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An Interview with Mohamed El-Ashry Daniel Morris, center fellow at the RFF Center for Climate and Electricity Policy, sat down with Mohamed El-Ashry, RFF board member and retired CEO and chairman of the Global Environment Facility, to discuss international climate negotiations and priorities for adaptation. Below is an excerpt of their conversation. Video from this interview is available online at

think about this as a global issue—but the impacts are local. We need to think about the institutions that will deal with these issues on the ground. People need better information. For example, a farmer wants information about the land, wind, and droughts, so that he can adjust. These cycles have happened before, and people have adjusted to them. That’s how people build resilience. As for ecosystems, building resilience means reducing the human impact, which is tremendous. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment in 2005 showed that because ecosystems are already degraded, the impacts of climate change are going to be even greater.

Morris: How do you define adaptation? When people ask you about it, what do you tell them?

Morris: How do you strike a balance between trying to make sure that communities are not as vulnerable to climate change, while ensuring that they’re resilient to its effects now and in the future?

El-Ashry: Adaptation is about building resilience and reducing vulnerability. People and natural systems are being affected by climate change. If we do nothing, then the degradation will continue to impact the productivity and health of both. So that’s how I present it: building resilience and reducing vulnerability.

El-Ashry: I think the best way of looking at this is to talk about upstream interventions that would be valuable regardless of the specific impacts of climate change. For example, we have droughts right now. Farmers suffer. However, crop varieties that are resistant to drought will help right now and will also provide a cushion for when droughts become worse in the future. Vulnerability exists, but it’s being reduced. Unless you put forth a serious mitigation effort, that vulnerability remains—and the

Morris: How can communities build resilience in order to adapt to climate change? El-Ashry: I’m glad you mentioned communities, because the tendency is to


Q& A

How Communities and Countries Can Adapt to Climate Change

Resources Magazine - Summer 2011 - Number 178