Planning for Climate Change during COVID-19 crisis: experiences from Nepal

Friday, May 29, 2020

With COVID-19 at the forefront of all of our minds it’s important we don’t forget about the threat of climate change. We must ensure good plans already in place are adhered to, and mitigation of, and adaptation to climate change is integrated into strategies for countries economic and social recovery. We need to build back better, and more resilient, after the pandemic. 

Planning for Climate Change during COVID-19 crisis: The role of humanitarian and disaster risk management actors

On Wednesday May 27, Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance together with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, Partners for Resilience, and the International Federation for Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies hosted a webinar attended by 450 participants and panelists who shared and exchanged approaches to ensuring climate change and disaster risk reduction (DRR) planning in the context of Covid19.

I had the opportunity to share from Practical Action’s experience of engaging with the National Adaptation Plan (NAP) process in Nepal. I was asked how we successfully integrate DRR into the Nepal NAP; what made that possible? And whether COVID-19 is creating new challenges or opportunities for our work. The answers to which are summarized below. 

How can we successfully integrate Disaster Risk Reduction into climate change planning? 

The contexts of, and opportunities to contribute to, climate planning differs from country to country, however our experience from Nepal can be used to identify some key points to consider.

Practical Actions support of the NAP process has from the beginning been focused on making sure that our objectives of community resilience building, vulnerability reduction, and climate change adaptation are integrated into all relevant sectors and levels of government. 

An approach that achieves disaster risk reduction, and works for communities  

We helped government create a roadmap and approach that is INCLUSIVE which Leaves No One Behind, is INTEGRATED which focuses on bringing cross-sectoral and multidisciplinary themes together, puts emphasis on STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT and is INFORMED by the latest science and lived experiences of the communities.  

The next step was to understand vulnerability and risks posed by disasters, identify capacity gaps, and the programmes which could plug these. This led to the identification of indicative adaptation pathways which included measures predicting extreme events, enhancing communication on Early Warning Systems (EWS), and building robust management systems to deal with flood, landslide and other disasters.

Building community resilience and amplifying local voices

The model for the Nepal NAP used the institutionalising governance system in which national government works with sub-national government to ensure that the voices of local communities are reflected into the plans. Rather than having a top down model, the process emphasised on the role of national agencies play to ensure climate data and risk is communicated to local people in a way that is understandable by different sectors of society.

We capitalised on the expertise of the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance by acting as a catalyst connecting communities with local to national development planning. We simultaneously  worked directly with flood prone communities on EWS, while feeding our best practice in the area into the NAP, and ensuring that experiences of communities were considered.  This approach allows Risk Informed Climate Resilient development models that reflects local realities. 

What’s next for the Nepal NAP? 

The NAP process in Nepal is still ongoing with support from various donors and stakeholders and we hope this process can accommodate the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic which is instrumental to make Nepal resilient to disasters and associated climate impacts.

COVID-19 creating new challenges 

The COVID19 pandemic poses a lot of challenges. The virus has shown how vulnerable our social and economic systems are, and that we were not sufficiently prepared for a pandemic, and how to respond to it. 

As countries and individuals are overwhelmed by the risks of COVID-19, and in the rush to recover devastated economies, we risk undermining the progress we’ve made in climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction sector.

As monsoon season begins in Nepal communities are faced with multi-hazard risks as floods will make self-isolation at home impossible for many people. We are forced to adapt the way we respond to floods to mitigate this new combined risk; we are unable to carry out our annual preparedness drills, fewer people can fit into emergency shelters, and access to hand washing and other sanitation facilities is more important than ever. 

Never the less, we need to make use of the opportunities 

As countries begin to develop post pandemic recovery and stimulus packages governments, in collaboration and consultation with civil society, must integrate DRR and climate adaptation measures. Integrating climate action and risk reduction is a win-win, the climate emergency and the COVID-19 emergency are both caused by the same underlying problems, excessive consumption and inadequate consideration of preparedness.

Countries must mobilise projects already identified in their national DRR, climate change adaptation plans and the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) as part of their stimulus and COVID-19 recovery planning. It’s not a case of “robbing peter to pay Paul”, we need the stimulus packages which not only deal with COVID-19 impacts but also deliver on DRR and climate action and do this in a way that builds long term resilience. 

Where funding is not available in developing countries’ budgets, the donor community must step up and provide sufficient resources for a resilient recovery. Most importantly, we need to focus on the health and wellbeing of people rather than on economic growth alone.

You can watch a recording of the webinar on the UNDRR website. 

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