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Last month, delegates from nearly 200 countries met in Katowice, Poland, to attend the two-week-long United Nations (UN) climate change conference COP24 and agree on a way forward to implement the Paris agreement. The deal reached in 2015 at COP21 had established a global goal of ‘enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change’. Therefore, the emphasis at COP24 was on how to operationalise this objective.

This focus made the side event that we co-hosted with the Government of Nepal at COP24 even more relevant. We shared early findings from interventions run within the UK Aid-funded Adaptation at Scale prize (A@S) on how to increase the impact of locally-driven innovative adaptation initiatives in least developed countries (LDCs). This can be done through a ‘scale-up’ process, whereby successful interventions can become best practice and inform and influence national policies. They can also be ‘scaled out’, so their impact expands beyond the originally targeted beneficiaries, to the advantage of poor and vulnerable communities.

Another key theme of the event was the role that innovative technology, finance and capacity building play in closing the ‘adaptation gap’, which is pervasive in LDCs according to the UNEP Adaptation Gap Report 2018 released at COP24. (Listen to this podcast to learn more about A@S).

The panel of our side event was chaired by Dr Maheshwar Dhakal, head of the delegation of the Government of Nepal to COP24 and moderated by Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Population and Environment Dr Ram Prasad Lamsal. The other panelists included Dr Dinesh Devkota, former Vice Chair of the National Planning Commission of Nepal, Dr Madhav Karki, Executive Director of CGED-Nepal and A@S Team Leader, Dr Lars Otto Naess, Research Fellow at IDS and Ideas to Impact climate adaptation expert, and A@S gender expert Ms Prabha Pokhrel.

Participants at the side event we co-hosted at COP24.
Attendants of the side event we co-hosted at COP24 in December 2018.

Five key highlights

The side event provided us with the opportunity to share our experience and learning from A@S, which can be regrouped in the five points below:

  1. Effectiveness and potential for replication: local initiatives can prove useful in bridging the adaptation gap and could inform national policies and programmes in Nepal and other LDCs. We presented good practices from A@S work. For example, some of the communities we are working with are faced with water shortages. They have transformed parched, flood-degraded farms into lush corn and rice field through a technology that taps river water trapped under sand and gravel aggregates. Neighboring villages have adopted this practice, which is benefiting more people than those originally targeted.
  2. Use of cash incentives to stimulate solutions: the rationale behind the Ideas to Impact prize competitions is to stimulate innovative ideas on adaptation through cash awards. Specifically, within A@S, we plan to award up to eight prizes from a total purse of GBP 500,000 to the best performers. The concept of cash awards was well received. Our event panelists agreed that we should diversify funding mechanisms to complement donor grants, in line with the general consensus on the need for innovative financing, which was central to talks at COP24.
  3. Develop local capacity: Experience from A@S shows that local organisations often face barriers to enter and participate in prize competitions. Consequently, we have been supporting peer learning, knowledge sharing, training and face-to-face visits to build and strengthen the skills of local organisations that are participating in the competition. (Learn more about the risks and rewards of prizes in this blog post)
  4. Importance of indigenous knowledge: we highlighted the role of indigenous and local knowledge, in addition to scientific sources. Our experience on A@S shows that acknowledging communities’ millenary experience helps build trust between development partners and local players, such as NGOs, community-based organisations and small businesses, and makes their buy-in easier to obtain. Within A@S, we have seen that practices that use proven indigenous and local knowledge, in areas such as water conservation and management, have scaled successfully.
  5. Raise awareness of women’s role: gender-based inequality means that women have limited access to resources, which makes them less equipped to adapt to climate change. Our gender expert stressed the need to design and implement adaptation interventions that address inequalities between men and women across agriculture, food nutrition, health and energy security.

With over 65 participants attending our side event from all over the world, especially from Asia, Africa and Europe, we were able to strategically connect the A@S prize concept to the global issues of lack of finance, technology and capacity. We are confident that our experience will prove helpful to other countries as they embark on preparing their climate plans by 2020 as part of the Paris Action pledge.

Cover photo: our side event panellists from the Government of Nepal and the Adaptation at Scale (A@S) team.

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