The low-carbon development pathway
08 June 2012
INTERVIEW: Prospects after the Durban Climate Change Summit
Angela Churie Kallhauge, senior policy advisor at the Swedish Energy Agency, represents Sweden at high-level climate change negotiations and has her roots in a pastoralist community in Kenya. Capacity.org talked to her about adaptation, mitigation and development.
The Climate Change Summit held in Durban, South Africa in December 2011 did not yield the consensus required for a determined response to the biggest threats to the world’s ecological system. It is a dubious comfort that the delegates at least agreed to acknowledge explicitly that the mitigation efforts currently promised are insufficient to prevent the world from warming up by less than 2º Celsius, which is broadly recognized as the safety limit. Angela Churie Kallhauge was a member of the Swedish delegation in Durban. In this interview with Capacity.org she reflects on Durban and looks ahead to Rio +20 and beyond.
To many Durban was a disappointment. Are our leaders throwing in the towel, and what can we expect from Rio +20?
Climate change as such is not the agenda at Rio +20, but there are a number of related issues such as green growth, a green economy and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which mark the end of the MDG cycle.
The SDGs may give us a sense of direction on how to achieve a green economy in the long term, which includes climate change resilience and low-carbon growth. In terms of what came out of Durban, to many people it was a disappointment, but one has to look at where the world is right now in terms of the economic crisis and the changing geopolitical situation, as well as at all the other work that was going on in Durban.
I do not think that Durban was a failure but rather one step forward. We agreed on the continuation of the Kyoto protocol and also to work from the same pallet in the sense that an ad-hoc group was set up in Durban to work towards a new agreement with the involvement of all countries. That’s a big step forward compared to the previous situation, which was dominated by a dichotomy of developed versus developing countries. It has now been acknowledged that all countries need to take concerted action to address climate change.
There was also a lot of progress with regard to the many other issues related to the present implementation of the Convention. For example, on adaptation. We managed to make significant progress on further work relating to the Cancun Adaptation Framework. We defined the modalities for a process to help the least developed countries in their efforts to plan for adaptation and also agreed on further work under the work programme on loss and damage associated with the impacts of climate change. There are many other areas I could mention, and it’s important to acknowledge that governments are serious about climate change and are working on all fronts. I therefore don’t think that leaders are throwing in the towel. We should nonetheless be cognisant of the fact that the economic crisis and the changing geopolitical situation are evident in the dynamics of the climate change process, which requires that countries start framing and approaching the problem differently and thus may make things a bit more complicated.
This issue (No. 45) of Capacity.org focuses on the capacity of communities to adapt to the effects of climate change. If you were to look at a community from the perspective of practitioners working with communities, what would be important for them to consider when helping communities to develop adaptation strategies?
I think the first question that needs to be addressed is what implications climate change has for that community. You also need to understand the community situation in terms of their circumstances and ability to respond. Do they have the necessary information? Do they have the necessary capacities and resources?
And you also need to discuss options with them. If a farmer is unlikely to be able to grow maize 10 years from now, he may think about other viable options, such as growing another, less climate-sensitive crop or consider another trade. You also have to look at how these alternatives fit into their lifestyles.
What we learned is that the type of scientific information generated on climate change is only marginally relevant to farming communities.
Yes, the other day I was talking to a colleague from the Gambia who said that very often the kind of information reaching farmers is not always in the form that they can use to develop long-term strategies. But you do not necessarily need 100% certainty on potential impacts to start taking measures to build resilience.
We also found that although small farmers experience the effects of climate change, they are more concerned about other issues, including land rights, finding better-paid jobs in cities and increased pressure on the land as a result of population growth. One farmer was quoted as saying ‘Climate change stands fifth on our list of priorities.’ Do you recognise that sentiment, and what does it mean for national adaptation programmes?
My father came from a community in Kenya that was predominantly pastoral. A pattern of climate variability has emerged there over several recent generations, which has gone hand in hand with changes in farming practices. These days, people combine pastoralism with sedentary farming. Frequent droughts and a changing land tenure system made it increasingly difficult to rely on livestock and maintain the old lifestyle. As a result these communities are now diversifying their livelihoods, and even their diet has changed a lot.
change was not the only factor, however. In fact, most people were forced to become sedentary
because of changes in land tenure. The changes that have taken place from one generation to the
next are even more striking. My father grew up in a traditional environment, whereas I grew up in
an urban setting. Now I do not think that it’s climate change only that has changed our lifestyle.
In my view education has had a bigger impact on changing lifestyles.
Climate change could be a wake-up call for governments. It underlines the urgency of improving prospects for people’s development, through the provision of different services – education and healthcare, for example – which increase people’s options, of improving the infrastructure in communities where people are starting to settle, whether they are planned or unplanned settlements. The important thing is to create an enabling environment for these communities to improve their resilience through poverty alleviation.
Climate change has altered farming practices: the Masai community in Kenya and Tanzania is
increasingly turning to agriculture to expand their livelihood options.
Photo credit: Impact Photos / Alamy
From an individual, community and maybe even a country perspective, the most effective way of reducing vulnerability seems to be moving away from economic activities such as agriculture and pastoralism. However, from a global perspective, one wonders how we are going to feed a rapidly growing world population – projected to reach nine billion people in 2050 – if we move away from agriculture. Is there a conflict between the adaptation agenda and the global food security agenda?
Adaptation does not necessarily mean moving out of agriculture. It can also refer to improving agriculture’s ability to prevail in a climate-stressed situation, by introducing new technologies, management practices and seed types, or by equipping farmers with new farming skills.
The idea is not to move poor farmers out of agriculture in my opinion, but to improve the prospects of the agricultural sector to be able to maintain productivity in a sustainable and climate resilient manner, while helping the poor out of poverty. How to feed a growing world population by 2050 is a challenge we are certainly going to face. But policies and measures designed to address this challenge need to take into account that climate change could increase the risks to food security.
How, then, do adaptation policies distinguish themselves from general poverty reduction strategies?
I believe that policies aimed at adaptation in the long term are not necessarily incongruent with poverty reduction policies. In other words, one does not exclude the other.
Policies aimed at adapting to climate change introduce a long-term perspective on poverty reduction. In this context I would like to highlight the work Youba Sokona (see box) has done with his team at the African Climate Policy Centre in Addis Ababa on climate resilient and low-carbon development in Africa. A climate-resilient, low-carbon economy is one that enables people to continue developing while simultaneously keeping emissions in check and managing the risks of climate change. It also enables people to build long-term resilience in order to reduce vulnerability – not only to climate change but also to other risks.
If a country faces decreased rainfall, for example, this will also cause the generation of hydropower to drop. Often a government’s immediate reaction is to invest in thermal electricity based on oil or other fossil fuels, which increases emissions. Alternatively it may build a hydro dam, which may make sense from an economic point of view and even a mitigation point of view, but not from a vulnerability perspective.
Once you start looking at climate-related problems from a system perspective, in terms of resilience and low carbon in other words, a third option presents itself in the form of solutions based on solar energy, wind energy, energy from biomass or just increased efficiency of the transmission system. Choosing a low-carbon and climate-resilient development approach to development would thus signify a major shift because now governments tend to focus on the near term, that is on 5, 10 or 15 years into the future instead of 30 to 50 years into the future.
First Conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa http://www.uneca.org/acpc/ccda/ccda1/documents.html
Angela Churie Kallhauge was interviewed by Heinz GreijnSearch Terms policy case studies global africa sustainable development community empowerment