Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)

Climate change and development in Africa
Policy frameworks and development interventions for effective adaptation to climate change
12 March 2007
Henny Osbahr, Timmons Roberts

Acknowledgements: FANRPAN acknowledges the Tyndall Centre as the source of this report.

Executive summary

‘Securing human welfare: how can international development be sustained in a warming world?’ is one of six programmatic themes of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change’s second phase of work, which began in 2006. The work programme includes a series of interdisciplinary workshops focusing on development and adaptation to climate change in Africa. The first workshop was held on 12 March at the Oxford University Centre for the Environment, and was co-sponsored by the Oxford African Environments Programme and James Martin 21st Century School. The workshop sought to address a series of applied questions: How can development planning in Africa incorporate information about likely climate change impacts? How can lessons from effective adaptation to climate variability and change be summarized for potential use in informing planning elsewhere in the region? How can academic researchers be more useful to policy and field NGOs and to development agency staff making decisions? How can aid for climate change adaptation and mitigation be collected in sufficient and predictable amounts, and how can it be effectively applied to help secure human livelihoods? How should development and climate adaptation support relate: are they the same, overlapping, or quite different things?

Participants agreed this meeting was unusual in deliberately attempting to bridge the link between interdisciplinary decision makers, practitioners and scientists, and included development NGOs, national and international donor agencies, and academic researchers. The meeting included presentation based on their experience and scientific studies, which were used to facilitate discussion of the critical questions and entry points to enhance interfacing between policy and science. The first session opened with commentary highlighting the human dimensions of climate change in Africa and current state of scientific understanding of climate change. New research challenges addressed by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research were introduced. The first project identifies the role of different factors in driving effective development in Africa, using a meta-analytical approach. The analysis incorporates case studies from the literature, donor agencies and NGOs to explore the characteristics of relative success or difficulties of interventions. The second project will study transboundary rivers and climate change in Africa and identify how existing management institutions can adapt or whether are there may be limits. Breakout groups of agency personnel, academics, and field and policy NGO staff discussed the types of research needs to which academics could usefully contribute, and factors making this communication relatively more difficult or more effective.

The second session examined the wider challenges, such as foreign assistance for adaptation to climate change, the history of environmental aid and the need for substantial new funding. The discussion included donor and NGO approaches to incorporating climate concerns into development planning, and social justice into adaptation agendas. Key messages from the meeting were:

  • The cross-scale nature of the problem requires cross-scale solutions that acknowledge the power process of inclusion and prioritisation. May need to be careful about over emphasising adaptive society because climate changes could mean thresholds are passed beyond which marginal societies can the ability to cope. There are questions about how to simultaneously provide continuity and flexibility in development approach.

  • There is a need to identify appropriate knowledge from multiple adaptation actions and share examples of the limits and opportunities of transferability. The research community can help to identify mechanisms that support action research and knowledge transfer.

  • Research agendas must be developed with local researchers by building African institutional capacity, supporting regional information networks and promoting southsouth exchange.

  • Mainstreaming adaptation to climate change means a focus on vulnerability reduction. To overcome the science-policy gap requires multiple responses. For example the perceived divide between shorter policy timescales and long term research studies can be overcome by identifying the different needs of researchers and policy makers at different points in the process of mainstreaming.

  • It is difficult to plan under uncertain scenarios for many parts of Africa and climate science needs further development, with information linked to decision making.

  • Policy makers now routinely ask the research community critical questions about the process of adaptation, but the area is not properly funded.

  • The funding shortfall available to address the scale of the problem requires innovative solutions (e.g. international tax) and articulation of the economic costs to illustrate ‘added development value’ or create the right development architecture. However, there are difficulties in creating adaptation additional criteria where need to show that climate change is a special case within interacting drivers on change on the livelihoods of the poor.

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