Mapping local climate vulnerabilities to enhance decision-making.

Climate action informed by risk assessments was missing at all levels in India, aggravating the impact of climate change on socio-economically vulnerable communities like farmers, urban poor, women, and the elderly. Determined to make climate risk-informed decision-making a priority for government authorities, the ICC seeded the Council on Energy, Environment and Water’s (CEEW) effort to build a Climate Risk Atlas in November 2020.

The Climate Risk Atlas is a toolkit that assesses local climate risks in India, to inform decision-making by relevant stakeholders and build resilience.

We envision a future where institutions, infrastructure, economies, and people are insulated from the risks of a changing climate.

– CEEW’s Climate Resilience team

The Climate Risk Atlas has evolved to drive three priorities:

Map local climate risks at a 25-km granularity level, at the national, state, and district levels, and democratise access to this data;

Identify and pilot adaptation strategies across sectors, informed by assessments of resilience and adaptation capabilities of communities;

Support sub-national and local governments in advancing climate resilience.

We began with the first in 2020 – to mine, map, and consolidate risks pertaining to droughts, floods, and cyclones at the district level.

1. Climate Vulnerability Index (CVI)

To increase community preparedness and secure India’s resources against climate risks, we first needed to understand risk hotspots and future risk scenarios. However, climate risks are complex, dynamic, and compound India’s existing development challenges. The Climate Vulnerability Index (CVI), presented in CEEW’s 2021 report Mapping India’s Climate Vulnerability – A District Level Assessment, was a first-of-its-kind effort to map exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity for hydro-met disasters, including floods, droughts, and cyclones, across India’s districts. Among other things, this report found that 3 in 4 districts in India are hotspots for extreme weather events, and increasingly susceptible to more than one disaster. Traditionally flood-prone areas are also witnessing more frequent and intense droughts, and vice versa – 40 percent of the districts exhibit this swapping trend.

The startling data that emerged in the 2021 report has ignited a much-needed conversation around climate risks among various stakeholders, including philanthropy and the private sector, and made resilience a priority for funders in India.

– Edel Monteiro, Director – Programmes

The CVI has since been widely cited at national and international platforms, including by us, igniting a call to pay attention to local risks. For example:

We have helped influence the starting point for other stakeholders’ efforts, including WRI India’s Climate Hazard and Vulnerability Assessment Framework, which treats the CVI as foundational.

The CVI triggered interest from other philanthropists, who have since supported additional data around heat and monsoons in the Climate Risk Atlas.

While we are still working on capturing district- and tehsil-level data, the ICC and CEEW have also been involved in conversations with various government authorities on how we can use the risk data to support climate resilience measures. Although not initially envisaged as a project outcome, we realised the value of successfully integrating the CVI into state- and district-level climate action plans, and creating scalable models for states across India. Remaining flexible helped us adapt our strategies to meet emerging priorities, with three substantial benefits:

Working closely with the Government of Maharashtra, we helped integrate the CVI into the Maharashtra State Action Plan on Climate Change (MHSAPCC) for the period 2023-2030.

Working in collaboration with the Thane district and Municipal Corporation, CEEW is currently developing a city-level heat action plan informed by the CVI.

A Capacity Assessment Framework has been developed to build targeted capacities among officials of the Rajasthan State Government, to equip them to deliver state climate goals.

We wanted the climate conversation in India to focus on solutions as well, not just risks.

– Dr. Ajita Tiwari Padhi, Senior Specialist – NbS and Resilience, ICC

To ensure the latest climate science and data feed into on-ground solutions appropriate for India, we introduced two priorities under the Climate Risk Atlas in 2022-23.

2. Climate-proofing Infrastructure (CPI)

Under this, CEEW has undertaken an analysis on projected flood risk to healthcare institutions in Maharashtra, to inform efforts to climate-proof healthcare infrastructure. At the national level, in collaboration with NCDC, CEEW is working to integrate its climate-proofing framework into the draft guidelines of the National Action Plan on Climate Change and Human Health. CEEW is also creating a checklist to assess the status of public healthcare infrastructure for climate risk and adaptation.

The Coalition on Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) and CEEW have announced a partnership to mainstream CPI through research and knowledge sharing in CDRI member countries, especially Small Island Developing States.

3. Nature-based Solutions (NbS)

This effort anchors around developing a ‘Unified Framework for Mapping and Estimating benefits of Nature-based Solutions for the Global South’ to guide relevant stakeholders in implementing NbS in the context of the Global South, including India. The lack of a unified framework has impacted the uptake, adoption, and scaling of NbS, including mangroves, agroforestry, urban greening, and regenerative agriculture, among others.

This effort has helped shape a chapter on NbS in CDRI’s report on Global Infrastructure Resilience (2023).

‘Making climate change more tangible through lived experiences’

In partnership with the ICC, EdelGive Foundation, and Drokpa Films, CEEW has also produced the documentary series ‘Faces of Climate Resilience’. This captures 16 stories of individuals and communities from some of India’s most climate vulnerable regions, such as Kerala, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, and Uttarakhand, and how they are adapting to the climate crisis and building resilience. This series has been screened across India and the world, winning awards including the 2023 CMCC Climate Change Communication Award “Rebecca Ballestra”.

Published on: 1st April 2024

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