Today’s decisions about development will shape countries’ resiliency in the face of climate risks like changing precipitation patterns, temperatures, and sea level. Yet policy makers from Africa to Southeast Asia are struggling to incorporate these hard-to-define climate risks into their development decisions. The challenge is particularly acute in developing countries like Ghana and Vietnam, where the crushing weight of poverty creates a short-term imperative to pursue economic gains, even in the face of significant longer-term risks.
These two countries have potentially significant climate vulnerabilities. In Ghana, the river systems whose hydroelectric dams provide a majority of the country’s power may receive less precipitation, and less frequently. In Vietnam, the Mekong Delta, which has enabled the country to become a major rice exporter and now houses millions of people, lies less than a meter above sea level in many places, leaving it vulnerable to sea-level rise.
In 2010, CBI and the World Resources Institute (WRI) engaged government officials and a diverse range of stakeholders in Ghana and Vietnam in innovative conversations around climate risks.
CBI developed and facilitated one-day multi-stakeholder workshops in Ghana and Vietnam to explore how participants might factor climate risks into decision-making about long-term investments. Because climate risks are hard to quantify, they are best viewed as a range of possible scenarios. To promote wise and sometimes politically difficult choices based on those scenarios, CBI encourages policymakers to engage relevant actors and stakeholders in a consensus building process.
CBI's workshops used tailored role-play simulations which offered realistic, fictionalized scenarios to prompt participants to consider climate variables as part of their decision making. Role-play exercises promote joint learning and “ah-ha” moments that stem from seeing a problem from a new perspective. In Ghana, the Bepo Dam Plan role-play simulation that CBI developed required policy makers and others to advise the Prime Minister whether to proceed with a new hydroelectric dam in the face of a report describing potentially significant climate risks. In Vietnam, the role-play asked government officials, scientists, a farmers association, and other stakeholders to recommend how to best use donor funds earmarked for climate adaptation measures.
By participating in these workshops and role-plays, participants discovered critical insights and modeled a new process for incorporating climate risks into government decisions. In Ghana, the role-play elucidated the overpowering perceived need to promote immediate economic development despite significant risk. Yet at the same time, participants experimented with identifying “no regrets” options for addressing climate risks more wisely.
Participants in the Mekong Delta workshop had never experienced a structured, multi-stakeholder conversation around government policy. Nor had they taken part in a simulation exercise where they were required to play the part of — and address the challenges of — a stakeholder in a different position from themselves. They found the experience so impactful that, during the debrief conversations, a senior leader at the Mekong Delta’s prestigious Can Tho University urged government officials in the room to undertake similar exercises as the country prepares to make tough decisions around climate adaptation.
The insights from these workshops were published in the 2010-2011 World Resources Report, a bi-annual publication by WRI, the UN Development Programme, the UN Environment Program, and the World Bank.