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People’s pathways to climate action – Nature-based solutions and urban vulnerability

The Climate Academy 2021 - Call for applications

Climate change impacts are being increasingly felt around the globe, often more intense than what was expected just a few years ago. There is a growing consensus that the next few years are the last window to steer the world in a better and safer direction and avoid the worst consequences of climate change. The scale and ambition of the climate challenge require new ways of thinking and working – across sectors and thematic silos. Achieving sustainable development in countries across the globe will furthermore require innovative forms of social engagement, along with new and improved technologies and collaborative mechanisms. While scientifically informed climate change policy making process is garnering attention, people’s perspective, inspiration and pathways to climate action are scantily understood. The climate change policy making process is global by design but several implementation pathways are inherently local, and connecting local with the global is the need of the hour. At the same time, while multilateral policy making mechanisms are facing challenges to gain commitments, people are increasingly voicing their dissatisfaction with the failures of the political processes in delivering compelling climate action.
In this context, science-based participatory approaches are much needed to provide hope and direction. The climate academy programme aspires to address these challenges through a series of dedicated events on people’s pathways to climate action. The “People’s Pathways to Climate Action – Climate Academy” 2021 is being jointly organized by United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) and Munich Re Foundation (MRF) in collaboration with the UN Climate Change Secretariat (UNFCCC).

Important dates

Dates and deadlines
Call for applications 1 July 2021
Application deadline 8 August 2021 (extended deadline)
Notification of acceptance 1 September 2021
Climate Academy stage I (virtual) 27 September to 1 October 2021
The 2021 climate academy will take place in two stages, a) stage I: virtual 27 September – 01 October, 2021 b) Stage II: in-person event envisaged for Q1, 2022 (tbc). The stage II (in-person) event is likely to take place in Vietnam at a yet to be decided location depending upon then COVID-19 situation and prevailing regulations. In case an in-person event will not be possible, stage II will take place virtually as well. Additionally, to leverage on the democratization of access and outreach provided by digital means, some key events of the academy will be open for all where we aim to virtually engage with interested actors from across the globe. The 2021 academy will have a special focus on Nature-based Solutions (NbS) and its application in reducing urban vulnerability to climate change. Young professionals, including academics, policy makers and practitioners are invited to apply between 1 July and 8 August, 2021.

Climate Academy 2021: Nature- based solutions and urban vulnerability

The IPCC has identified urbanization as one of the four megatrends that must change fundamentally to effectively address climate change. It also highlighted the vital importance of NbS for climate progress. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made the fragility and underlying vulnerability of urban systems to sudden cascading events ever more evident. This year’s theme aims to ask how NbS can assist in addressing existing as well as emerging urban vulnerabilities, considering sudden jolts and cascading effects. Nature-based solutions are known to be most effective if they respond to the local conditions, particularly to the needs of local ecosystems. There is an urgent need to understand the perceptions and concerns of communities in using NbS for reducing urban vulnerabilities to ensure a truly collaborative and transformative process.

NbS has the potential to ameliorate some of the worst impacts of climate change in urban areas, such flooding, heat stress and water scarcity while enabling large scale yet effective collaborative and transformative climate actions which additionally foster deeper connection between people and nature. When combined with other established and emerging tools for climate action such as digitalization, NbS has the potential to catalyze the much needed urban transformation. The academy shares this optimism that a successful application of NbS can enable transformative and collaborative climate actions in cities as it puts community at the heart of climate action. Unlike many other means to address change, the role of community in NbS is not limited to co-design only, community is the steward and one of the main actors for a successful NbS implementation and is involved across stages of the project from its conceptualization to design and monitoring and sustenance.

However, there are many challenges in ensuring effective application of NbS in reducing urban vulnerabilities. Questions regarding feasibility, cost benefits, lack of enabling conditions, implementation across scales and administrative boundaries, effective actor’s engagement, finance and co-design are some of the key concerns. Another area of particular interest is the application of NbS to reduce urban vulnerability in the context of informal and organic urbanization. The world is getting rapidly urbanized and this phenomenal rate of urbanization often results in it taking places in hazard prone areas with exacerbated vulnerability. The socio-economic, cultural, governance and political dimensions of informal urbanization, particularly from the global south demand urgent attention and the academy aims to explore how NbS can be effectively applied in such contexts. 

Thematic pillars 2021

This year’s academy aims to bring together young researchers and practitioners as well as other relevant stakeholders including policy makers, civil society actors and NGOs to jointly assess the aforementioned and to inform policy formulation processes, especially with regard to the preparation of National Adaptation Plans (NAP) and the global stocktake.

