What are the linkage between vulnerability, resilience and adaptive capacity? Limit your responses with the limit of goal 13 of the SDG.

What are the linkage between vulnerability, resilience and adaptive capacity? Limit your responses with the limit of goal 13 of the SDG.

  1. Introduction

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 inspirational goals with 169 associated targets, adopted by United Nations (UN) member States in 2015 as part of the 2013 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The SDGs replaced the Millennium Development Goals, which were established following the UN Millennium Summit in 2000. They trace their roots to the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment and the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, and commit States to achieving sustainable development in its economic, social, and environmental dimensions, in a balanced and integrated manner.

Resilience, vulnerability, adaptation and transformation, are central concepts in framing our analyses of global environmental change and the challenges of sustainability. Despite the potential linkages between vulnerability and resilience frameworks, there remains some division between the two frameworks mostly due to conceptual constructs, scientific traditions and lack of interaction between the two academic communities involved .On the one hand, the concept of vulnerability is rooted in hazard and disaster risk reduction studies as well as in development studies on food security, poverty and sustainable livelihoods. Vulnerability approaches are actor-oriented approaches with their concurrent emphasis on values, interests, agency and knowledge. On the other hand, the resilience perspective originates from complex system thinking, with a strong natural science influence. Some of its most innovative aspects have been the fundamental role of adaptive capacity, the importance of internal change in shaping social–ecological systems and its holistic approach that embraces complexity.

One of the major points of contention between the two frameworks has been the treatment of agency and power, seen as core strength of the vulnerability approach but insufficiently tackled in resilience approaches. Critiques have argued that normative aspects such as power relations and cultural values, seen as essential to the development and functioning of social–ecological systems, have been underexplored resilience approaches, reflecting an overemphasis on biophysical shocks and disturbances to the detriment of social and political change.

Vulnerability is, thus, not framed as passive or negative where to be vulnerable is to be susceptible, exposed or at risk. Rather, vulnerability is conceptualized as an ability to affect and be affected and it is rather the condition of being in relation to others. Resilience is always partial and positioned, always for a particular collection of entities in a particular context, always power sensitive and emergent from webs of relationships. Therefore, the goal is not fostering invulnerability but finding better ways of encouraging relations between peoples, current and future, and between peoples and places.

  • Goal 13 targets and linkage between vulnerability, resilience and adaptive capacity

Climate change is already having a profound and alarming impact worldwide. Global temperatures continued to increase in 2016, setting a new record of about 1.1 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial period. The extent of global sea ice fell to 4.14 million square kilometres in 2016, the second lowest on record. Atmospheric CO2 levels reached 400 parts per million. Drought conditions predominated across much of the globe, influenced by the El Niño phenomenon. In addition to rising sea levels and global temperatures, extreme weather events are becoming more common and natural habitats such as coral reefs are declining. These changes affect people everywhere, but disproportionately harm the poorest and the most vulnerable. Concerted action is urgently needed to stem climate change and strengthen resilience to pervasive and ever-increasing climate-related hazards.

Resilience scholars consider that bodies of cultural knowledge in relation to the environment (referred most commonly as folk knowledge, indigenous knowledge, traditional ecological knowledge, local ecological knowledge or local environmental knowledge) constitute a key analytical domain of social–ecological systems research. Under such broad and complex view, local ecological knowledge is thus recognized as a hybrid, dynamic and adaptive result of differentiated synthesis and evaluation processes, rather than a unitary system, static and in decline. While local ecological knowledge retains the cultural and place-based characteristics, its maintenance is highly threatened by GEC. As crucial middle ground between science and policy, resilience and adaptation approaches open up space for including lay and indigenous knowledge in research as an object of study and also as a tool for scientific inquiry of the human dimensions of environmental change. From a critical social science perspective, scholars criticize the need for including normative questions in resilience research with respect to knowledge production (Cote and Nightingale 2012). They propose to look at the “situated knowledge” which is mediated in every historical and geographical context by relations of power between socially differentiated groups and their cultural representations.

Parties to the Paris Agreement are expected to prepare, communicate and maintain successive nationally determined contributions (NDCs). NDCs highlight climate-related targets, policies and actions planned in response to climate change. Countries’ NDCs relayed so far reveal linkages across all SDGs. They outline development approaches and actions aimed at lowering greenhouse gas emissions and building climate resilience. The NDCs show that governments are integrating climate action into socio-economic development strategies, since both are integral to sustainable development. As of 7 June 2017, 142 Parties (141 countries plus the European Commission) had communicated their first NDCs to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat (UNFCCC). Here are some actions taken by EU supporting Goal 13.

13.1 – Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries

13.2 – Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning

13.3 – Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning

13.a – Implement the commitment undertaken by developed-country parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to a goal of mobilizing jointly 0 billion annually by 2020 from all sources to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation and fully operationalize the Green Climate Fund through its capitalization as soon as possible

13.b – Promote mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management in least developed countries and small island developing States, including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalized communities.

