Wetlands International

Promoting Ecosystems for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation - Opportunities for integration

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This paper seeks to highlight the differences and commonalities between ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation (EBA) and ecosystem-based approaches to disaster risk reduction (Eco-DRR) and suggests key integration points at the project level through examining a number of Eco-DRR, EBA and hybrid (Eco-DRR/CCA) projects. A total of 38 (Eco-DRR, EBA and hybrid Eco-DRR/CCA) projects were examined in terms of their aims, assessments, implementation, monitoring and evaluation (M&E) and policy and institutional contexts to understand how in practice these approaches differ and overlap and to find key integration points.

Based on the review of Eco-DRR and EBA projects, Eco-DRR and EBA in practice (i.e. at project level), have much more in common than they are different, primarily because of the sustainable ecosystem management approach that is applied in Eco-DRR and EBA. Hence, ecosystem-based approaches can help bridge the divide between DRR and CCA fields of practice.

Nonetheless, EBA and Eco-DRR operate under different policy fora, have slightly different foci and are often undertaken by different institutions, mirroring differences seen generally under climate change adaptation (CCA) and disaster risk reduction (DRR). Indeed, DRR covers multiple hazards, while CCA concentrates on climatic hazards. However, CCA also covers long-term mean changes in climate and the impacts these have upon ecosystems and therefore on people. DRR, on the other hand, also has an emphasis on response, recovery and reconstruction that CCA does not. Whilst the broad aims for CCA and DRR are similar, current conceptual frameworks, terminology and semantics are different, hampering communication between the two communities of practice. Assessments under DRR and CCA can be quite different because each adopts different terminologies and approaches. CCA often examines impact of long-term climate change. However, lack of good data means that CCA often falls back on DRR-like assessments. As the focus of DRR and CCA may be different, so too are differences then reflected in project design and implementation.

When projects do not take both long-term climatic change and multiple hazards into account, the result may be mal-adaptation or increased risk. Integration of CCA and DRR practice is thus imperative. Integration is most likely to succeed at the project level rather than the policy level given the significant differences in policy tracts. At the project (operational) level, it is often difficult to distinguish between CCA and DRR.
Ecosystems and their services are important to both CCA and DRR. Each community has developed its own approach: Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EBA) for CCA and Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction (Eco-DRR) for DRR. Currently, EBA is more formally “recognised” on the international arena due to specific references in UNFCCC processes. Nonetheless, current negotiations on the post-2015 global framework on DRR (the successor to the Hyogo Framework for Action) have made explicit references to ecosystem-based approaches.

EBA and Eco-DRR share the differences mentioned above (for CCA and DRR) but have more similarities given their focus on ecosystem management, restoration and conservation to increase resilience of people (or reduce risk or reduce vulnerability). However, many EBA projects focus more on the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services and impacts of long-term climate change than do most Eco-DRR practice because of EBA’s roots from conservation organisations. On the other hand, Eco-DRR includes components such as early warning, preparedness and contingency planning, response, recovery and reconstruction, which EBA usually does not focus.

This paper identifies five areas for Eco-DRR and EBA integration in project design and implementation, namely:

  1. Defining aims of the project;
  2. Conducting risk and vulnerability assessments;
  3. Project implementation: methods, approaches, tools;
  4. Monitoring and Evaluation; and
  5. Policy and institutional engagements.

In formulating project aims, understanding future change and project needs by creating future scenarios that takes into account climate, environment, development and multiple hazards would help indicate who would be best involved in the project and ensure future sustainability.

Because both Eco-DRR and EBA are emerging fields in their own right, each are developing assessment methods and tools, in which data availability plays a large role. There is sometimes cross-over in assessment needs either resulting in duplication or missed opportunities due to lack of knowledge of the other field. Both fields could inform each other, strengthening knowledge and practice.

Implementation approaches and activities are broadly similar between Eco-DRR and EBA. There is more of an emphasis in some EBA projects on conservation and enabling ecosystems to adapt, and using species suitable to future climatic conditions. Adaptive management, that is strongly promoted in the EBA community, is an approach that recognizes uncertain future conditions and therefore embeds learning-oriented, flexible decision-making processes. Eco-DRR could benefit from EBA knowledge to climate- proof its interventions, while EBA could learn from Eco-DRR’s integrated disaster management approach.

Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) in EBA and Eco-DRR is embryonic and, as such, working together (including with other initiatives such as REDD+) will help to avoid duplication and create synergies. Ensuring learning as part of M&E is essential.

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