Climate Change: Adaptation Partnership Workshop

Participants at the second-day Adaptation Partnership workshop that was held with farmers in the remote Ethiopian town of Sululta to discuss the impact of climate change and adaptation strategies. Photo courtesy of Debay Tadesse
Participants at the second-day Adaptation Partnership workshop that was held with farmers in the remote Ethiopian town of Sululta to discuss the impact of climate change and adaptation strategies. Photo courtesy of Debay Tadesse

As climate change remains one of the most critical factors in the changing landscape of the globe and will likely continue to be for the foreseeable future, developing practitioner toolsets and policy frameworks for adaptation to those effects is essential.

Climate change has many actual and potential impacts on people’s daily lives. The extreme heat waves, floods, storms, droughts and wildfires wreaking havoc on communities worldwide are a wake-up call of the grave risks we already face.

Experts believe that African nations, among the least polluting countries, would be most adversely affected by climate change as they strive toward peace and security, sustainable development and food security.

Furthermore, in today’s globally interconnected world, shared knowledge is required to guarantee the efficacy and conflict-awareness of selected adaptation pathways.

The difficulties posed by climate change require collaboration between countries and communities. Institutions are equally vital in addressing climate change. Sharing ideas, understanding practical necessities, addressing basic needs and ethical responsibilities are the cornerstones of the adaptation mechanisms made possible by institutions.

Under these circumstances, cutting back on emissions caused by deforestation and degradation presents a viable way to provide essential ecosystem services in Africa while also providing mitigation and adaptation strategies. Subsequently, Africa has been the primary geographical focus of these developments, making it a topic of discussion and debate among nations, international media, policymakers, academic communities and the international policy agenda.

A recent report  by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reveals that “fragile and conflict-affected” states are a significant global concern that remains largely unaddressed, with potentially dire consequences that jeopardize global security and prosperity.

It is not impossible to accurately quantify the price of the resulting human misery. However, according to the report, at least $270 billion is spent annually on the international system of state failure.

Adaptation Partnership Workshop

The Adaptation Partnership is a global platform that facilitates collaboration and exchange of information among organizations and stakeholders engaged in international initiatives to enhance climate change resistance and adaptation.

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (Wilson Center), the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), a think-tank research institute where the author worked as a senior researcher in South Africa with a branch office in Ethiopia, collaborated to facilitate two workshops under the Adaptation Partnership to explore further the relationship between peacebuilding and climate change adaptation in Africa.

The first workshop, “Climate Change Adaptation and Peacebuilding,” was held Nov. 1–2, 2012, at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. The workshop featured in-depth consultations among a group of experts, policymakers and practitioners, as well as public sessions featuring African experts.

The primary goal of this collaboration in Washington, D.C., was to provide an opportunity for African scholars and practitioners to identify and debate both threats and opportunities presented by climate adaptation challenges. This initial workshop allowed leading African experts to engage with more than 30 U.S.-based experts from multiple climate change adaptation and mitigation, development, natural resources, peacebuilding, security and diplomacy communities.

This wide-ranging group worked better to understand one another’s priorities, objectives and needs and to begin working together collaboratively around climate change adaptation and peacebuilding efforts. Presentations and discussions focused on current research, policy interventions and gaps in knowledge.

Over three days, Oct. 14–16, 2013, a follow-up workshop in Ethiopia featured a greater variety of African perspectives. The workshop addressed the findings and deliberations of the Washington workshop. These two workshops identified practical and feasible ways forward for climate adaptation and peacebuilding across diverse institutions.

The workshops also helped experts identify concrete steps to support practical climate change adaptation efforts in fragile and conflict-affected countries, turning awareness into action. They built upon a detailed understanding of current policies and practices in climate adaptation, peacebuilding and conflict-sensitive approaches in conflict-affected countries and beyond.

The workshops accelerated the development of a community of practice around the issue of climate adaptation and peacebuilding, setting expectations and identifying opportunities for sustained activities around topics important to the community.

The outcomes of these two workshops demonstrated the need to identify gaps in the body of knowledge on conflict and climate change, develop new case studies for the emerging field and build an online network of resources and databases for scholars and practitioners working in the field.

