5 reasons why we need to adapt together

C limate change is a global issue that requires global solutions and cooperation. This is why countries get together in climate negotiations to define their future actions and goals. Negotiations usually have struggles1 and politically-driven agendas that are hard to avoid, which can make agreements difficult and slow to reach. Nevertheless, the effects of climate change cannot be ignored. They are already being felt by many communities and countries around the world. In order to adapt and become more resilient, non-state actors such as NGOs, private sector companies, communities and individuals can promote adaptation actions faster in a cross-country manner. Together, governments can also work towards a more resilient future, a commitment underlined by those who have adopted the framework for international cooperation under the Paris Agreement.

Here are 5 reasons (and examples) why we should promote on-the-ground international cooperation:

1. More ambitious projects can be undertaken

Projects can be scaled up and benefit more people when countries share the same goal. Countries can share physical space for projects, knowledge and resources to gain mutual benefits and become more resilient.  

Africa’s Great Green Wall, is an ambitious cross-border project to plant and grow 8000 km of trees and plants in the Sahara Region across the width of Africa. This nature-based solution is expected to bolster food security, green jobs, economic opportunities and improve overall quality of life in communities of the 21 African countries involved.  

Even though the Green Wall has been under development for 13 years and it is only around 15% complete, the benefits it is providing are already clear. For example, in Ethiopia, 15 million hectares of land has been restored for agriculture, while in Niger, land restoration has delivered 500,000 tonnes of additional grain per year, feeding around 2.5 million people. When it is completed, it is expected to be 3 times the size of the Great Barrier Reef.

2. Countries can share knowledge and experiences

Countries may have a vast background and experience in a specific topic that can be helpful to others when dealing with the impacts of climate change. Offering expertise can help other countries to quickly translate the adaptation solutions in ways that address their own situation. 

For instance, the Netherlands is highly proficient in water management after years of dealing with floods. To facilitate better knowledge-sharing, the Special Envoy for International Water Affairs uses the Dutch expertise to assist other countries with water-related issues. An example of  such collaboration was when Special Envoy Henk Ovink supported the United States task force after Hurricane Sandy. This knowledge from the Netherlands was used to help rebuild and rethink the infrastructure in the affected areas to be more resilient against extreme weather events, like hurricanes, which are strengthened by climate change.

3. Upscale locally led action

Local knowledge can also be shared and transferred to other regions with similar circumstances or situations. This helps create a network of communities that help each other confront climate change effects and its impacts by building resilience together.  

An example is the indigenous Australian rangers that are sharing their ancient fire-related knowledge with other countries with savanna landscapes like Botswana, where the rangers were invited to demonstrate their techniques. These north Australian practices in fire management have other benefits beyond controlling destructive fires, such as lowering greenhouse gas emissions by protecting forests, which store a large amount of carbon. This kind of local knowledge-sharing is particularly important in places like Australia and California, which are expected to experience more frequent and severe fires due to climate change.

4. More region-focused research and policy advice

Countries in close proximity to one another often share similarities in their weather, landscape, and climate impacts. Hence, partnering up for regionally-focused research can help shed light on knowledge that might be useful for others in the same region when dealing with climate change impacts.  

Latino Adapta is an initiative that seeks to identify and analyze adaptation knowledge gaps that affect the policies related to climate change in 6 Latin American countries:  Argentina, Brasil, Chile, Costa Rica, Paraguay and Uruguay. This initiative works with the idea that there is enough information and scientific evidence for decision-makers to base their policy advice on, but these need to be bridged in order to strengthen national governance capabilities related to climate change adaptation in these countries.

5. More opportunities for capacity building

Another way to share knowledge is to offer capacity building opportunities, with different approaches, which can be tailored to different stakeholders like the general public, decision makers or the private sector. This has significant potential for knowledge dissemination on a broader scale.  

An example is the EIT Climate-KIC, a European knowledge and innovation community that supports innovation  aimed at helping societies to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Their wide range of approaches include bridging stakeholders together, providing education programmes for students and professionals, and catalyzing innovation via hackathons, the LaunchPad platform and incubator programs. 33 European countries have on-site activities but the organization also offers online events, they also have a USA based hub to bridge entrepreneurs in Europe and Silicon Valley.  

Knowledge sharing, capacity building, supporting regional institutions and communities are a few ways how different countries can work together, from a north-north, north-south and south-south perspective. Stakeholders should work together as much as possible to build resilience and adapt to the new circumstances of the changing climate. The decisions made and actions taken in the next years are a global responsibility with worldwide consequences, making international cooperation absolutely essential in decades to come.  

[1]  Noble, I. (2019) The evolving interactions between adaptation research, international policy and development practice. Retrieved from “Research Handbook on Climate Change Adaptation Policy”. (E.C.H. Keskitalo & B.L. Preston Eds.) Edward Elgar Publ, Cheltenham, UK.  pp 21-49

The ideas presented in this article aim to inspire adaptation action – they are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Global Center on Adaptation.

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