Podcast Recap, Episode 5: Navigating Climate Adaptation with Planet Aid's Jonelle Palmer

In the latest episode of Sustainable Solutions with Planet Aid, Jonelle Palmer, the Climate Adaptation Partnership Associate at Planet Aid, sat down with Communications Content Specialist Monica Johnson and Communications Manager Haley Chitty to unravel the intricacies of climate adaptation. The discussion explores climate adaptation, the crucial role of local regenerative practices, and how the multifaceted impacts of climate change can be addressed.

Understanding Climate Adaptation

Palmer stressed that to understand climate adaptation it is important to understand climate change, the changing global climate primarily caused by human emissions, particularly from fossil fuels. She defined climate adaptation as a process that involves understanding and adjusting to the impacts of climate change, such as extreme weather, increased heat, drought, and sea level rise.

She explained the need for proactive adaptation to prepare for the immediate and severe impacts of climate change.

The Need for Adaptation at All Levels

Palmer stressed that climate adaptation is a global and local concern. It requires action at every level, from local communities to national governments.

"It's essential for city planners, local communities, and national governments to be actively involved in planning and implementing strategies," she said.

Differentiating Adaptation and Resilience

The conversation delved into the distinction between adaptation and resilience. While both terms are often used interchangeably, Palmer clarified that adaptation involves taking action to address or adjust to changing climates, while resilience refers to the status of a community's ability to withstand those impacts.

"A community with high climate resilience requires less adaptation compared to one with low resilience," Palmer said.

Role of Regenerative Practices

The discussion expanded to regenerative practices, like regenerative agriculture, which can contribute to climate adaptation. Palmer highlighted the significance of regenerative practices in not only adapting to climate change but also addressing negative impacts caused by unsustainable farming practices, like monoculture.

Palmer explained that regenerative practices were examples of proactive adaptation, which is ideal. However, she also acknowledged that external factors, such as lack of resources or political will, sometimes necessitate reactive adaptation, where communities act in response to severe impacts of climate change.

Palmer shared examples of successful regenerative adaptation projects, highlighting the Farmers' Clubs model—a flagship resilience-building approach funded by Planet Aid. The model engages smallholder farmers in sustainable agriculture practices, leading to increased crop production, diversified crops, and improved food security. The success of these clubs extends to heightened community impacts, including increased incomes and improved access to education for families.

Building Resilient Communities

The conversation extended to what resilient communities look like, using a coastal community in Mozambique as an example. Palmer discussed interventions, including nature-based solutions, community engagement, and alternative livelihoods, aimed at restoring ecosystems and empowering communities to withstand climate impacts.

The conversation touched upon successful adaptation projects, emphasizing the importance of incorporating local knowledge and engaging communities in the planning process.

Johnson inquired about Planet Aid's role in climate adaptation, and Palmer explained that Planet Aid works with local partners to secure international grant funds for climate adaptation projects.

"This collaborative approach involves incorporating local knowledge and developing proposals tailored to the specific needs of communities facing severe climate impacts," she said.

Palmer emphasized that it is crucial for Planet Aid to represent local partners and highlighted the challenges they face in securing funding for climate adaptation. Palmer envisions a future with more opportunities for climate adaptation, especially at the local level, emphasizing the importance of collaboration and partnerships to address global climate challenges.

The conversation expanded to losses and damage caused by climate change, particularly in small island developing states. Palmer discussed how Planet Aid's projects aim to address not only adaptation but also losses and damage, emphasizing the importance of securing funding for comprehensive climate response.

Addressing Challenges

Palmer provided insights into challenges communities face in prioritizing adaptation, emphasizing the need for holistic approaches that integrate adaptation into the fabric of communities. Funding, resources, and engaging various sectors, including health, government, food, and energy, are identified as critical challenges that need collective attention.

Potential Pitfalls: Maladaptation

Palmer addressed the possibility of getting adaptation wrong, referring to it as maladaptation. Using examples from individual and project levels, she highlighted the importance of continuous monitoring and evaluation to prevent initiatives that may increase vulnerability or have unintended consequences.

Measuring Adaptation

Palmer also acknowledged the challenges of measuring adaptation and highlighted the need for ongoing monitoring and evaluation.

Palmer shared insights from her attendance at the Adaptation Futures Conference, emphasizing the challenges in measuring adaptation. The conference, a global gathering of over 2,000 adaptation professionals, facilitated collaborative discussions and brainstorming sessions. A key focus was on developing metrics to assess the effectiveness of adaptation projects over the long term, addressing the difficulty of proving their success to donors.

Looking Towards the Future

The episode concluded with a discussion on the future of adaptation work, emphasizing the importance of collaboration, partnerships, and ongoing efforts to navigate the evolving landscape of climate change.

"As we navigate the future, the call for global cooperation and holistic approaches to climate challenges echoes louder than ever,” Palmer said. “Fueled by used clothing and shoe donations, Planet Aid will continue to fund community led programs that promote adaptive practices like regenerative agriculture and draw attention to unique challenges that various communities face thanks to climate change."