Climate change and development - natural resources management in the context of adaptation and mitigation

This project analyzes the interrelationships between climate change and development. On the one hand it scrutinizes the implications of the development of the international climate regime and climate finance on developing countries. On the other hand it examines natural resources management (agriculture, water resources, forests) in the context of adaptation to climate change and the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions.

Project Lead:
Ines Dombrowsky

Project description

This project analyzes the interrelationships between climate change and development. On the one hand it scrutinizes the implications of the development of the international climate regime and climate finance on developing countries. On the other hand it examines natural resources management (agriculture, water resources, forests) in the context of adaptation to climate change and the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. The project is organised around four work packages:

  1. Climate change and agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa
  2. Climate change and water resources management
  3. Climate change and forests
  4. Climate politics and financing

1 Climate change and agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa

Agriculture not only contributes to food security, but it is also an important economic sector in rural areas in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). In addition to the numerous constraints already prevalent in SSA, climate change creates further challenges, to which agriculture and agriculture-led livelihoods must adapt. The vulnerability of smallholders towards climate change and other disturbances is often shaped by a complex interplay of social, economic, ecologic, political, and cultural factors. But agricultural activities are also a part of the problem, as they generate significant greenhouse gas emissions themselves. Therefore, the parties of the UNFCCC (but also other fora) have been discussing the issue of including agricultural emissions since 2009.

1.1 Vulnerability to climate change and variability on the local level

The vulnerability and adaptive capacity of smallholder farmers are hazard and context-specific, i.e. they are dependent on specific socio-economic and biophysical characteristics and their interaction with external hazards. Therefore, our objective is to link two hazards by analyzing the impact of a foreign direct investment (FDI) in agriculture on the vulnerability of the affected population to climate variability and climate change. In doing so we also consider the impact of the use of ecosystem services on the adaptive capacity of smallholders. From the results of a case study in Ghana we can derive exemplary insights into the requirements for rural development on how to face the multiple challenges particularly prevalent in SSA.

1.2 Agriculture in the international climate negotiations

We analyze the discussions in the UNFCCC with regards to including agricultural mitigation in a post 2015-agreement. By doing this, we have a specific focus on the implications of any potential mitigation activities on the livelihoods of smallholders in Sub-Sahara Africa. We look at synergies between activities for supporting adaptation and mitigation as well as potential interlinkages with other land-use related mechanisms (such as REDD+). We also analyze the benefits and risks of including agricultural mitigation in existing carbon markets.

2 Climate change and water resources management

Despite high uncertainties on the regional and local impacts of global climate change, it is commonly agreed that water resources are/will be affected (physical availability) and that water is the medium which transports these effects. Therefore water resources management is a strategic field of action that facilitates adaptation to climate change impacts of communities and is part of low carbon development paths (hydropower). 

2.1 Benefit sharing on dams on shared rivers under conditions of climate change 

The majority of large dams and hydropower plants envisioned in SSA will be built on shared rivers. These projects hence raise new challenges for an interstate water management that takes increasing hydrological variability, the long-term effects of climate change and increased water use conflicts between riparian states into account. We therefore analyze the conditions which facilitate interstate benefit sharing related to dams. We also scrutinize in what manner negative effects of dams are taken into account at the international level and identify benefit-sharing mechanisms that are conducive towards an equitable benefit and cost sharing.

2.2 Investments in agricultural land and implications on water rights

Sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing a rising number of foreign and domestic large-scale land acquisitions (LSLA). This phenomenon has also to be seen in the context of climate change and in international climate policies. One consequence of these investments is that they directly touch upon existing land and water rights. We focus on the following questions:  What is the potential of international frameworks and private sector initiatives to control and regulate LSLAs and their negative impacts without inhibiting investments? How to design investment policies and practices which protect both land and water rights and investments?

2.3 Water in international global politics: Do we need a global water regime?

Global water governance is highly fragmented and has not one but many institutional centers, subjects addressed and objectives envisaged. Against this background, it is debated whether it is suitable and advantageous to negotiate one global water convention besides the UN Watercourse Convention s (1997), the regional watercourse conventions (SADC, UNECE) and the existing Rio-Conventions. What are the advantageous of creating one global water regime or should one be in favor of improving existing regimes?

3 Climate change and forests

The global community has recently ranked forest conservancy high on international negotiation agendas. Tropical forest protection is framed as a highly cost effective climate change mitigation option. REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) aims to create additional incentives for forest conservation while providing substantial income for marginalized forest communities in the global South. Critical voices deny the win-win rhetoric and warn that REDD+ would rather come to the expense of marginalized forest-dependent communities then to their benefit. We therefore analyze the emerging global forest governance regime, the development of social and social and environmental safeguards and benefit-sharing mechanism for REDD+ on the local, national and international scale.

