Identifying local governance capacity needs for implementing climate change adaptation in Mauritius

Identifying local governance capacity needs for implementing climate change adaptation in Mauritius

By Louis Celliers (louis.celliers@hzg.de) & David Samuel Williams (david.williams@hzg.de)

This new paper is one of a series of such papers on the importance of local coastal governance for climate change adaptation. The research project was funded by the WIOMSA MASMA Project entitled Emerging Knowledge for Local Adaptation (EKLA 2013-2016; MASMA/OP/2013/01). In this paper published in the Climate Policy journal we answer the question: “What are the local governance capacity needs for implementing climate change adaptation in Mauritius”?

There is an urgent need for global support for climate change adaptation strategies in Small Island States. With a high exposure to sea-level rise, increasing frequency and intensity of tropical storms, increased variability in rainfall patterns, as well as warming air and sea surface temperatures, Small Island States (SISs) are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts. In this sense, Mauritius is no different. Combined with socio-economic challenges such as high coastal population densities, geographic isolation, high dependency on international markets, and low resource abundance, Mauritius and other SISs are more prone to experiencing loss of lives, livelihoods and shelter, as well as damage to social and economic systems and environmental degradation due to climate change impacts.

The IPCC 1.5°C Report identifies local capacity needs as a key constraint which prevents local government and communities to work together with national government (referred to as multi-level governance) to effectively respond to climate change. While there are already a number of assessments for identifying capacity needs available, they fall short if integrating the identified needs into recommendations for policy measures to improve adaptive capacity for climate change impacts.

This issue formed the focus of an EKLA project with the objective of developing strategies to extend the impact of emerging climate knowledge relating to coastal vulnerability. To meet this objective, we carried out a local governance assessment, based on a number of evaluation criteria, in order to identify local capacity needs for implementing climate change adaptation in Mauritius. EKLA also intended to better understand local governance of coastal areas in order to enable local government and communities to use knowledge to facilitate adaptation and build resilience to climate change. Results from the assessment in Mauritius indicate that local governance suffers from issues quite specific to Small Island States. These include limitations in technical know-how, as well as financial and human resources, and a need for stringent legislation and effective monitoring mechanisms.

To integrate these identified needs into recommendations for policy measures, we used a participatory, bottom-up stakeholder engagement process which included local and national government representatives. Through this process we identified key policy insights. It became apparent that the roles and responsibilities of government levels for climate change adaptation in Mauritius are currently in need of clarification. It was also recognised that capacity building measures for implementing national level climate change actions at the local level are urgently required. Furthermore, the stakeholders agreed to the need for clear and stringent legislation, as well as effective monitoring mechanisms of planning regulation. Finally, the degree of collaboration between local and national levels of government in Mauritius needs to be increased in order to agree on a common approach to climate change adaptation.

The key contribution of this work are the recommendations for policy formulation co-developed with local and national government representatives in Mauritius and validated in the climate change adaptation literature. They include to

  • Undertake a comprehensive review of which environmental and climate information could be provided to local government (District Councils in Mauritius) in order to help them make better planning decisions, particularly those which effectively consider climate risks.
  • Consider which changes in the land-use planning system would guide local government in integrating climate information into planning processes.
  • Establish the training and capacity building needs of local government staff working in departments where climate change is or will become an issue of concern, in order to deliver targeted training on adaptation.
  • Clarify the roles and responsibilities of each level of government with regards to dealing with climate change risks. This involves mapping the range of climate impacts onto existing legislation and the roles and responsibilities of different levels of government, identifying overlaps and gaps

Please refer to the open access paper for the full list and description of policy recommendations. The full paper can be found from:

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14693062.2020.1745743

In conclusion, climate change is having a profound effect on the operating space of local governance in Mauritius. This small island state has a complex network of actors which all play an important role in local adaptation to climate change. The small geographical size of the island does not translate to concomitantly smaller or less significant issues for local adaptation. Neither does it scale to simpler organizational arrangements or greater capacity to act on local adaptation.

Photos: © David Williams

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