Ecosystems and rights-based adaptation
Adapting to climate change using ecosystem- and rights-based approaches
The ability of people to adapt to climate change is inextricably linked to their access to basic human rights and to the health of the ecosystems they depend on for their livelihoods and wellbeing. If adaptation policies and programs are to be effective, they must integrate efforts to sustain and restore ecosystem functions and promote human rights under changing climate conditions.
The Ecosystem and Livelihoods Adaptation Network (ELAN) promotes an integrated approach to adaptation, defined as adaptation planning and action that adheres both to human rights-based principles and principles of ecosystem sustainability, recognizing their co-dependent roles in successfully managing climate variability and long-term change.
While projects that truly exemplify an integrated approach to adaptation are few and far between, ELAN has compiled a series of case studies of diverse adaptation projects that promoted rights- and ecosystem-based principles in their planning and implementation. These case studies help to underscore the potential that an integrated approach holds for empowering local communities to manage ecosystems and adapt to climate variability and change. At the same time, they reveal the complexity of achieving sustainable, long-term adaptation.
Objectives of integrated climate change adaptation
· To promote the resilience of livelihoods;
· To reduce the impacts of natural disasters such as storms and floods, on vulnerable people and ecosystems;
· To build the capacity of civil society and government institutions to support integrated approaches to adaptation;
· To increase awareness of the underlying causes of vulnerability (degraded ecosystems, poor governance, unequal access to resources and services, discrimination and other social injustices);
· To promote the sustainable management and conservation of biodiversity to maintain the benefits provided by ecosystems (e.g. provision of food and shelter).
· Protecting ecosystem services and securing universal access to resources are rarely achieved together: none of the projects reviewed succeeded in addressing all root causes of vulnerability; most only addressed some forms of social marginalization or environmental degradation;
· Community-led, environmentally sound approaches to adaptation are often more sustainable than short-term, high-cost ‘hard’ infrastructure;
· Cross-sectoral partnerships, building on community innovation, and sharing experiences of what has and hasn’t worked are all key ingredients to devising effective adaptation strategies;
· Adaptation practices only succeed if they take into account existing common resources, ownership, access, and control structures;
· Monitoring and evaluation based on regulation and compliance mechanisms as well as community support and participation in ecosystem management are commensurate to realizing sustainable adaptation;
· It is possible to pursue rights-based, community-based adaptation that is environmentally sound; at the same time, adaptation practices are often context-specific and hence difficult to scale up.