Reducing Vulnerability and enhance socio-ecological resilience in the face of climate change

Many evidences documented and published by scholarly organizations, and scholars have revealed that climate change (CC) affects people, plants, and animals in many ways. Observed effects of CC include changes in the range and distribution of plants and animals, trees blooming earlier, lengthening of growing seasons, sea level rise, melting glaciers, dried of water sources and change of snow line. There are several reasons about why such changes are occurring in the earth’s environment. The major of them are: natural factors, such as changes in the sun’s intensity or slow changes in the Earth’s orbit around the sun; natural processes within the climate system (e.g. changes in ocean circulation); human activities that change the atmosphere’s composition (e.g. through burning fossil fuels) and the land surface (e.g. deforestation, degradation, urbanization, desertification, etc.).

Scientists have observed that some changes are already occurring and have already affected the human lives, their livelihoods and ecosystem services around the world, making poor and marginalized particularly in the developing countries are becoming more vulnerable due their limited capacity of coping the climate adversities.

Nepal is ranked one of the 5th climate vulnerable countries around the world. The melting of Himalayan glaciers has seriously affected the hydrological stability of the river system, and caused erratic and extreme weather events leading to flash floods and landslides, loss of biodiversity, decline in agricultural productivity, increase of invasive species replacing the native species and depletion of fresh water resources. These adversities seriously have threatened the lives and livelihoods of over 1.2 billion people and is pushing additional people into poverty negating all efforts of poverty eradication in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) like Nepal, because of their over dependence on rain-fed agriculture, natural resources, widespread deprivation and weak infrastructures.

Ecosystem based adaptation in Nepal, photo: Dharam
Ecosystem based adaptation in Nepal, photo: Dharam

To come off with such adversities, Nepal has adopted different approaches in reducing the vulnerability of the people and building their resilience capacity in the face of climate vulnerability. National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA, 2010) and its implementing framework called frame for Local Adaptation Plan of Action (LAPA) 2011 are the guiding legal document for giving the direction of adaptation to the country. By the means of these legal documents, various initiatives are under implementation across the country.

The Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology (MoSTE) alone prepared 100 Local Adaptation Plan of Action, and most of these are under implementation in a poor and vulnerable region of Nepal. There are several other initiatives like Multi stakeholder Forestry Programme which aimed to reduce poverty and building climate resilience has been implementing 1375 local adaptation plan of various scale comprises of community level adaptation plan to a larger scale village development committee level adaptation plan. These entire plans are prepared as per the local need and aspiration of local people using both ecosystem based adaptation approach (EBA) and Community based adaptation approach (CBA).

In the author’s understanding of working with 10,000 local communities over the past 12 years, resilience building is the sum of EBA and CBA. Ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation (EbA) involve the use of biodiversity and ecosystem services to help these and other people adapt to the adverse effects of climate change. This can involve the use of genetic diversity and traditional knowledge about native species to adapt to climate variability and change. Well-managed, stable, diverse ecosystems are also providing adaptation benefits. But ecosystems are also vulnerable to climate change and other stresses. They have limits beyond which they cannot adapt and hence support human adaptation. Similar to CBA, EbA should also be a community-led process, based on communities’ priorities, needs, knowledge and capacities, which should empower people to plan for and cope with the impacts of climate change.

Threat resulted due to heavy rainfall, photo: Dharam
Threat resulted due to heavy rainfall, photo: Dharam

Building socio-ecological resilience at the landscape level, no single efforts and approach is enough for reducing the vulnerability posed by global change and global activities. So, the international commitments must be translated into concrete actions based on the accepted principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, equity social justices and respective capability. Given the enormity of environmental challenges and severity of climate change crisis, it is time to recognize grave threats in this interdependent and interconnected world, a need to develop a comprehensive plan to galvanize grassroots initiatives along with international actions by global partnership. In this context, Nepal calls for increased attention to enhanced financing from industrialized countries and international mechanisms to ensure economic growth and energy security in LDCs via a very recent UN climate summit held in USA in 2014.

Written by: Dr. Dharam Raj Uprety
Affiliation: Multi Stakeholder Forestry Programme
Country: Nepal

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