Building climate resilience from the grassroots up

Haiyang, China - The Haiyang City Government, UNDP, and other actors will conduct a global exchange of best practices between local and urban governments on common challenges in building sustainable and resilient cities and meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.

At the forefront will be the experience of municipal and local governments from Haiyang to Gdansk to Kampong Cham. Why is such an event important? And what is the role of UNDP?

By Patrick Duong, Rohini Kohli, Paavani Reddy, Rajesh Sharma and Pradeep Kurukulasuriya

In late 2015, the UN issued a sombre report titled, ‘The human cost of weather-related disasters 1995-2015’. It was a wake-up call, highlighting the devastating human and economic losses caused by floods, storms, droughts and other climate-driven weather-related disasters.
Among its findings was that over 606,000 lives were lost and 4.1 billion people injured, left homeless or in need of emergency assistance as a result of weather-related disasters between 1995 and 2015. The countries hit the hardest? China, India, Philippines and Indonesia.
Over recent years, the world has been moving away from a focus on responding to disasters after they happen, to investing in reducing risk in the first place.
Today, global compacts such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Paris Climate Agreement unite us around climate and disaster risk reduction. These are important international agreements.
Yet it is on the local level that much of the work reducing risk and building resilience will be achieved.
Be it adapting to flood risks or the switch from fossil fuels to alternative renewable energy sources, it’s local action that will spur and act as the engine of change. 
The challenges – and how UNDP is enabling local action
Local governments face numerous challenges. Unclear delineation of roles and responsibilities between levels of government, limited institutional resources and capacities, fiscal decentralization. These are challenges that will be extensively discussed in Haiyang.
UN agencies, including UNDP, are hard at work to address the gaps.
Building capacity is a key part of this. In Timor-Leste, with financing from the Least Developed Country Fund, UNDP is helping to strengthen local governance and capacity at district and sub-district levels to improve planning and budgeting for climate-related risks.  In Cambodia, the 'Strengthening the resilience of Cambodian rural livelihoods and subnational government systems to climate risks and variability’ project aims to strengthen the capacity of subnational administrations for climate sensitive planning, budgeting and execution.  More recently, with financing from the Green Climate Fund, Tuvalu is gearing up to bolster coastal protection with a focus on building the skills of government officials in resilient coastal management. Similar activities are taking place in Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh and other countries across the Asia Pacific.
Also important is the enhancement of risk information and its use in local development planning. In this respect, UNDP has been assisting 15 countries in the region to systematically build national disaster loss and damage databases to help local governments better understand the disaggregated impacts of disaster and climate risks. Improved understanding is expected to assist local governments in pursuing ‘risk-informed development’.     
Meanwhile, with financing from the Global Environmental Facility and the Green Climate Fund, UNDP is working with governments – including local governments and cities – to formulate and implement National Adaptation Plans. Over time, these investment frameworks will be key to scaling-up climate adaptation.
From grassroots to grass tips
Around the world, UNDP understands the value of an empowered base. This is our core value. Empowering local climate action to affect global change will no doubt become part of this, informing a whole new generation of initiatives.
While on the national and international levels, leaders need to come together to achieve and finance low-emission, climate-resilient growth and reach Nationally Determined Contributions and disaster reduction targets, again, it is in cities, counties and villages that these actions will have impact (and be put into force).
Our efforts must be guided by those working on the ground who best know the needs and constraints: principally among them, local government.
Climate resilience must be localized.  More effective disaster risk reduction strategies, shaped by the needs of communities. Integrated climate governance that connects the dots between municipal governments, business, civil society, national government and international finance.  Long-term risk management that is interwoven with the local fabric of society, economy and culture.  Investment in local institutions and assistance to businesses to adapt.  Better cohesion between international, national and local interests and stakeholders.
It won’t be the job of just elected leadership. Civil society, business, industry, finance, insurance and other key sectors need to collaborate to build the transformative change required for effective climate action.
Yet ultimately, by proximity to people, local governments are best positioned to understand the challenges and to develop the innovative solutions required to deliver services, manage resources, create accessible spaces, and promote climate-resilient local economic growth.  
What would a perfect world look like with true climate resilience at the local level? It remains a work in progress. What we do know, is that the foundation is an empowered base with the tools and knowledge to make effective climate decisions. 
This is what acting locally looks like. At the Haiyang conference we’ll be sharing experience for global impact.
Connect with the conference on twitter with the hashtag #LG4SDG

For Further Details:

Follow UNDP experts in National Adaptation Plans, disaster risk reduction, and local governance on Twitter:

UNDP Climate @UNDPClimate
UNDP Asia Pacific @UNDPAsiaPac
Pradeep Kurukulasuriya  @pradeepk333
Sanny Jegillos @Sanny080911
Rajesh Sharma @hsejar2010
Rohini Kohli @RohiniKohli1
Last Updated: 22 Jun 2017