Climate Change & Disaster Management
November 19, 2020

Climate action and disaster management | Insights from Charcha 2020

Mitigating Climate Change in the times of COVID-19

The Covid-19 crisis has changed the world in a matter of a few months. This is a warning bell of what climate change is slowly bringing the world to. Communications can play a key role in mitigating these crises and the lessons learnt from the current pandemic. Our greatest communications challenge will be to maintain in public awareness what COVID- 19has taught us – clear air, clean rivers are possible, but not if we return to pre-pandemic practices, where we were living outside our means as a species.Effective communications provides the opportunity to imagine a post-COVID world that connects, inspires and activates people towards action. A crucial component includes communicating to the masses using popular mediums (e.g.TikTok, Whatsapp etc.) and regional languages. 

Communications can play two reinforcing goals –building political salience, and building public support for green solutions that meet goals that resonate with all – the opportunity here is to redefineIndia’s competitiveness on the global stage, and redefine industrial competitiveness.

Finance for Climate Outcomes

Will climate finance become mainstream in the post-Covid normal? If so, how do we join these re-building forces and use climate finance to its fullest? To realize effective solutions in India we need a new way of thinking. The instruments, solutions and key stakeholders exist, but there is a need to consider new roles, new frameworks of thinking and some risk taking. The distribution and monitoring process of climate finance is currently not fit for the informal, underdeveloped, or rural sectors. Transplanting international or big business processes to the informal sector will continue to generate negative results. There is an opportunity to deploy India’s stimulus package could be leveraged to provide risk capital investment in the rural and agricultural sector. This will enable entrepreneurs to try out different models and test solutions for scale.

Systemic action on Air Pollution

All developed nations have gone through a period of bad air quality in the industrialization phase. India is facing the same challenge, coupled with modern challenges of increased urbanization and transport. More recently, China has shown the way to tackle air pollution through citizen-action. The Chinese are willing to share learnings, and Indians should use them to accelerate action.

To improve the air quality in India, 3 action-steps are necessary for the near future:

  • Building political salience to make air pollution atop priority for government
  • Developing public goods (toolkits, resources, and products) that help address key challenges and can be used by all stakeholders, and
  • Providing implementation support to the Central andState level action plans, with a focus on activities with demonstrated impact.

Strategic philanthropy plays a critical role in influencing political willingness through policy. Advocacy, targeted communication campaigns, seeding new organizations, behaviour change campaigns, etc. Strategic communication campaigns creates salience on air pollution to spur political and administrative action. 

Building Resilience in the Post COVID and Climate Change Era

Improving smallholder farmers’ climate resilience is critical and requires increased access to crucial production resources - land, water, energy, credit. The experts, with extensive experience in philanthropy, research and implementation discussed opportunities and approaches to move smallholder farming towards economic security and climate resilience. 

Smallholder farmers face many challenges in the path to becoming sustainable – access to credit, market linkages, input quality and cost, labour availability etc. Therefore, working with smallholder farmers requires a similarly multi-dimensional approach to solutions. Solutions and traditional knowledge exist in communities but collective action in alignment with local government is required. Rather than implementing top-down interventions, projects need to focus on capacity building, access to information and technology, and market linkages so that interventions are locally owned and sustainable.

One critical way climate change impacts smallholder farmers is through water availability – a consequence of a reduced number of rain days. In such circumstances water storage becomes an important solution where restoration and maintenance of rural tanks, specifically cascading tanks enable improved storage and reduced runoff. 

Wildlife Conservation to fight Climate Change

The tiger is called the ‘striped water god’ as it is an indicator of the health of the tropical ecosystem, which in turn is the conveyor belt that provides climate stability, refuge to immense biodiversity and livelihood to hundreds of millions of humans. Saving tigers is synonymous with fighting climate change.

Of all ecosystems, forests have the greatest amounts of cost-effective mitigation opportunities to offer, making up about two-thirds of all nature-based climate solutions globally. Within the forest sector, reforestation offers the largest potential to mitigate climate change, followed by avoided deforestation and improved forest management. Conservation of forests and tigers is a lucrative business proposition since every rupee spent on management of tiger reserves leads to ecosystem services worth INR 200 to530. Getting buy-in from communities who live in and depend on forests is integral to conservation efforts.

Disaster management

Most natural disasters have an event horizon where the needs on the ground transition quickly from response, to relief, to rehabilitation. A pandemic like Covid-19 has redefined the needs in an unprecedented manner. The spillover of the health crisis into the humanitarian crisis has propelled all engines to function simultaneously. Organizations working in disaster management are having to innovate on a daily basis to effectively serve the evolving needs on the ground.

The key to success is in taking a participatory, ground-up approach that takes into consideration, the diversity of needs as well as the different responses required to address them based on local contexts.


Challenges, and the path ahead

The acuteness of the current COVID19 pandemic reaffirms the need — and offers us lessons — to enable collective action against the chronic challenges of non-linear climate risks. The experts focused on the technical, social, and political response needed at various levels to enhance climate action after the pandemic. 

For climate change, as for this pandemic – prevention is truly better than cure. Small changes can lead to exponentially worse impacts on human life. Local drivers of risk are important and need to be understood and clubbed with larger scale risk assessments – the corollary of this is that these risk plans should be in the ambit of local governments. In the post COVID India, with shorter value chains and local markets this will be more relevant than before. In India, nature-based solutions are crucial because they provide cost effective pathways to engage multiple co-benefits.

Pressure Points

  • A renewed climate policy that sustains the gains during Covid-19 lockdown
  • Building political salience to make climate action a priority in economic revival
  • Leveraging the broader push fora triple bottomline for businesses, that gives right attention to environmental and social outcomes, in addition to financial results
  • Climate financing in an environment of competing priorities
  • Disaster management needs to address diverse, rapidly evolving needs

Download the full Insight report on Charcha 2020, covering 16 events and 150+ hours of discussion.

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