Adaptation in Action Institute shifts course for Kazakhstani officials online using Zoom, helping the country craft its Environmental Code
For more than three years, ELI has worked with Kazakhstan’s Department of Climate Policy and Green Technologies, amending the national Environmental Code to incorporate climate change adaptation.
The project falls under the U.S. Agency for International Development’s C5+1 National Adaptation Planning Program, which expands the capacities of Central Asian countries to engage in planning under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Although Kazakhstan faces a number of related environmental challenges — including increased aridity, desertification, and extreme weather events — the country has not yet accounted for adapting to climate change in its legal framework.
In 2019, ELI collaborated with climate specialists from Abt Associates to help the Kazakhstani government develop a draft chapter for its code, titled Public Administration in the Field of Adaptation to Climate Change.
The revisions, which set forth climate change adaptation norms and processes, as well as new competencies of governmental bodies, are currently under review by the national parliament. The lower house has already adopted the revisions. ELI also assisted in developing draft rules for implementing the proposed provisions and helped write methodological guidance on implementing the adaptation processes set forth in the law.
Once the proposed climate change adaptation provisions are adopted, Kazakhstani government staff will need to implement the law. Recognizing a need to build familiarity with the new provisions, ELI hosted an online training course to build the capacity of government staff. Held over 10 days last summer, the class was organized in collaboration with the national climate deparment, with financial support from USAID.
The objective of the course was to familiarize supervisors, experts, and staff with adaptation-related provisions of the code. The training also explained related rules and methodological guidance. Attendees received an overview of climate change impacts in Kazakhstan and the country’s international obligations under the Paris Agreement related to climate adaptation.
Lectures explored experiences in climate adaptation from other countries, as well as approaches — such as conducting vulnerability assessments — that can be used at various stages of the adaptation process.
Participants consisted primarily of government staff working in sectors relevant to adaptation, such as agriculture, water resources, forestry, and protection of citizens. Other participants represented NGOs, science institutes, and other stakeholders. A total of 166 participants attended the course, and 93 successfully passed the final test and received certificates of completion.
Originally intended as an in-person training course, the program transitioned to an online format over Zoom due to the pandemic. All the course lectures were recorded (either in Russian or recorded in English and dubbed into Russian), and recordings were made available to all the training participants, providing them flexibility in when to view the videos. Near the end of the course, the Institute also held a live discussion with the lecturers to provide training participants an opportunity to ask questions about the course materials.
The training session received enthusiastic feedback, both for its structure and content, and represented one of many ways ELI has innovated approaches to online events during the Covid-19 pandemic.
ELI’s work in Kazakhstan is a continuation of over a decade of work supporting climate change adaptation law, including projects on adaptation in coastal areas and managing biodiversity in a changing climate.
Helping citizens to review impact of river sediment diversions
ELI’s Gulf of Mexico team works to advance the recovery, restoration, and ecological resilience of the region following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Institute increases public participation in multiple restoration planning processes, including by supporting local and regional organizations, tracking and reporting on restoration funding, and helping communities understand how to participate in public comment processes.
Recently, ELI has helped local partners engage citizens in processes related to the proposed Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, for which a draft environmental impact statement and draft restoration plan were released in March.
Sediment diversions are designed to reintroduce natural delta processes and build landmass. Due in part to decades of building levees and flood control structures on the Mississippi River, the delta and Louisiana coastline have lost thousands of square miles of land. Through gated structures in the levee system, sediment diversions reintroduce fresh water and minerals to nearby basins, rebuilding wetlands in the process.
Project proponents say that the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion would create or save from erosion as much as 47 square miles of land in the fifty years following construction. Anticipated benefits include improved soil density, wildlife habitat, increased hurricane resilience, and a boon to the economy through job creation and a rise in business sales. However, concerns remain about mitigating potential impacts on the region’s oyster and fishing businesses and on nearby dolphin populations, among other changes to the ecosystem.
ELI has assisted local partners by researching the legal landscape around the proposed project and releasing a fact sheet on public participation opportunities. The fact sheet explains how citizens can participate in public comment processes for two laws governing environmental reviews for the project: the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires development of an environmental impact statement, and the Oil Pollution Act, under which the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment is proceeding.
The Institute will also co-host a series of online community conversations, joining panelists from Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and the Louisiana Trustee Implementation Group, to complement formal public meetings.
Site aids water quality programs in engaging the public
For the past 13 years, ELI has conducted annual training workshops for state, tribal, territorial, and EPA staff regarding the Clean Water Act Section 303(d) Program, which identifies waters that do not meet standards and implements plans to restore and protect them. These workshops, supported by EPA, have prompted a wide variety of endeavors to further assist the program.
One of those endeavors has been a five-year cooperative agreement between ELI and EPA to develop a series of compendia of practices across the country for implementing various aspects of the 303(d) program. These resources facilitate knowledge-sharing across jurisdictions and generate more innovation.
Since 2016, ELI has published the “Compendium of Water Quality Restoration Approaches” and the “Compendium of State Approaches to Protection.”
In February 2021, ELI released its third installment, Approaches to Clean Water Communication, a collection of methods for communicating about water quality with the public and other less-technical audiences. The compendium helps programs strengthen engagement with the public, a key goal of water quality improvement programs.
With the assistance of a planning group composed of state, tribal, and EPA staff, ELI collected examples of communication methods through a questionnaire completed by water quality program staff from 44 states, 9 tribes, 4 territories, and the District of Columbia. This information was then distilled into a user-friendly website hosted by ELI.
The resource covers a wide range of communication methods, including websites, maps, social media, and videos. One section of the compendium assembles a library of “Story Maps” and “dashboards,” which are interactive digital tools used by water quality programs to display multimedia elements such as pictures and maps alongside text. The site organizes different types of communication methods in the most easily accessible fashion. For example, visual products such as signs and posters are on an easy-to-read Story Map page.
The compendium also provides summaries for key aspects of effective communication, such as presentations for public comment processes, ways to collect metrics and tools for measuring success, and translating products into multiple languages. As a free database, the compendium may be especially useful to smaller jurisdictions or programs with limited resources dedicated to communications.
Helping Kazakhstan Craft Its Environmental Code.