Too much, too little, never enough

21 Aug 2015 by Dylan Lowthian, Communications Analyst, UNDP Media and Advocacy team

Benito VelasquezBenito Velasquez, a farmer from Torota, Bolivia, says erratic weather is affecting his crops. Photo: Dylan Lowthian/UNDP
"I beg everyone to think. It’s not just one country – we have to think about the whole world. We have to say this to our leaders.” Benito Velasquez has farmed a modest patch of land in central Bolivia all his life. “Climate change is taking place”, he says. “We have lots of work to do. Maybe in 50 years we can repair what we have destroyed. We have to repair it.” I have come to meet Benito to see firsthand how changing weather patterns are affecting Bolivian farmers. The interview is part of a visit to four countries on three continents, to document the effect climate change is having on agricultural communities. … Read more

Decoding the alphabet soup of climate change

05 Aug 2015 by Carl Mercer, Advocacy, Partnerships & Communication, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction Team

 woman near waterA woman in Odisha, India on her way to fetch water. Women have been hit hardest by the extreme weather conditions. Many have to walk for long stretches in search of safe drinking water. Photo: Prashanth Vishwanathan/UNDP India
Join any conversation on climate change this year and you’re likely to hear a host of confusing terms and acronyms: INDCs, NAPs, NAMAs, the GCF, COP21. Expanding doesn’t help much: ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’, the ‘21st Conference of the Parties’ – they’re a mouthful and still not immediately clear. While this terminology was once restricted to technical reports, the terms are increasingly finding their way into newspapers, op-eds and social media. But many people don’t know what they are and insufficient attention has been paid to translating them into something accessible. … Read more

Two journeys to drive climate change action

30 Jul 2015 by Daniel Price, Climate change scientist and Founder, Pole to Paris

The weird thing about climate change is that the driving mechanism of the problem is actually very simple: you have a gas, which when put in the atmosphere traps heat and in turn changes the climate system. While we understand where the problem comes from, solving it is incredibly difficult given the complexity of global politics, the economic system, competing interests, and the capacities of countries and societies. A significant challenge around this is public engagement and the difficulty in effectively communicating the issue. Not everybody is a scientist and the cause and effect can be vague for many. But an emerging new dialogue is changing the discourse, emphasizing that climate change isn’t only an environmental issue, but an everything issue. … Read more

In adaptation, understanding economics is priceless

06 Jul 2015 by Pradeep Kurukulasuriya, Head of Climate Change Adaptation Programming, UNDP and Mariana Simões Technical Specialist- Adaptation, UNDP-USAID Capacity Building Programme on the Economics of Adaptation, UNDP

farmers in CambodiaIn Ou Village, Siem Reap Province villagers are trained in planting techniques and drip irrigation installation as part of a climate-proofing agricultural practices adaptation project in Cambodia. Photo: Narith Mao/UNDP Cambodia
What is the right policy or incentive to encourage climate change adaptation? One could simply pick the one that is politically expedient and implement it. If it doesn’t work, make adjustments and try again. In many instances, this is exactly how public policy is defined, despite what is in textbooks or what best practice would suggest. Clearly, this kind of reactive approach has its limits. It doesn’t necessarily result in the most economically efficient choices being made. Understanding the economics of climate change adaptation is critical. In a world with competing demands for limited resources, governments can ask critical questions to form the most efficient policy. … Read more

Why rice farmers are key to tackling climate change in the Philippines

17 Jun 2015 by Alexandra Soezer, MDG Carbon Project Manager, UNDP

rice paddyIn the Philippines, rice is the most important crop and its agriculture represents 11% of the growing GDP of the country.
When I began supporting the Philippines Programme for rice cultivation, I saw it through the lens of climate change mitigation. The logic was, if we made some necessary improvements to cultivation methods, we could reduce greenhouse gas emission (GGE) and help mitigate climate change. This is especially important in a country where 29 percent of the GGEs come from rice cultivation. However, I quickly learned was that although you might be driven and committed to work towards reducing global warming, it does not necessarily lead to the critical buy-in of stakeholders like the Department of Agriculture, the National Irrigation Administration, and farmers. … Read more

Building resilience and livelihoods in the aftermath of war

31 Mar 2015 by Benjamin Larroquette, Regional Technical Advisor, Climate Change Adaptation

 The UNDP-supported project is working to deliver tangible socio-economic benefits by investing in and restoring ecological infrastructure such as rangelands. Photo: UNDP/Afghanistan
Travelling through Afghanistan, one can see that the country is struggling to recover from 30 years of war. Poverty is especially apparent when you leave Kabul and travel to other parts of the country. UNDP has been in Afghanistan for more than 50 years, working closely with the Afghan government to operate projects across the country’s 34 provinces, but despite significant steps forward, this is a country that faces enormous recovery needs after decades of war, natural disasters and a continuing cycle of violence. After months of preparation, we at UNDP are now starting to implement the “Strengthening the Resilience of Rural Livelihood Options for Afghan Communities” project, the first climate change adaptation project in this country. UNDP is now helping Afghan communities withstand the effects of climate change, and we are focusing on building awareness and planning capacity, as well as demonstrating adaptation activities such as livelihood diversification, resilient water and irrigation infrastructure, and improved agriculture practices. This is a crucial project for poverty reduction in Afghanistan. Sixty percent of the Afghan workforce is employed in agriculture, but climate change impact has been making their lives difficult. Due to prolonged droughts, erratic rainfall and extreme temperatures, the most cultivable land … Read more

