News & Insights

The case for climate change-proof programming

Widespread drought caused crops to fail across North Africa and the Middle East in 2010. This led to increased wheat prices and an influx of rural populations seeking employment in urban areas.

This set the stage for the Arab Spring - revolutionary peaceful demonstrations to violent civil wars throughout Arab countries such as Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, Morocco, Iraq, Algeria, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Sudan and others. The effects of these are still felt today - notably in Syria and Yemen, where weakened governments are attempting to re-stabilize society.

That the Arab Spring can be traced back to an environmental condition makes the case for climate resilience’s far-reaching effects.

The impact of the changing climate extends well beyond environmental and natural resource concerns. It is one of the main threats to the security of societies today.

In 2017, we have seen some of the warmest months on record, storms wreaking havoc in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, and devastating wildfires in the United States. What were previously events that were recorded every 100 to 500 years are happening with increasing regularity, putting the most vulnerable people at increased risk.

Society is at great risk of destabilization following a devastating weather effect, as we’ve learned from the post-disaster effects in Haiti, Puerto Rico, New Orleans and others. And climate does not discriminate between advanced or developing nations.
Storm in U.S. National Park Road, Grand Lake, Colorado.

Nathan Anderson, Storm in U.S. National Park Road, Grand Lake, Colorado

But we are in the business of advancing human security to the vulnerable: the poor, the marginalized, the displaced, the sick. To ensure we can effectively serve these communities well into the future, we must consciously integrate climate change mitigation and adaptation into our programming.

Like constructing earthquake-proof buildings, we must consider climate change-proof programmatic efforts to bolster adaptive capacity and establish mitigation strategies, crosscutting into sectors such as economic growth, health and governance.

In 2018, the United Nations is starting the Talanoa Dialogue, a facilitative process to take stock of efforts to date and to inform preparation of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) going forward.

Signatories to the 2015 Paris Agreement - which aims to keep the global temperature below a 2-degree Celsius rise from pre-industrial levels - committed to outline each country’s post-2020 plans to reduce national emissions and adapt to climate change impact.

The first NDCs were submitted by 164 parties to the Paris Agreement, which included many developing countries.

For instance, Cardno's specialists worked with South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs to translate the country’s 2011 National Climate Change Response Policy into feasible mitigation action, ensure there is cooperation and coordination from other government departments, and from other key stakeholders in the private sector and civil society.

The policy is focussed on the transition to a low-carbon economy. It will have far-reaching socioeconomic consequences and will likely encounter opposition from competing interests.

Our support was aimed at anticipating and overcoming that opposition, and developing viable mitigation plans that also make business sense for the private sector. (See Lasting Legislative Reforms: Lessons Learned from Serbia here.)

This was a Talanoa Dialogue as well.

Talanoa - a word shared among Maori, Samoan, Fijian and other Pacific Island languages—means an inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue. Talanoa involves sharing ideas, skills and experience through storytelling, with the goal of making sound decisions for the greater good.

Cardno has been operating in the Pacific for more than 50 years, and has facilitated and participated in many Talanoa sessions.

As the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change leads the 197 parties to the Convention through this dialogue, we would do well to engage in a Talanoa across the wider international development community. We can help the communities we serve achieve reductions in emissions and become more resilient.

Author: Marco Konings, Director of Social and Environmental Impact Management

This project showcase was featured in our global international development magazine, Cardno Connect: Edition 18, Resilience.