By Maimuna Kabatesi (Country Engagement Manager) and Merit Hindriks (Advocacy & Communication Officer)
Vulnerable communities are disproportionally affected by the climate crisis. It is they who bear the brunt of global heating, which severely threatens their environment, livelihoods, and access to food, water and shelter. In short, their very existence. Climate change also exacerbates existing inequalities, undermines democracy and threatens development at large. Yet the communities hit hardest by climate change are the least responsible for causing it and have the fewest resources to adapt to it.
These same local communities – like people in general – want to shape their future and not fall victim to it. So they have taken countless inventive steps to mitigate climate change and adapt to its consequences – steps that could also foster a transition to inclusive and just societies. In fact, youth, women, Indigenous peoples, and others who are most affected by the climate crisis, are often at the forefront of some of the most effective – and inclusive – climate actions around the world.
Yet, data shows that locally-shaped climate solutions are being passed over by global responses to the climate crisis. Only US $1 in US $10 of climate finance goes to local-level climate action. And this attitude is pervasive beyond financing. Current powerholders, often from the richest and most industrialized countries, are the ones deciding on the direction of the entire global climate transition and choosing whose initiatives are prioritized. This must change. The global community needs to provide a platform for locally-shaped climate solutions where voices of low-income and marginalized groups can influence the transition.
Impact of local solutions
One of the realities that must be accepted is that shifting attention and resources to vulnerable communities isn’t charity. Locally-led climate solutions have been consistently shown to be more beneficial in several ways, especially in building resilience. As the World Resources Institute (WRI) laid out in 2020, local adaptation responses are more effective because they take local contexts into account. They have higher social, economic and environmental returns; the results are more equitable and also benefit marginalized groups; the approaches are more holistic, connecting climate solutions to other socio-economic developments; and they embed local knowledge in their measures.
Climate mitigation efforts that are rooted in local communities have a greater chance of success.
Investing in mitigation measures that are shaped – or at least led – locally have almost entirely the same benefits since adaptation and mitigation are actually two sides of the same coin. The methods and technologies they use both curb climate change and cope with its impacts (see examples here and here). Therefore, climate mitigation efforts that are rooted in local communities also have a greater chance of success. When communities feel ownership and responsibility, their participation increases and they create more contextualized actions and solutions.
Moreover, in today’s world, local is global. Climate action begins at the local level but has an impact on the world at large, just like the climate crisis, which has no borders. It is therefore in our best interest to ensure that civil society, governments and development partners give communities opportunities to directly impact their and our future.
To do this, we need to get serious about shifting power to local communities, organizations and governments. The people who are unfairly and disproportionally impacted by climate change should be the ones to influence local, regional and international policies and practice.
But, shifting power and focusing on locally-led climate solutions must be coupled with financial support for those communities. As African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina highlighted during the Climate Adaptation summit in January 2021, “Africa has been shortchanged by climate change, it should not be shortchanged by climate finance.” Funders have to move beyond the rhetoric of “scale” and take steps to create mechanisms for local actors to gain access to global funds. Enabling people to be the architects of their future should be the goal of every amount spent in the name of climate action.
So if the global community moves towards meaningful support for locally-led solutions, this could dramatically affect our climate future.
A number of organizations at the Climate Adaptation summit, including Hivos, endorsed the Locally-Led Action Track principles to extend financial resources to local governments, community-based organizations, and other local actors, and to help create structures that give local groups greater influence on decision-making. In addition, Hivos launched a new initiative at the summit specifically aimed at increasing local ownership of climate solutions by a strengthened civil society.
Introducing our new program
The new program, Amplifying Voices for Just Climate Action, falls under the Dutch Foreign Ministry’s Power of Voices partnerships. It will be implemented by a consortium consisting of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Netherlands, SouthSouthNorth, Akina Mama wa Afrika, Slum Dwellers International, Fundación Avina and Hivos. The program provides a platform for citizens and communities affected by climate change in Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay; Indonesia, Kenya, Tunisia and Zambia. It gives them a space to create their own solutions and a podium from which they can influence climate debates and actions at the highest levels to adopt a climate resilient and inclusive transition.
Hivos’ Locally-Led Action Track commitments
Hivos is committed to supporting local civil society groups that are disproportionally affected by climate change. Although they often lead change in their climate-stricken communities, they are rarely heard in climate decision-making. These women, Indigenous people, youth, urban poor and small farmers must own, participate in and benefit from climate action.
Hivos is committed to shifting the responsibility for managing global programs to people in countries and regions where they are implemented. For example, our Amplifying Voices for Just Climate Action program invites local civil society to take charge of a dedicated fund to promote locally-shaped climate solutions.