Mainstreaming climate change into community development strategies and plans: a case study in Thailand

Mainstreaming climate change into community development strategies and plans: a case study in Thailand

Paper demonstrating the need for mainstreaming climate change into multi-level development plans

With a focus on Thailand and south-east Asia, this paper argues that the current process of ‘predict-then-act’ climate change adaptation is inherently flawed. The uncertain nature of climate change predictions can lead to dilemmas in selecting proper measures, whilst the long timeframes involved hinders investment and distances stakeholders’ priorities. Furthermore, this sequential process often overlooks socioeconomic dynamics that, particularly in developing countries, will change countries' risk profiles over time. Thus, a paradigm shift that mainstreams climate change adaptation into development plans under the guidance of a range of future scenarios is required. Such mainstreaming should happen at all levels: the local, where residents more concerned with immediate needs can participate in short-term adaptation measures; and the national, where governments can take a longer view and implement policy to develop sectoral strategies.

The authors present a case study demonstrating the mainstreaming of climate change into a local development plan in the Lao-oi District of Thailand. This community is built around wet-season, rain-fed rice production, the main threat to which is flooding; eight of the last ten years have seen flooding which is estimated to have resulted in the loss of around 40 per cent of total production. The limited climate data available suggests that the district will likely face an increased risk of flooding in the future. Under the old paradigm, the identification of this risk may have led to measures to protect wet-season farming; the community instead decided to extend their irrigation system from the river to increase dry-season growing capacity. However, the climate model also indicates longer, dryer summers and a reliance on a single water source represents a potentially unsustainable future vulnerability. In this case, the government should increase the carrying capacity of a reservoir to the north of the district to hold more of the wet-season rains.

This multi-level mainstreaming of climate change can be highly complimentary and offer resilience in the face of future uncertainty. It will require the development of systematic climate change knowledge transfer and significant cooperation and communication between all stakeholders.

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