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Métro-câble de la ville de Medellín
Local communities around the world are trying to make the transition to low-carbon and resilient modes of development. But to do so, they need capacity building, and must approach development in radically different ways, incorporating climate issues in their planning and budgeting, for example. Here, the Climate Division of Agence Française de Développement (AFD) provides its analysis of the situation.

To contribute to the energy transition, cities and local communities must not merely reduce their greenhouse gas emissions: it’s just as crucial that they adapt to the impacts of climate change. Indeed, climate change aggravates numerous risks, as is highlighted in one IPCC report after the other: rises in sea level, heat stress, extreme rainfall, inland and coastal flooding, landslides, drought, and increased aridity.
In those local communities, such impact from climate change is already weighing heavily on a wide range of infrastructure systems (water and energy supply, sanitation and drainage, transport and telecommunications), services (including health care and emergency services), and ecosystems. That impact is not only destined to grow, but also to become more difficult to deal with as it coincides with other social, economic, and environmental stress factors. In many slums and vulnerable areas, people face more than one of these factors, and there is often a lack of infrastructure, essential services, and capacity to cope with the ensuing disasters. All these aggravating circumstances require transformational adaptation measures. 

To adapt to climate change, the right scale is local scale.

Adaptation is intrinsically linked to the geographical and socio-economic context in which it is put into action. That’s why cities and local communities are key players both in the energy transition and in the resilient-development trajectories of their countries.

At Agence Française de Développement (AFD), we have utilized the Adapt'Action Facility to focus on vertical integration of climate-change resilience into planning and budgeting instruments at the local level, there where it affects vulnerable regions and people. 

This vertical-integration approach of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), defined by the IPCC as the “integration at all levels of government (national, regional, local) of a normative framework and financial resources dedicated to the implementation of local public policy to promote climate-change mitigation or adaptation”, helps to bring about local ownership of climate change issues. 

It also lays the groundwork for stimulating greater ambition at the national level, not only through local projects with impact, but also thanks to consolidation of climate governance through the development and strengthening of MRV (Measurement, Reporting and Verification) systems locally. Local MRV systems help feed into the national MRV system and to identify and replicate successful actions. 

Support for vertical integration of adaptation is being implemented in Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire. Its common objective is to incorporate resilience issues into territorial planning instruments. This way, we can ensure better understanding of these complex issues, identify the available data, co-develop informed actions, give structure to resilient investments, and prioritize allocation of resources to reduce the vulnerability of people and regions.

Local planning, central to the system

Local planning is defined as the development of a common or concerted vision among the stakeholders involved, with a goal toward determining and achieving common and negotiated objectives. It’s a key tool in strategy implementation and in determining the priorities to be implemented downstream in budgets. 

Because local planning is done prior to budgeting, it’s essential that development plans include data on vulnerability to climate change and that they adapt this information to the local situation. This way, it’s possible to better identify threats, possible solutions, and the prioritization needed to address different options with constraints in funding, technical aspects, and timing. Today, lack of integration of these data can lead to decisions that put people, investments, and services into jeopardy.

Case Studies: Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire 

  • A differentiated approach between urban and rural municipalities in Guinea: the Local Development Plans (LDPs) and Annual Investment Plans of six urban and rural communes will benefit from revision of LDP development guides so that climate-change adaptation issues can be better included. This work is also to be accompanied by a review of the National Local Development Fund portfolio and the proposal of access criteria for the fund to prioritize resilient investments. 
  • A multi-scale approach among regions and municipalities in Côte d’Ivoire: the objective is to include a resilience component into the framework for developing three-year municipal plans and regional master plans. They will be applied to two regions and two municipalities. These plans and pilot schemes will make it possible to develop a general methodology for application in all municipalities and regions in order to better help them assess climate risks and identify the options to be implemented on the basis of financial, social and technical viability criteria.

Giving local communities the means they need 

At the local level, lack of institutional capacity and of availability of climate data and funding are considerable obstacles to project implementation and sustainability. To overcome those hurdles, it’s important to mobilize the various stakeholders, have them dialog at the local level and with other decision-making and funding levels, and obtain capacity building. 

When those conditions are met, the principle of subsidiarity can be used to help strengthen the resilience of development trajectories. Subsidiarity is a concept whereby local authorities are considered to be more effective in identifying problems and in organizing the most appropriate adaptation solutions. Indeed, the role of local authorities can be minimized by the fact that negotiations are often conducted at the international level and that climate change is presented as a global issue. This is a pitfall to be avoided, as concrete actions locally, on the ground, will be crucial for achieving the objectives of the Paris Agreement.