Applications are invited to address three different pillars of application of NbS in reducing urban vulnerability:

  1. Pillar I "Enabler": NbS as enablers of transformative and collaborative climate actions in cities (best practices, local knowledge, preferably from Global south countries, (co-)benefits, transferability)
  2. Pillar II "Application": Application of NbS in informal urban development contexts (measures, co-benefits, long-term sustainability in dynamically evolving settings)
  3. Pillar III "Mainstreaming": Mainstreaming urban NbS into climate governance schemes and policies across scales and administrative boundaries (challenges, enabling conditions, actors, finance and design)

Candidate profiles:

We are looking for researchers and practitioners with documented experience of working on at least one (preferably two) of the aforementioned pillars. Successful candidates are qualified women and men with profiles such as doctoral researchers in the final stage of their research, post-doctoral fellows, lecturers, assistant professors, practitioners working in ministries, implementing agencies, civil society advocates and any other organization related to the theme of academy. Particular attention will be given to outstanding candidates from the least developed countries. Successful candidates are expected to fully participate in stage I of the academy, based on which further selections for stage II will be made. Selected participants are expected to engage proactively before and during the academy and contribute to the network products. These include but are not limited to contributing to research papers, policy briefs, participation in events, policy engagement, etc.

Advanced English language skills will be necessary. 
Applications can only be submitted online.
 

What do we offer:

  • Unique network and discussion with UN delegates, government officials and delegates to the UNFCCC climate negotiations
  • Financial assistance to deserving applicants (for stage II)

Important documents needed for your application

In addition to the general information, the application portal will ask you for:

  1. A short motivational letter (400 words max.) including one concise paragraph describing how your work relates to the Climate Academy 2021 theme.
  2. A concise abstract (300 words max.) of the work you would like to present, covering the rationale, approach/methods and key findings (or perceived findings) of your work. This work can be based on research or practice (or both) and should be very closely related to the theme of this year’s academy (explained in the candidate profile part) and if selected would serve as your initial contribution towards participation.
  3. An up-to-date CV, including a list of publications and/or concluded projects if available.

Objectives of the academy

The climate academy programme has three objectives:

First, it aims to advance the scientific understanding of people’s perception and concerns towards climate change induced risks. It aims to do so by convening leading researchers and other key stakeholders to collect, discuss and jointly advance latest approaches related to the academy’s thematic focus from across scales and world regions. The Academy will also address and debate existing participation mechanisms in the global climate change policy making and implementation mechanisms and explore possible leverages that digitalization presents. 

Second, it aspires to apply this understanding to advance participation pathways to enhance the effectiveness of the existing and proposed solutions that reduce people’s exposure and vulnerability to climate change. This year focus will in particular be on understanding the feedback and expectations regarding the application of NbS in reducing urban vulnerability.

Third, the Academy aims to foster the science-policy-action interface by feeding knowledge and solutions gathered and generated directly into policy processes (crucially, in collaboration with UNFCCC). At the same time, the agenda of the Academy is itself driven by transdisciplinary co-creation to facilitate the formulations of comprehensive solutions and their implementations. It specifically aims to contribute to the UNFCCC Global Stocktake process of the Paris Climate Agreement by providing the assessment of critical intangible dimensions prudent to meet its targets. Academy participants will engage with these needs and contribute the created knowledge and reflections into UNFCCC discussions around national adaptation planning, closing adaptation knowledge gaps, planning and creating contingency arrangements, research dialogues, relevant committee work programs and other policy outlets. Academy participants similarly have the opportunity to interact with communities of practice engaged with decision making.

Format and outcomes of the Climate Academy

The central element this programme is a set of three sessions of the climate academies: the first one focusing on NbS and urban vulnerability will take place in 2021 and 2022, second one focusing on digitalization and energy transition will be held in 2022 and the third one focusing on climate change induced mobility will be held in 2023. Each academy is designed to convene 20-30 participants. These shall include researchers (a mixture of PhD students, post-docs, junior professors, mid-career researchers), risk practitioners (e.g. from national, sub-national and international risk management agencies, concerned ministries or the insurance sector) and selected policymakers.

In addition, the academies will feature 2-3 invited high-level speakers/mentors. Each summer academy is foreseen to lead to the coordinated production of a number of publications, ranging from academic papers to policy briefs. These contributions are meant to provide specific scientific inputs as well as support the climate change adaptation (and mitigation wherever applicable) related policy formulation and implementation mechanisms of relevant stakeholders.

The academy series is designed to directly inform the application of scientific knowledge and methodologies in policy and action. The targeted domains include the global institutions for risk reduction and adaptation (e.g. the management of the Adaptation Fund and the Green Climate Fund), national ministries behind adaptation policies and disaster risk reduction, or local decision makers (e.g. at city scale). Besides state organizations, transfer and application of methods and knowledge is also directed at other actors from the private sector (e.g. insurers) and civil society (e.g. non-profit associations or philanthropic foundations).

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