Integrated approaches to innovative climate change adaptation and resource use in Africa


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Some of the greatest environmental challenges in the world today are climate change and resource depletion, both of which could have dire consequences for Africa if not handled innovatively. Africa is considered to be very vulnerable to climate change and the unsustainable depletion of resources. Innovative ways of response are, therefore, urgently needed in order to effectively cope with these challenges.

It cannot be assumed, as so often is done on a project level, that such responses or interventions are merely financial, technical or institutional. Social, institutional, political and cultural support systems in Africa are malfunctioning or under severe stress already, hence a systematic transdisciplinary approach that acknowledges complexity and takes account of the whole system transitioning is needed for effective climate change adaptation and efficient resource use.

The aim of the paper is to further explore the parameters of innovative approaches to climate change adaptation and resource use in African conditions. We present a short outline of the academic literature on complexity, transdisciplinarity and systems approaches and apply these to the fields of climate adaptation and resource use.

Suggested parameters for an integrated conceptual model are formulated. It is argued that innovative approaches to complex issues such as adapting to climate change and improving resource efficiency in Africa would require an integrated, systems and transdisciplinary approach that takes African contexts as a point of departure, and that explicitly include an analysis of human behaviour as a force of change. This integrated approach provides a basis for the development of sustainable innovations for climate change adaptation and resource use in Africa.

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Integrated approaches to innovative climate change adaptation and resource use in Africa

  1. 1. ClimDev-AfricaIntegrated approaches to innovativeclimate change adaptation and resourceuse in Africa Prof Martin de Wit, Prof Mark Swilling, Mr John van Breda, (Stellenbosch University) Dr Nicholas Ozor (African Technology Policy Studies (ATPS) Network) Prof Shem Wandiga (University of Nairobi) Prof Richard Kangalawe (University of Dar-es-Salaam) 1
  2. 2. Framing the problem• Africa specific context: – 75-250 million people in Africa exposed to water stress by 2050 (IPCC) – 300 million people already undernourished (FAO/WFP) – Persistent poverty and low quality of life despite recent growth – BUT • Little contribution to GHGs • Development rules to access climate finance for adaptation – AND • Increasing demand for natural resources (oil, coal, timber etc.)• Internationally shifting development paths – Green economies (environmental quality, decoupling etc.) 2
  3. 3. Before responding…• Record of failed, technocratic interventions – High risks of project-level, engineering solutions in contexts of high social vulnerability, poverty and/or political malfunctioning• Persistent dire ‘baseline’ situation of many Africans – Despite record GDP growth in recent decade – Inequality on the rise – Socio-economic development needed• Poor record on effectiveness of international aid – Possible important lessons for climate finance as channeled through bureaucracies and host governments• Short-sighted NOT to start searching for alternatives… 3
  4. 4. Before responding…• Recogniselarge-scale and long-term nature of problem • climate and resource challenges• Recogniseshifting patterns in development paths • presenting opportunities (clean technology) and posing threats (energy, carbon limits)• Recogniseimportance of knowledge • both from science and from society• Recognise that whole system counts • not just project-level interventions• Recogniseimportance of human actors and their institutions • in shaping innovative response 4
  5. 5. A different type of response.• Start with complex reality, resist urge to simplify too quickly• Intellectual pluralism wanted; not surpressed – Better science not necessarily better decision making• Focus on understanding human activity and human behaviour • humans and their institutions are the agents of change• Engage with society on uncertain, disputed problems with large stakes (climate, resources) • Co-production of knowledge with society• In short, we are recommending a response building on scientific and practical insights from complexity, transdisciplinarity and systems approaches 5
  6. 6. Cases in point• On climate adaptation, UKCIP criticizes its own evidence-based and risk-based approach – Highlights the need to unpack the space between science and strategy – “Making the (scientific) case” is just not enough in a complex world (and even more so in Africa with system-wide challenges)• On resource use, a plea for whole-systems approach to achieve recommended levels of consumption (e.g. Factor 5 - Von Weizsäcker) – Massive technological, financial and social innovation needed• A great need to see the big systems picture• A great need to operate as if people and broader society can contribute to and are key in achieving robust change 6
  7. 7. Shifts in policy• Climate finance is not predominantly a financial issue – More cash is of little value for African society if it does not reach desired green developmental objectives – Invest in key resources: Humans and institutions are agents of change• Sensitive to changing development paths worldwide – Does climate finance achieve not only an increase resilience, but also in line with green economy objectives? – Climate finance need to play a role in broader developmental transition (e.g. energy, transport)• Invest in co-production of knowledge: R&D, address skills gap – Can climate finance play a role in building innovative capacity for the future? – Innovation is knowledge-intensive 7
  8. 8. Thankyou for your attentionThanks to the organisers for the invitation 8