In the run-up to COP26, we speak to SNV's Climate expert Harko Koster on climate resilient pathways, how they can act as a toolkit for climate action, and how SNV incorporates them into projects and programmes.
We have heard a lot about climate resilient pathways. What does this buzzword mean to you?
Climate resilient pathways are development trajectories that combine climate mitigation and climate adaptation to realise sustainable development goals. It is almost like a toolkit to tackle our climate crisis. This term used to apply only to mitigation. Now there are new pathways to build adaptation.
In the past, emphasis was on absorbing the risk of climate change, but now, it is clear we need to restore, adapt and transform our food systems to provide safe food, water and energy for all.
How does SNV's work incorporate climate resilient pathways?
SNV’s projects work towards ensuring access to food, water and energy for communities who need it the most. Currently, climate change affects the most vulnerable and poorest people in the countries SNV works. These countries are not the cause of climate change but will be the ones to suffer the most, with effects such as soil degradation, forests and biodiversity loss, extreme weather events and water stress.
Lack of gender equity and social inclusion is often the underlying cause of poor food security, water conflict, inefficient access to renewable energy and the unsustainable use of natural resources. SNV builds climate-resilient pathways by mobilising capacities and resources in these countries to transform to more sustainable food systems. We aim to provide access to secure, healthy food, renewable energy and water for those dealing with the effects of climate change.
Can you give examples of climate resilient pathways in practice?
In our projects, we adopt climate resilient pathways as key programme strategies. We have a variety of projects, from locally led at a community level to multi-country projects. We also have programmes that aim to change how we finance and mobilise resources across different countries, for example, the Dutch Fund for Climate and Development. Our focus in many of our projects is transforming the agriculture system, particularly by the adoption climate-smart agriculture practices.
SNV's approach is in a unique position because we work with local communities, engage with governments and work closely with the private sector. In Burkina Faso and Mali, we help pastoralist communities access digital climate-informed advisory services through a partnership with a telephone company. It allows pastoralist communities to get the latest news on the weather forecast to decide whether they need to move their livestock to more suitable areas. This, for example, is a climate-smart intervention that reaches poor and vulnerable communities on the ground, and showcases cooperation between the local communities, research institutions, the government and the private sector.
We also work with small and medium agribusiness enterprises to bring in climate-smart agriculture and new innovations/technologies for food production to reduce energy costs and carbon emissions. Our project Climate Resilient Agribusiness for Tomorrow (CRAFT) helps develop innovative business cases and provides climate information models about the suitability of staple crops in different provinces and regions in East Africa. In addition, it funds climate smart agriculture and mobilises investment through the Climate Innovation Investment Fund.
The final example is a global programme the 160 million Dutch Fund for Climate and Development (DFCD), where together with FMO, CFM and WWF we aim to accelerate innovation and bring these innovations and best practices to scale. The DFCD helps to mobilise large scale investment and develop investable business cases to bring private sector initiatives in developing countries to execution. SNV role is to screen, source and assist companies in building investible business cases. This approach has clear benefits for the climate as well as social and economic benefits at landscape level.
What are the challenges for increasing climate resilience?
There are many challenges and the biggest we see is on mobilising finance. A lot of finance is going to mitigation activities but still, the finance to developing countries is lagging, particularly on adaptation. Increasingly, we see extreme weather events, droughts and floods and erratic rainfall impacting the productivity and economies of developing countries. The investment to build adaptation capacities and transform their systems is not in place yet. The second challenge I see is mobilising the private sector. Still, in the countries where SNV works, the climate agenda is very much driven by the government. More emphasis has to be made to involve the private sector. In our experience, the private sector is not always the cause of the problem but will be part of the solution. The third challenge is ensuring the participation of women and other climate-vulnerable groups. More attention needs to be given to developing climate resilient pathways involving vulnerable groups in climate adaptation activities.
What is needed to overcome these challenges?
I hope optimistically that the current health crisis and pandemic have demonstrated we can deal with a major crisis on a global scale. It is possible to work together and find solutions and mobilise funding. It has also shown that the answer is not just country-by-country – we need to work together, with greater interconnected systems. Building resilience is not something that can be done in silos and within country borders.
The second action is to increase the level of ambition in adaptation. We must consider that climate change is already happening, and we are already adapting. Hence, funding capacity and other resources for adaptation needs to be mobilised faster than at the current rate, while at the same time, integrating different agendas. I hope that this COP will integrate different agendas and find a resilient solution that will not just cope with the climate crisis but also with the health, economic and biodiversity crisis.
Do you think that COP26 will meet its goals?
I am hopeful because I have seen how society has adapted during this current Covid-19 crisis. I am hopeful because I see how fast our planet can recover – both in terms of our social recovery and natural resilience. We saw clean water running through rivers, air pollution diminished, our natural resilience is higher than I thought. I believe that recovery could happen faster than we think if we adapt our behaviour.