As the world looks to meet the urgent need for climate preparedness, research alliances across the globe are an essential piece of the policy-making puzzle, Bruce Currie-Alder writes.
How can policymakers scale investment in action-oriented research and innovation, with the urgency required by the climate crisis?
The case to adapt to climate change is clear, and governments are getting on board, if slowly, with the commitment at COP26 to double funding for climate adaptation by 2025. As governments seek to expand efforts in international development and climate finance to protect people and nature, new promising alliances are gathering projects into collaborative networks that could be massively influential for the world’s climate future.
Such collaboration becomes more than the sum of its parts, building synergy and delivering on ambitious goals that can only be achieved by working together.
Back in 2012, one such avenue, the Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia (CARIAA), committed to building resilience in climate hotspots – areas that are home to significant numbers of vulnerable people at the front lines of the changing climate. CARIAA operated as a network of four trans-disciplinary research consortia that brought together individuals and organisations to address a common set of questions.
The Initiative convened collaborative research projects that brought together different subsets of participants for distinct purposes, ranging from contributing to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports to engaging national stakeholders in Kenya and Bangladesh in the adaptation discussion.
But in 2019, rather than merely extend CARIAA, conversations began on how to combine its work with complementary efforts that focus on weather and climate tracking, capacity strengthening, nature-based solutions, agricultural impact, and mitigating disaster risk.
The aim is to bring together previously independent research programs to accelerate their delivery of cutting-edge tools focused on climate change adaptation, especially for the most vulnerable and those communities who are least able to adapt of their own accord.
As such, Canada’s International Development Research Centre and the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office invested in a two-year plan to design a framework for this purpose.
This exercise involved identifying gaps in research and evidence, and gleaning insights that range from what are the demands coming from African decision-makers to how research processes and outcomes can advance equality, diversity, and inclusion.
It also involved considering how to bridge decision-making processes at the local and national levels to inform decisions with grave long-term implications and how to transform research findings into practical solutions to real-world problems.
The result of these discussions is Climate Adaptation and Resilience (CLARE), which launched at the COP26 climate conference. Over the next five years, this initiative aims to maximise uptake of existing knowledge by policymakers, drive new findings, build climate-resilient development policies, support inclusive, practical action and ultimately overcome the many barriers to climate adaptation.
CLARE will support research that improves understanding of the risks associated with climate change, improve early intervention, and inform development policymakers of how to prepare communities for the impacts of the climate crisis.
By mid-2022, it will be calling for projects in humanitarian assistance, climate science, and international development. The initiative will then connect these projects, enabling participants to work together in a new environment of collaboration.
In this way, CLARE represents a concrete example of the Glasgow Climate Pact’s call to the research community to ‘further the understanding of global, regional and local impacts of climate change, response options and adaptation needs’.
The COP26 climate conference also saw the launch of a global Adaptation Research Alliance (ARA) to scale investment in action-oriented research in developing countries. The Alliance has quickly amassed over 120 members across 40 economies, including Africa and Asia, ranging from local non-government organisations to national universities and international actors.
Through ARA, members are supporting shared principles of action research, jointly identifying research needs and opportunities, and leveraging common evidence and learning.
Alliances such as CLARE and ARA matter. Such alliances can inform the billions of dollars being mobilised to double international climate finance for adaptation, and the trillions countries and companies are investing worldwide in a climate-resilient future. Mobilising alliances for impact is essential to inform those investments so they are intelligently utilised.
These alliances contain diverse sources of knowledge within and across Africa and Asia, which by collaborating can deliver decisive action in this crucial decade.
Their success is not merely through size. Bigger is not better. Rather, leaders being able to draw on shared knowledge so they can make smart choices over who to involve, how to organise resources, and where collective action is most needed on any given issue is what these alliances offer.
Such alliances are built on partnership, shared interest in addressing specific gaps in knowledge and action, and the common cause of protecting the most vulnerable from a changing climate, especially in Asia and Africa.
In so doing, research alliances like this show they are crucial to tackling climate change. They lay a foundation for success at COP27 and the forthcoming global stocktake under the Paris Agreement, nurture the next generation of international collaboration, and keep alive the hope of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.