Building resilience in the face of mounting risks in the Arab Region

23 Mar 2015 by Sima Bahous, Assistant Secretary-General and Director, Regional Bureau for Arab States

Flood in SudanA flood-affected village in Upper Nile State in Sudan. Photo: Fred Noy/UN
Much has been said about the rolling back of development results and vulnerability of communities in parts of the Arab region because of violent conflicts, but less has been said about the increasing changes communities face from natural disasters and risks from climate change. Debates at the recent World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan highlighted that in the 21st century, development will need to be increasingly resilient to shocks and crises, and address the multi-dimensional nature of risk. This holds special relevance to the Arab region, as the most food-import dependent and water-insecure region on the planet today. The Risk Triad: Conflict, Drought, and Climate Change Many communities face the convergence of conflict, and one of the largest mass movements of forced migrants and refugees in modern history, and the exacerbating force of climate change, which brings more frequent and severe droughts, land degradation and food and water insecurity. Out of a population of 357 million, about 150 million in the region are exposed to drought risks. In Somalia, the famine killed between 50,000-100,000 people and displaced 4 million people.  In Syria, the drought of 2006-2010 decimated the livelihoods of more than 20% of the rural population, unleashing … Read more

Managing local level risks for sustainable development

18 Mar 2015 by Rajeev Issar, Policy Specialist, Disaster and Climate Risk Governance

 Jambeshwar Maji, 48, works around the lift irrigation unit. UNDP’s partnership with the Government of Odisha is helping communities in Puri in Odisha adapt to extreme weather events. Photo: Prashanth Vishwanathan/UNDP India
“The most effective disaster and climate risk management focuses on the local level.” As a Disaster Risk Management (DRM) practitioner, I heard this often, and yet only once I worked with communities on the ground did I truly understand the idea’s full import. Working with the GoI-UNDP DRM Programme in India showed me that the most successful and innovative DRM efforts start with communities. The Programme’s bottom-up approach allowed community members to identify their own risk management and climate adaptation needs, formulate local development and disaster management plans, and have these approved by elected village councils/representatives. It was particularly satisfying to note the sense of ownership the people had for the plans. While this might sound both intuitive and easy, I learned that a bottom-up approach requires sustained and continuous engagement with community members. It requires numerous meetings and consultations with a large cross-section of people, including women, the elderly and other traditionally overlooked groups. It requires sharing information and knowledge about successful practices with these communities, while also familiarizing these communities with administrative mechanisms and methods of promoting administration-community collaboration. We used this process in India. After the village/community disaster management plans were approved by the village council, the plans … Read more

Disaster resilience? There’s an app for that.

18 Mar 2015 by Patrick Grémillet, Partnership Advisor, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction

 Improved technology and disaster communication training supported through UNDP's projects in the Philippines helped local authorities obtain information rapidly and coordinate on a response during emergencies such. Photo: Hari Krishna Nibanupudi for UNDP
Mobile phones are helping revolutionize the way we protect communities from disasters. While more traditional measures, such as earthquake-resilient buildings and early warning broadcasts, will continue to be the hallmark of disaster risk reduction, innovations in technology are offering new ways to strengthen resilience. From simple SMS-style early warning messages to full touch-screen enabled ‘hazard maps,’ mobile technologies connect users to real-time disaster info. These innovations provide new ways of sharing life-saving information, but also help ‘crowd-source’ disaster info, allowing users to receive and update hazard-related information in real-time. Such technology has already had impressive results. For example, after the devastating 9.0 earthquake struck the coast of Japan in 2011, 120,000 residents in the Philippines’ exposed coastal communities received warnings of a possible tsunami on their mobile phones. While the tsunami fortunately did not materialize in the Philippines, some 150 coastal districts were nonetheless successfully evacuated. Countries around the world are using technology to raise awareness about disaster threats and create cultures of action. In Uzbekistan, UNDP helped create a mobile app in Uzbek and Russian that can transmit emergency information from the Ministry of Emergency Situations to at-risk communities. “It’s really easy to use,” says Vasko Popovski, UNDP’s Project Manager … Read more

Why Sendai is important for Africa

17 Mar 2015 by Aliou Dia, Team Leader, Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change, Africa

 UNDP IS HELPING RWANDA BOOST RESILIENCE TO DISASTERS AND THE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE. PHOTO: UNDP RWANDA
This week the world will gather in Sendai, Japan, to mark the end of the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) and the beginning of a new global framework on disaster risk reduction (DRR). Sendai is a golden opportunity for Africa to engage meaningfully in the debate and be heard in the light of its current economic transformation. Africa has seven of the top ten fastest growing economies— that growth, if not well managed, will likely contribute to new risks, including the potentially negative fallout from rapid urbanization and industrialization, the intensive use of natural resources and the degradation of ecosystems. One of the biggest achievements of the HFA in Africa has been raising awareness on disaster risk. It has been a tremendous vehicle for engaging African governments, sub-regional and regional institutions on DRR, and an important addition to Africa’s development agenda. The HFA has helped many African nations adopt legislation and shape institutional arrangements that include DRR. Yet, while considerable progress has been made over the last decade, the continent is still facing many challenges. The Horn of Africa and the Sahel region are continuously under threat of drought. Floods annually affect many cities and rural areas, with huge socio-economic impacts … Read more