From 1880 to 2012, average global temperature increased by 0.85°C. To put this into perspective, for each 1 degree of temperature increase, grain yields decline by about 5 per cent. Maize, wheat and other major crops have experienced significant yield reductions at the global level of 40 mega tones per year between 1981 and 2002 due to a warmer climate

  • Oceans have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished and sea level has risen. From 1901 to 2010, the global average sea level rose by 19 cm as oceans expanded due to warming and ice melted. The Arctic’s sea ice extent has shrunk in every successive decade since 1979, with 1.07 million km² of ice loss every decade
  • Given current concentrations and on-going emissions of greenhouse gases, it is likely that by the end of this century, the increase in global temperature will exceed 1.5°C compared to 1850 to 1900 for all but one scenario. The world’s oceans will warm and ice melt will continue. Average sea level rise is predicted as 24 – 30cm by 2065 and 40-63cm by 2100. Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries even if emissions are stopped
  • Global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) have increased by almost 50 per cent since 1990
  • Emissions grew more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades
  • It is still possible, using a wide array of technological measures and changes in behaviour, to limit the increase in global mean temperature to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels
  • Progress of goal 13 in 2017

Planetary warming continued in 2016, setting a new record of about 1.1 degrees Centigrade above the preindustrial period, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2016. Drought conditions predominated across much of the globe, aggravated by the El Niño phenomenon In the Statement, WMO also noted that the extent of global sea ice fell to a minimum of 4.14 million km2 in 2016, the second lowest extent on record. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels also reached a record high of 400 parts per million that year. Mitigating climate change and its impacts will require building on the momentum achieved by the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which entered into force on 4 November 2016. Stronger efforts are needed to build resilience and limit climate-related hazards and natural disasters.

Parties to the Paris Agreement are expected to prepare, communicate and maintain successive nationally determined contributions. The nationally determined contributions reflect official country responses to climate change and contributions to global climate action. As of 20 April 2017, 143 parties ratified the Paris Agreement, of which 137 parties (136 countries and the European Commission) communicated their first nationally determined contributions to the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

As of 20 April 2017, seven developing countries successfully completed and submitted the first iteration of their national adaptation plans, in response to climate change. Developed countries have committed to jointly mobilizing $100 billion per year by 2020 to address the climate-related needs of developing countries and to continue that level of support through 2025. Initial efforts to mobilize resources for the Green Climate Fund raised $10.3 billion and developed – country parties are strongly urged to scale up their financial support.  The number of deaths attributed to natural disasters continues to rise, despite progress in implementing disaster risk reduction strategies. From 1990 to 2015, more than 1.6 million people died in internationally reported natural disasters.

Many countries have begun implementing national and local disaster risk reduction strategies. In 2014-2015, most reporting countries indicated that environmental impact assessments, legislation on protected areas, climate change adaptation projects and programmes, and integrated planning played a major role in reducing underlying risk factors.

  • Gender perspectives in resilience, vulnerability and adaptation to global environmental change

Though gender is recognized as a significant dimension of environmental change, sustainability and development (e.g. Agarwal 2010; Arora-Jonsson 2014; Carr and Thompson 2014; Leach 2016), gender analysis of socio-environmental issues still remains understudied, and its incorporation in development and environmental policies has advanced little by little. To contribute in filling such gaps has been the impetus of this special issue. Through the papers of this collection, we adopt a gender lens to unpack complex issues of differential sensitivity and adaptive capacity of individuals and societies to global environmental change (hereafter GEC). Indeed, the contributions not only analyse how future resilience, adaptation and mitigation of GEC are largely shaped by roles, responsibilities and entitlements associated with various markers of social identities and power relations, including gender, but also ethnicity, socio-economic class or caste. The intersection of these social factor constraints also provides differential opportunities to individuals and societies for adaptation and transformation in a resilient way in the face of GEC.

The main goal of this special issue is thus to offer a room for an interdisciplinary and engaged research in GEC, where gender plays a critical role in building resilience. The collection of papers aims to trace the lineage of arguments which link gender and diversity of identities within GEC, presenting how they recur in new forms of resilience, vulnerability and adaptation studies.

In the following section, we describe the setting and key questions that have inspired the special issue. The second section introduces the core concepts and approaches of vulnerability, resilience and adaptation to GEC as well as the explicit focus adopted through our gender lens. By addressing the linkages between gender and feminist studies and GEC research, we move progressively away from a gender mainstreaming focus on women’s vulnerabilities and we embrace a wider focus necessary to analyse the significance of the active roles of women in their efforts to adapt to and mitigate effects of GEC through their collaborative actions, situated knowledge1 and embodied practices. In the last section, we summarize the papers which are part of this collection; one literature review of the interlinked topics of gender and climate change, nine empirical papers and a final insight paper. The special issue closes with an insight paper that synthesizes the main theoretical contributions and methodological advances from gender studies in GEC research and comes up with a suggested agenda for the next years to adequately inform effective environmental and development policies at different organizational levels—from local to global.

