“The sun is falling”: mitigating and adapting to climate change with local practices

By Danny Everett
25 March 2024


In Kiribati, islanders are increasingly using the expression “the sun is falling” to understand climate change. While the sun is not actually falling, this relatively new expression provides an alarming and illustrative explanation for the rising temperatures, dying fish stocks and rising sea levels in the central Pacific country.

In 2023, Kiribati was one of 10 countries to participate in climate knowledge exchange visits as part of GNDR’s Local Leadership for Global Impact project. The visits saw local civil society organisations (CSOs) and expert facilitators meet with communities actively managing the impact of climate change, to consolidate knowledge on how they understand climate change in their contexts, and how they are coping with its effects.

Across the 10 countries, we used collaborative approaches to better understand how this knowledge and practice can inform planning for complex disasters worldwide. The outcome is a research paper that shares global findings, conclusions and recommendations. These will feed into multiple international frameworks including the Sustainable Development Goals, the Sendai Framework, the Paris Agreement and the Early Warnings For All Initiative. All of which recognise whole-of-society and inclusive approaches, but fall short on delivery of localisation aims.

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Building climate resilience, locally

In the context of the global climate crisis, we must prioritise local knowledge and leadership, as resilience can only be achieved when built locally. We must enable local communities most at risk to participate, influence, and make decisions on policies and practices. This is crucial not only because they are the people most at risk, but also because they understand first-hand the risks themselves.

Communities have critical knowledge and experience of their local environments, the threats they face and their consequences, the actions which help to reduce risk, and barriers to those actions. It is vital that national, regional and international decision makers take on board the knowledge and practice from local communities and organisations.

Evidence provided in this paper will feed into our ongoing work of influencing governments to take the necessary action to address climate change adaptation and mitigation challenges – especially for those who are most at risk of disaster.

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