In addition, the need to continue educating policymakers in Africa, the United States, Europe, Asia and beyond about the adaptation to climate change and peacebuilding, as well as the importance of the donor community in preventing, managing and resolving conflicts arising from climate change, was highlighted and recommended.

Another concern was moving the issue from awareness-raising to developing tangible outcomes that the community of practice could incorporate into its work on both a project and policy level. This was suggested at the first workshop, and several participants were keen to see it developed further.

Arranging international workshops with UN-Habitat, on such topics as soft risk management tools and energy efficiency tools for mainstream security, was highly recommended. Training U.S. diplomats and delegates involved in African security and climate change adaptation programs was also suggested.

The need to disseminate information widely for all end users, including climate change curriculum at primary, secondary and college levels, was strongly advised. Engaging stakeholders and end users separately and together will strengthen the success of the community of practice.

After a fruitful and interactive session, participants were ready to delve deeper into the specific tools and frameworks for conflict-sensitive programming and think about what that would look like for climate change adaptation policy and programs.

Countries that have pledged to reduce their emissions to levels that will keep global warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius account for more than 67% of the world’s GDP.

President Biden pledged to work with Congress to quadruple U.S. support for developing countries—and enhance financing for adaptation efforts sixfold—by the end of 2024. In addition, he signed a historic piece of legislation that included the largest-ever climate commitment in U.S. history—$269 billion to support the global development of sustainable energy technology.

He added, “We all know we are already in a climate crisis and don’t have much time left. This is a global game changer.”

According to Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin, “the Department of Defense (DOD) must tackle the existential threat of climate change to keep the nation secure.”

The DOD has made available several reports that detail its strategies for mitigating the effects of climate change, including the Department of Defense Climate Adaptation Plan. In addition, the Department of Defense Climate Risk Analysis, which was signed by the secretary in 2021, described how the strategic, operational and tactical environments of the Defense Department are being shaped by climate change.

Furthermore, the DOD recently declared that the planet’s changing climate significantly impacts the missions, plans and installations of the DOD, and has started to pose a severe risk to America’s service women and men and their families. The DOD is making climate change a top priority for national security and incorporating it into partner engagement programs and initiatives.

According to Rachel P. Ross, deputy chief sustainability officer and acting principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations and environment, many installations have climate, energy and resilience issues with their infrastructure that, if left unattended, could affect the continuity of operations.

Whether gradual or abrupt, climate stress can become a significant factor in nations already dealing with low levels of development, underdeveloped social service systems, and political and social instability. Understanding the nexus between climate change and security from the perspectives of development, defense and diplomacy is becoming increasingly crucial.

Climate change is particularly complicated from a geopolitical standpoint as it impacts many foreign policy issues, such as security, commerce, international health, humanitarian preparedness and response, migration and displacement, food security, economic development and human rights.

Conclusion

Africa has been the breadbasket of nearly every rising and dying empire for millennia, including the Persian, Greek and Roman. Africa’s resources are vital to the globe, notably to the West and the United States. It would be inconceivable to consider the consequences of leaving Africa to deal with the most challenging environmental issues on the planet.

Climate adaptation issues are inextricably linked to security and peacekeeping efforts globally. Aside from the difficulties brought about by climate change, Africa—and the globe at large—has not benefited enough from climate adaptation mechanisms. These factors underscore how important it is to address climate change and related concerns through mainstream adaptation.

Climate change will intensify conflict, and natural disasters obstruct development globally; therefore, immediate response is required. In addition to their constructive work toward a global agreement to manage climate change, governments worldwide are obligated to establish an enabling policy framework that addresses planning, management and service delivery functions for adaptation, thereby facilitating and supporting the efforts of local institutions and other actors.

Author

  • Debay Tadesse

    Debay Tadesse, Ph.D., graduated with a B.A. in world history from Georgia State University and an M.A. in African history and a Ph.D. in African studies with a focus on public policy and development from Howard University. He is currently a lecturer at Fresno City College and Fresno State.

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