‘Plan With Us, Not for Us,’ Say Poor Communities On Climate Protection

Photo: Stefan Magdalinski/Flickr An informal settlement in Lagos, Nigeria.

By Megan Rowling

From young “climate warriors” planning to improve Lagos slums with solar lighting and cleaner drains, to Bangladeshi researchers working with vulnerable villagers at risk from rising seas, poor communities are generating a huge amount of knowledge on how to live better on a warming planet.

But that bottom-up expertise is not being utilised by governments to shape climate change policy at the global level – one key reason why that current system is failing to meet the needs of the most vulnerable.

The Development and Climate Days event, on the sidelines of the U.N. climate talks in Madrid, closed with a strong message that international efforts to help the world’s poorest adjust to more extreme weather and rising seas should not neglect what those communities have already learned.

Bisola Akinmuyiwa, who works with Slum/Shack Dwellers International in Nigerian informal settlements in Lagos, said government officials were disbelieving when they heard residents had devised their own plans to avert flooding or provide their homes with clean energy.

“We have our community-led, accurate data… they should use our data to plan with us, not for us,” she said. “Let them support us with that.”

The 2015 Paris Agreement, whose final rules are due to be hammered out in Madrid in the coming week, states that “adaptation action should follow a… participatory and fully transparent approach, taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems”.

But in many cases, that is not happening, said climate experts at the conference.

“We want to bring in a paradigm where we say many locals make the new global,” said Sheela Patel, founder and director of the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC) in Mumbai.

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