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Better science and communication needed to help vulnerable adapt to climate change

Source(s):  International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

A major international conference in Bangladesh has ended with strong recommendations on how to help communities in developing countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

More than 300 participants from 60 countries attended the 5th International Conference on Community Based Adaptation to Climate Change in Dhaka this week.

The conference ended with calls for greater scientific analysis of adaptation at the community level, better communication of what works, and stronger engagement with a broader range of players.

Atiq Rahman of the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies, which co-organised the conference, said it had been: "A milestone of intense interaction between scientists, practitioners, policy-makers, NGOs and government representatives. Looking back it has been a great journey of excitement and better development of understanding. Some of the questions getting sharper and more rigorous."

The conference included three days of field trips to see how communities are already adapting to threats such as droughts and floods. This was followed by a formal conference with 21 sessions that included methods and tools to different sectors like agriculture and water, ecosystems

"Bangladesh is a living laboratory for adaptation to climate change," says Saleemul Huq. "People here are already developing ways to make their communities more resilient to extreme weather and rising temperatures. The conference focused on how to take the many lessons that are emerging at a local level like this, and scale them up so that they can bring benefits across the planet."

The conference attracted more academic researchers than ever before, a sign that community-based adaptation is becoming easier to define, measure and analyse in ways that can bring value to global efforts to protect people from the impacts of climate change.

Conference participants plan to publish a peer-reviewed book of their findings to help raise the profile of the science of community-level adaptation in the next IPCC report, due out in 2014. "So far, there has not been a lot about community-based adaptation in the academic literature and we are trying to fill that gap," says Huq.

Conference delegates also spoke of the need to engage a broader range of people with the concept of community-based adaptation, having already attracted, first, development workers and, second, academics.

"We need to identify incentives for the private sector to support adaptation at the community level and we need to involve governments, youth groups and faith based organizations," says Huq. "The final element is to spread our knowledge. We have to be better at communicating from what NGOs and other practitioners learn on the ground and better at supporting communities and drawing out lessons from their activities."

Communication will be a central theme of next year's conference, which will take place in Vietnam.

Mike Shanahan
Press officer
International Institute for Environment and Development
3 Endsleigh Street
London WC1H 0DD
Tel: 44 (0) 207 388 2117
Fax: 44 (0) 207 388 2826

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  • Publication date 01 Apr 2011

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