a serious anti-carbon incentive from being adopted and so GHG emissions will continue to rise.  Adaptation  is crucial and the magic of capitalism, freedom of choice, competition and innovation will help us to adapt to many of the challenges that climate change will pose.  We are not passive victims and we are not morons.  Instead, necessity is the mother of invention.

Now that I've put my cards on the table, let's look at the Durban 3 pager's first 7 points.

1. Mainstreaming adaptation as a key informant of all local government development planning

We commit to climate change adaptation as a key consideration in all key local government development strategies and spatial development frameworks. Institutionally climate change should be located in a high level integrating office such as the Executive Mayor or City Manager’s office of the local authority.

2. Understand climate risks through conducting impact and vulnerability assessments

We will undertake local level impact and vulnerability assessments to determine the exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity of human and natural systems as guided by best available science and traditional knowledge.

3. Prepare and implement integrated, inclusive and long-term local adaptation strategies designed to reduce vulnerability

We will prepare evidence-based, locally relevant adaptation strategies and will develop and adopt measures to ensure that the objectives of these strategies are implemented, monitored evaluated and mainstreamed into statutory government planning processes. This planning will guide the development of infrastructure and investments that are climate-smart and environmentally sustainable, and that ensure that urban and rural development provide opportunities for adaptive, sustainable development.

4. Ensure that adaptation strategies are aligned with mitigation strategies

We will ensure that adaptation actions taken are in synergy with mitigation actions in order to promote cost-effective and sustainable solutions, and limit increases in the production and release of greenhouse gases. Similarly, we will ensure that mitigation activities do not increase vulnerability or result in mal-adaptation.

5. Promote the use of adaptation that recognises the needs of vulnerable communities and ensures sustainable local economic development

We will ensure that the use of Community Based Adaptation (CBA) is prioritised in order to improve the quality of life in our communities, including the urban and rural poor, who are vulnerable to the harmful impacts of climate change, especially vulnerable groups such as women, children, youth, the elderly, physically and mentally challenged, disadvantaged minority and indigenous populations. We will engage our citizens in our actions to address climate change, and will support proposals from civil society that efficiently and cost-effectively encourage changes in lifestyles that contribute to our local climate actions. We will assess climate adaptation strategies for compatibility with local economic development strategies.

6. Prioritise the role of functioning ecosystems as core municipal green infrastructure

We will ensure that sustainable management, conservation and restoration of ecosystems and the related ecosystem services are used to enable citizens to adapt to the impacts of climate change, which is known as Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EBA). We will strive to maintain and, enhance resilience and reduce the vulnerability of ecosystems and people to the adverse impacts of climate change.

7. Seek the creation of direct access to funding opportunities

We will build our climate financing through generating funds internally and through seeking the development of innovative financing mechanisms that enable direct access to national and international funding for our registered adaptation actions. We support the creation of a local adaptation thematic window in the Green Climate Fund, and in so doing we will seek the support of national governments and multilateral funding institutions.

This all looks good to me but it is vague.  I see no discussion of the synergies between the private sector and government activities listed above. I fully support the role of government as trusted information provider.  As I talk about in Climatopolis, updated GIS maps of hazards and pollution levels will play a key role in helping individuals and firms and governments to make "better" choices over a host of margins.  As I argue in my book, cities that do not prepare to adapt will suffer from inevitable climate change blows and these shocks to their quality of life will cause a reduction in home prices and the flight of the skilled who seek out quality of life. As these cities lose their skilled, they will suffer the same fate as Detroit and Cleveland.  Anticipating this "brain drain", wise city officials will have strong incentives to adapt.