IKI talks with Michael Hoppe and Professor Jürgen Kropp

The IKI project, Inventory of Methods for Climate Adaptation, which was carried out jointly by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), came to an end at the beginning of 2014. Over its three years, the project collected, developed and disseminated methods of climate change adaptation. Responsible for the project's implementation were Michael Hoppe, project manager on the GIZ side, and Professor Jürgen Kropp, head of the research area Climate Change and Development at PIK.

Interview with Michael Hoppe and Professor Jürgen Kropp

GIZ and PIK have been working together since 2008 to gather knowledge related to climate change and adaptation, and to make this available to decision-makers around the world. How did this cooperation start?

Kropp: Originally, the cooperation wasn't motivated by a specific single project, but the former managing director of GIZ, Bernd Eisenblätter, paid a visit to PIK. We sat together in a group of five and considered what opportunities existed for collaboration between us, and what the different areas of interests might be. In the end, this resulted in a cooperation agreement that remains valid even today.

Hoppe: There's a bit more background to it: back then, a GIZ employee from the adaptation division had a temporary placement at PIK, and in that context the first links started to form. We produced our first joint publication on climate information and adaptation, even before the project started.

A special characteristic of this project is surely the way in which it brings together research and practice. What significance did this have for the cooperation between the two organisations? What, specifically, were the roles of PIK and GIZ?

Kropp: It's all about a common objective - about the questions of climate impact and climate protection. In this respect, PIK sees itself as setting the pace in international discussions. Of course, there are always difficulties involved in cooperation projects. In real terms, GIZ and PIK have different tasks. But difficulties have to be resolved, and they should not hinder us in our joint activities. As PIK, we have to drive the process of understanding. We're doing this, not only on global, but also increasingly on regional and local scales. This is where our work is intertwined with the issues being addressed by GIZ.

Hoppe: From the GIZ perspective, of course, capacity development in the partner countries is top priority. In this project, we are working together with seven partner countries. We are keeping tabs on the needs, the processes and the imperatives that exist locally. Our role is to identify these needs, and to fulfil them as appropriate. In PIK, research first takes place at the systemic level. In several areas of the project we have succeeded in interlinking local requirements and climate research. One difficulty, however, lies in the different timelines that research and project work often involve. And the degree of abstraction can be very high, too. I've no doubt that, for the target groups we deal with, this sometimes resulted in a type of ivory tower. Our experience was: the more specific, the better. Something that worked very well, for example, were PIK's inputs in the workshops. It was extremely valuable for the participants to see the current status of the research. Another good example is the joint training in the area of climate information, which GIZ organised and which included substantive contributions from PIK.

What can you do to come down from the ivory tower? How do you communicate complicated climate science to actors who are not experts?

Hoppe: We worked together to develop different forms of media. Most importantly, there was the film 'We know enough about climate change'. This was very well received, and has now been translated 12 times - the latest request coming from Pakistan. Such media productions proved to be a good way of communicating scientifically complex things, such as climate models, in a visual, user-friendly manner, and for addressing uncertainties.

Kropp: The key word was 'edutainment'. You need media formats like this in order to get people interested, and to fill in the knowledge gaps quickly and efficiently. That's something I have experienced in many international projects. We were really surprised at the beneficial effect this sort of thing can have – not just this film but also other products. But to get back to the main point: 'the more specific, the better.' Of course, this sometimes means we struggle somewhat. Before coming up with any specific instructions, you first have to understand the system. For example, how agricultural production or the availability of water will develop under certain aspects of climate change. Naturally, when this is broken down to a very small scale, ever more detailed processes have to be taken into consideration. This can create the impression that research isn't very closely related to reality. But that's not true. We've learnt that it's essential to break down knowledge to its smaller, local scale. The web-based platform ci:grasp is one example of this. In this context, we also ask what is happening on the ground. That has very specific implications for policy interventions, for example, to ensure food security. At PIK we do not develop policies, but we can provide important information to help shape the strategies of the future.

What was your own personal highlight from the project?

Kropp: The thing that particularly inspired me about this project was the fact we also went to places where it hurt. We were prepared to talk through our conflicts. This process has brought us a long way, as an academic institution. This is evident in the fact that adaptation has now become a crosscutting topic for the whole of PIK. For a long time, we maintained a very strong focus on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. But that has changed now.

Hoppe: I can still remember sitting with Jürgen one evening, last year, on a tram in Bonn. He was holding his iPad in his hand, enthusiastically demonstrating a game - the prototype of Find, an interactive children's game of hidden objects, all about energy and climate change. That's where you feel the passion for the topic. And building on that: for me, I find the passion grows even more when discussing things directly with representatives of the partner countries. It's only then that you actually understand what is essential, and where the changes have to start. That's something I became aware of during my time abroad, and it struck me again during the international workshops for the project, in Durban, Bonn or Mexico, as well as on local project visits.

Kropp: Something that has also changed for us because of such experiences is that science and society is becoming an increasingly important subject area for PIK. It is clear that the climate issue also needs to be solved by involving civil society actors. That's something that we probably weren't focusing on as much, earlier, but that too has changed. I’ve learnt a lot, personally, from our cooperation in the IKI projects and from the trips to the partner countries. I've learnt that the things taking place in these countries are completely different to the way I've sometimes imagined them. And that's something that's changed my daily routine and my perspective a little bit.

And now the project has run its course, what remains?

Hoppe: The instruments weren't developed in a vacuum, but in cooperation with other GIZ-IKI projects and partner institutions in the different countries. That means they haven't been filed away somewhere, but are already being applied in ongoing processes. Moreover, the experience drawn from their application, as well as the methodological descriptions etc. can be found on the platform AdaptationCommunity.net, where they are still available to be used. In this way, the experiential knowledge is being managed and is available. That was, after all, the aim of the project.

Kropp: ci:grasp will continue, as will the webinars. We're thinking of ways in which we can institutionalise it better, for instance using the Climate KIC.

Thank you for joining us for this discussion, Mr Hoppe and Professor Kropp.