  • Sustainable Development and the Adaptability of Social-ecological Systems

Sustainable development remains an extraordinary challenge across the world. Population growth and economic development are increasing pressure on ecosystems. Intensive use of natural resources may deplete available stocks, and changes in land use through deforestation, agricultural production or urbanisation can profoundly modify ecological dynamics, resulting in the loss of important habitats and the services they offer to society (Aylward et al., 2005). Decision-makers must deal with difficult trade-offs in a complex and inter-connected world which dynamics are difficult to understand and predict (Kemp and Parto, 2005). In this context, there is a growing interest internationally in making society less vulnerable to future environmental change and crisis, in particular climate change (OECD, 2011). The EU White Paper on Adapting to Climate Change for example aims to “promote strategies which increase the resilience to climate change of health, property and the productive functions of land” (European Commission, 2009).

Sustainability has slowly become a normative dimension of good governance in modern society. The Brundtland report popularised the term through its definition of sustainable development. It identified sustainability as the moral obligation to meet the demand of current generations and maintain the capacity of future generations to meet theirs (WCED, 1987). Several principles to encourage sustainable development were presented in the report, such as stronger integration of social and environmental issues in economic development and effective citizen participation in decision-making. In policy for example, Dovers (1999) argued that sustainability requires better policy integration across sectors, portfolios and jurisdictions, and providing clearer policy directions and statutory mandates to improve institutional capacities across space and time (e.g. extend time horizons). Sustainability moves attention from end of pipe solutions to more in depth, structural change of social systems.

  • Determinants of adaptive capacity

Building on hazard and adaptation to climate change research, the IPCC identified in its 3rd Report the following determinants of adaptive capacity (Smith et al., 2001):

  • Resources: the availability of resources and their distribution across society;
  • Technology: the ability to develop and implement innovative technological options;
  • Knowledge and skills: a good awareness of the necessity to adapt, the capacity to collect,
  • understand and assess new knowledge, and the skills to implement new ideas;
  • Infrastructure: the characteristics of existing infrastructure, including land use patterns,
  • Institutions: the ability of institutions to regulate individual entitlements, enable collective
  • action, and mobilize resources, knowledge and skills;
  • Equity: the equitable access to resources, technology, knowledge and skills.
  • Conclusion

Sustainable development is a process of societal change in a world characterized by imperfect knowledge, and complex, open-ended dynamics. The adaptability of social-ecological systems or their ability to manage change and perturbations is therefore critical to sustainable development. Studies arising from vulnerability and resilience research offer some conceptual basis and methodological strategies to identify and measure determinants of adaptive capacity. However, uncertainties arising from issues of scales, contexts and imperfect knowledge of social-ecological systems make it difficult to develop robust, policy-relevant indicators.  Future assessments of adaptive capacity can build on conceptual and methodological complementarily. However, other research areas may provide useful lessons on how to manage issues of complexity, scales and contexts in social-ecological systems. In particular, much effort have been targeted at developing robust and policy-relevant measurements of sustainable development. Given the relevance of research on adaptive capacity for sustainable development, and their similar objectives and interests, there is potential for cross-fertilization with past and current thinking on sustainable development. The effects of climate change are already being felt around the world and urgent action is needed to adapt to and mitigate even greater impacts. Indeed, “the global nature of climate change calls for the widest possible cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response, with a view to accelerating the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions.”50 However, notwithstanding the international community’s support for SDG 13, as well as other obligations under the UNFCCC and other international legal instruments, much depends on the effectiveness of the recent Paris Agreement and on the Parties’ own efforts, innovations, and willingness to work together towards this goal. To this end, well-adapted law and policy frameworks at all levels are needed to promote the rapid and effective implementation of the Paris Agreement in a manner that is supported by existing environmental, social, and economic instruments. A recent survey conducted by the Climate Law and Governance Initiative found that “156 of 187 countries prioritized legal and institutional reform in their iNDCs [intended nationally determined contributions], seeking to address inadequate current frameworks and governance challenges.” These results indicate a clear recognition of the importance of law and governance-based reform for action on climate change in many countries, including the need for increased support, technical expertise, and capacity building in this regard. Existing legal obligations, instruments, and policy mechanisms, both within and beyond the UNFCCC, can also support the implementation of SDG 13 by providing a strong basis for the achievement of this goal. SDG 13 may also provide added impetus for States to address the crosscutting nature of climate change, anchoring climate responses firmly in their sustainable development planning. Nevertheless, a number of challenges to the achievement of this goal remain and much will depend on the success of the Paris Agreementto curb harmful impacts of climate change and to help prepare human populations and ecosystems to adapt to its effects.


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