Coordinating Local Adaptive Strategies through a Network-Based Approach

By Shan, Xueqing | Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum, Fall 2018 | Go to article overview

Coordinating Local Adaptive Strategies through a Network-Based Approach


Shan, Xueqing, Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum


I. INTRODUCTION

Confronted with the impacts of climate change, a growing number of communities are pursuing adaptation and resilience strategies. (1) Bangladesh is a case in point. With a large and growing population, (2) a heavy dependence on agriculture, (3) and a geographic location particularly prone to extreme weather events, (4) Bangladesh is among the countries most vulnerable to sea level rise and other climaterelated impacts. (5) At the same time, it is also one of the most informed countries about adapting to climate change. (6) With its effective emergency warning system, Bangladesh has been able to drastically reduce casualties from natural disasters, (7) and it has heavily invested in long-term resilience building by reducing poverty, promoting education for women, and ensuring food security through agricultural innovations. (8)

National governments are not the only actors adapting to climate change. In recent years, subnational communities adopting adaptive strategies have proliferated. Cities are at the forefront of this trend. For example, New Orleans, in anticipation of rising sea levels and more intense storms due to climate change, has improved its water management system, updated building codes, and established a citywide evacuation system. (9) Some neighborhoods have also begun implementing creative solutions specifically tailored to addressing local climate risks. For example, St. Kjeld, a neighborhood in Copenhagen recently hit by a devastating cloudburst, replaced asphalt with grass to collect and redirect water during floods and storms. (10) Tribes and other indigenous communities have also adopted community-wide adaptation plans. (11)

Indeed, unlike climate change mitigation, which calls for a centralized coordinating regime based on a single institution applying the same standard to all actors, adaptation can be better addressed by a decentralized approach that relies on local efforts. (12) Since climate change impacts communities differently depending on their locations and development statuses, adapting to climate change calls for "tailor-made policy strategies that are fine-tuned within their context.'" (13) Local actors are better suited for implementing adaptive strategies since they are more attuned to the particular environmental and social conditions of the community than national and international actors. Local actors also have the greatest incentive to adapt since they benefit directly from adaptation. In fact, local actors have spearheaded climate change adaptation. The most innovative and progressive adaptation methods are typically found among highly granular community units. (14) Given the momentum of local adaptation initiatives, some have touted that climate strategies are entering a new bottom-up paradigm with cities and local governments leading the way. (15)

The increasing public attention on local adaptation champions, however, has not given much consideration to the coordination aspect. (16) Discussions about coordinating climate action have largely focused on mitigation; only recently have some researchers and policy makers begun exploring ways to coordinate local adaptive strategies. Conceptually and practically, however, adaptation calls for different analytical and policy tools than does mitigation. An inadequate understanding of the need for and approaches to adaptation coordination can make local efforts less efficient and potentially undermine other environmental and policy priorities. (17)

This note contributes to the emerging public and academic awareness of the need for adaptation coordination by providing an overview of the difficulty of, the need for, and the potential ways of coordinating localized adaptive strategies in the context of sea level rise. The causal relationship between climate change and sea level rise has been well established. (18) Sea level rise affects communities at all different levels of economic development, (19) and there are many examples of local adaptation. …

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