3.1 Forests in the international climate negotiations

Despite of recent progress in the current UNFCCC process (e.g. Cancun Safeguards and Warsaw Framework for REDD+) most of the challenges with regard to REDD+ funding and social and environmental safeguards for REDD+ continue to persist. The relevant decisions of the UNFCCC remain vague. Consequently other players such as NGOs, private sector and bilateral donors seek to close funding and governance gaps thus implementing REDD+ projects and programs outside of the UNFCCC regime. Our research on forests in the international climate negotiations concentrates on different actors implementing REDD+ (NGO, private sector, governments from North and South) as well as on social and environmental safeguards for REDD+ within and outside the UNFCCC. 

3.2 REDD+: Challenges for social inclusiveness and benefit sharing in Indonesia

Taking Indonesia as a case study we analyze challenges for a socially inclusive implementation of REDD+ and for benefit sharing in the context of REDD#. The sub project focuses on the ability of different actors (e.g. indigenous groups, local communities and companies) to benefit from REDD+ pilot initiatives and on potential impacts of REDD+ pilot initiatives on customary land tenure and local power structures. Furthermore we map the role of different actors in regard to REDD+ implementation, and the different narratives actors construct in order to restrict or extend access to forests. For this purpose we conduct field research within and adjacent to two REDD pilot initiatives (Harapan Rainforest and Berbak Carbon Project) in the province of Jambi on the island of Sumatra. 

4 Climate politics and financing

Global climate change and international climate politics have changed the framework conditions for national politics in developing countries in the past 20 years. Despite multiple other challenges, developing countries find themselves confronted with the double challenge of embarking on climate resilient and low carbon development pathways. The project's corresponding research and advisory work thus concentrates on analysing the influence of climate change and international climate politics on political decisions, institutions and governance structures in developing countries. Under this overarching objective, our research focuses especially on international climate negotiations and adaptation policy at local, national and international levels, on adaptation politics and finance, on climate-resilient development strategies, and on migration as an adaptation strategy.

4.1 International climate negotiations

Our research on international climate negotiations focuses on the actors, coalitions, instruments and institutions that are prevalent in the current UNFCCC process with particular attention to the role of developing countries and the North-South dynamics of the negotiation process. Special attention is given to the relevance of the principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) in the ongoing negotiation of a 'post-Kyoto' climate agreement under the UNFCCC's Durban Platform.

4.2 Adaptation policy and finance

Our research on international climate finance focuses on the mobilization and effective spending of adaptation finance, e.g. with regard to vulnerable populations, and on the involvement of the private sector in adaptation financing and on links to the aid effectiveness agenda. It entails ongoing research activities on

  • The Role of the Private Sector in Adaptation and Adaptation Finance
  • The role of Social Investment Funds in delivering Adaptation Finance to the Vulnerable
  • Program-based Adaptation Finance
  • Smallholder Farmer's Perception of Climate Change and Implications for Adaptation Finance

4.3 Climate-resilient development in Ethiopia

Drawing on the case of Ethiopia, this project analyses the extent to which the international discourse on climate change adaptation has influenced institutional dynamics on the national level. In 2010, Ethiopia formulated its strategy to build a climate-resilient green economy (CRGE), i.e. an economy that is both low in carbon emissions and resilient to climate change impacts. Our research examines the design, dynamics and influencing factors of national adaptation governance in Ethiopia and the role of adaptation politics in the CRGE-strategy.

4.4 Migration as an adaptation strategy

Our research on migration as an adaptive response to the impacts of climate change responds to a burgeoning public concern about prospective millions of 'climate refugees' that may surge to Europe and North America. As neither migration research nor adaptation studies support a straightforward causal link between climate change and migration, we rather focus on the complex drivers of migration in developing countries and how they relate to climate change adaptation and the overall framework conditions for rural development.


Project Coordination

Anette Koehler-Rahm

Current Publications

Political parties: weak point in the sustainability architecture

Kloke-Lesch, Adolf
The Current Column of 29 May 2017

The EU-South Africa strategic partnership: waning affection, persisting economic interests

Grimm, Sven / Christine Hackenesch
Externe Publikationen of 24 May 2017

Wie weiter mit den Wirtschaftspartnerschaftsabkommen? Gedanken zu einer vertieften EU-Afrika-Handelspartnerschaft

Brandi, Clara / Merran Hulse / Niels Keijzer
Analysen und Stellungnahmen 9/2017