Tiempo Climate Cyberlibrary
Capturing the Synergies between Climate Change and Desertification
About the Cyberlibrary
The Tiempo Climate Cyberlibrary was developed by Mick Kelly and Sarah Granich on behalf of the Stockholm Environment Institute and the International Institute for Environment and Development, with sponsorship from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.
While every effort is made to ensure that information on this site, and on other sites that are referenced here, is accurate, no liability for loss or damage resulting from use of this information can be accepted.
It makes particular sense to link the climate change and the desertification conventions for three main reasons.
First, many of those most vulnerable to climate change are poor people living in dryland areas. Adaptation measures, as implemented through the National Adaptation Programmes of Action, will necessarily have to focus on drylands, therefore, and dryland concerns will have to play a major role in such measures.
Second, the desertification convention focuses attention on particular development issues, such as strengthening alternative livelihoods in drylands, that in themselves constitute forms of climate adaptation that are increasingly recognized as critical. Existing action plans and interventions related to the desertification convention may provide an entry point to addressing climate change adaptation in a way that is more focused on livelihoods than has so far been the case.
Third, linking the two conventions rather than designing, implementing and managing climate policy separately from ongoing activities to manage desertification makes sense from an efficiency and mainstreaming perspective, in particular, in countries with scarce financial and human resources.
There are, however, several challenges in realizing the undoubted synergies.
Desertification measures focused on improving the drought resistance of agriculture can be integrated in a fairly uncontroversial manner to reduce sensitivity to future climatic change. Other types of desertification measures may, however, prove problematic. For example, the most vulnerable populations in drylands often rely on access to indigenous plant resources to carry out their drought coping strategies, including livestock grazing, food supply and handicrafts. These practices can be considered inappropriate, a tool used by colonial and post-colonial governments to legitimize control over dryland populations and resources, and some desertification measures focus, unwisely, on the absolute protection of vegetation from human activity. Climate adaptation, though, demands support for drought livelihoods through continued, sustainable access to indigenous resources during times of climate stress.
Taking on board climate concerns requires a re-think of measures designed in response to drylands degradation alone.
A second challenge is institutional and financial. Financial mechanisms related to the climate convention provide new and more promising sources of funding than those related to the desertification convention. The types of activities that can be paid for through the climate convention are, however, subject to close scrutiny and this may limit the opportunities to implement measures that focus specifically on strengthening livelihoods. Notwithstanding the relevance to climate adaptation, official development assistance may well become the most appropriate source of funding for actions targeting livelihood security. Coordination of such actions with those funded through the climate convention is critical for effectively mainstreaming climate change actions with dryland livelihood concerns.
Flexibility in thinking, as well as in procedures, will be needed on both sides if the undoubted benefits of coordinated action on climate change and drylands degradation are to be realized.
Siri Eriksen, Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo, Boks 1096 Blindern, 0317 Oslo, Norway. Fax: +47-22-855253. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Web: www.iss.uio.no/instituttet/ansatte.php?ansatt=sire&language=english.
On the Web
The Tiempo Climate Cyberlibrary maintains a selected list of websites covering drylands and desertification.
General Electric plans to cut solar installation costs by half
Project 90 by 2030 supports South African school children and managers reduce their carbon footprint through its Club programme
Bath & North East Somerset Council in the United Kingdom has installed smart LED carriageway lighting that automatically adjusts to light and traffic levels
The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the American Public Gardens Association are mounting an educational exhibit at Longwood Gardens showing the link between temperature and planting zones
The energy-efficient Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Towers hotel is powered by renewable and sustainable sources, including integrated solar photovoltaics and guest-powered bicycles
El Hierro, one of the Canary Islands, plans to generate 80 per cent of its energy from renewable sources
The green roof on the Remarkables Primary School in New Zealand reduces stormwater runoff, provides insulation and doubles as an outdoor classroom
The Weather Info for All project aims to roll out up to five thousand automatic weather observation stations throughout Africa
SolSource turns its own waste heat into electricity or stores it in thermal fabrics, harnessing the sun's energy for cooking and electricity for low-income families
The Wave House uses vegetation for its architectural and environmental qualities, and especially in terms of thermal insulation
The Mbale compost-processing plant in Uganda produces cheaper fertilizer and reduces greenhouse gas emissions
At Casa Grande, Frito-Lay has reduced energy consumption by nearly a fifth since 2006 by, amongst other things, installing a heat recovery system to preheat cooking oil