guest column:Peter Makwanya
CLIMATE change has been one of the most talked about subjects of our time. While literature appears in large volumes, one would not imagine that information of such magnitude would not be accessible to the common people whom it is intended to target. This has contributed to information gaps, leading to implementation challenges and disconnection of important stakeholders from the information that they are supposed to use to transform their lives.
While a lot has been said and continues to be communicated, the situation on the ground is not pointing towards words being translated into action and outcomes. There are online repositories with unquantifiable volumes of climate change information targeting the wrong audiences.
The rightful beneficiaries of such information don’t use the internet and don’t always find it easy to access such information because they don’t have the required tools.
Even if some happen to have the tools, data continues to elude them, shutting them out of the discourse. From the target audiences and intended beneficiaries including schools, climate change literature continues to be highly elusive. While the differences in degree of access to information between the intended and actual beneficiaries cannot be quantified, it is actually vast and continues to grow.
The goal of climate action strategies is to ensure adaption for resilient building, which in this regard is not difficult to attain, but its efficiency is very hard to judge. This scenario further alienates intended audiences from those who craft the information.
Climate change is always uncertain and science does not adequately provide answers to it, hence the information is communicated through many platforms and varied expertise and it reaches the targeted audiences rather weakened and is often misinterpreted thereby contributing to inherent information gaps to the end-users.
While the Paris Agreement is very clear on emission reduction, it is not effective in monitoring and enforcing this historical proposition. In this regard, what the Paris Agreement stipulates is not what is happening on the ground, but stakeholders always make reference to it although on the ground carbon inequalities continue to widen.
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The marked drop in carbon emissions because of COVID-19 is not a result of sterling work being done, but it’s due to reduced activities on the ground as the pandemic rages. In this regard, the relevant authorities cannot use the impacts of COVID-19 to misinform the world about the successes attained in taming greenhouse gas emissions.
A lot has also been said about the adoption of emission reduction targets which do not actually translate into adaptation even at local levels.
On the ground, stakeholders still have problems in mainstreaming low carbon initiatives by reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) through mitigations, in the form of nationally determined contributions (NDCs). This means all parties have an opportunity to communicate or update their NDCs by 2020, but adaptations have to be ongoing and strengthened anyway.
With many countries around the world currently engaged in their national adaptation plans emanating from the 2010 Cancun Adaptation Framework, under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change for resilient building, intended beneficiaries are somewhat shortchanged. The other challenge is that, initiators of the green discourses that are currently in use always talk about adaptation base on adoption. While adaptation has been widely used to foster resilience, adoption may be used to adhere to certain practices and behaviours which would largely depend on the willingness to do so.
Although farmers or GHG emitters can either adopt or adapt, it is also not quite clear that those who would have adopted certain behaviours will do the same in future.
In this regard, both farmers and polluting companies can adopt certain behaviours not because they intend to mitigated against climate change, but due to the profit motive. The problem with mitigation is that it is loaded with intentions rather than willingness.
Although climate change adaptation is designed to fight impacts and achieve resilience, it is also associated with behavioural change and preparedness, but the question is, has what is said or written contributed to desired actions, results and solutions on the ground. Evidence on the ground points to complications in realising the necessary translations in capacity and confidence building which is necessary in transforming community actions towards fighting the impacts of climate change.
It is also common knowledge that effective climate change adaptation practices have encountered problems of implementation as they have been associated with risk reductions.
Interpretation of climate-related scientific information and data has also contributed to communication and information gaps and distortions by the end-users resulting in them being disconnected from the overall adaptation frameworks.
This is due to scientific information being shared without practical relevance or proper interpretations. Furthermore, climate information end-users in their vulnerable and marginalised state have no say in compiling some of the education and awareness materials for their use.
Rural people with no access to internet are not usually represented in research as they are seen as far removed and unable to attend workshops which are aimed at addressing their problems.
In many cases, climate change adaptation information is not what the end-users need hence information providers should learn to familiarise themselves with the essential needs of the end-users. Unfortunately, the end-users find climate information material readily packaged for them, thus adaptation would normally hits a snag.