News & Media
News and Media
The Second Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum was held March 12-13 in the United Nations Conference Centre in Bangkok.
As Bangkok works to recover from its worst flooding in half a century, adaptation experts and practitioners from across the region meet to address social and economic development challenges in the new climate regime.
The forum was organised by the Regional Climate Change Adaptation Knowledge Platform (AKP) for Asia, in which SEI’s Asia Centre is a principal partner, and the Asia Pacific Adaptation Network.
The theme was “Adaptation in Action”, including ways to link knowledge to adaptation actions; the governance of adaptation; and insights from experiences on the ground. There were 25 working sessions and four plenary sessions, and roughly 800 participants: government officials, researchers, practitioners, NGOs, international organisations, regional intergovernmental bodies, youth, media and the private sector.
The forum had originally been scheduled for last October, but was postponed after massive flooding in the Thai capital, which is home to 15 million people. Thailand’s Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Pithaya Pookaman, told the assembly that the low-lying Bangkok “could be submerged in the next 20 years unless key issues of infrastructure and land use planning are addressed.”
SEI Executive Director-Designate Johan Kuylenstierna said in a keynote address that the recent flooding that affected one-third of Thailand should serve as a call to action for the Asia-Pacific region.
“Nature sent us a strong reminder last year, forcing this Forum to be postponed due to the devastating floods just outside these doors,” he said. “It was a stark reminder of the vulnerability of our modern societies, and clearly spur us to focus on both immediate actions and long-term strategies to build resilience towards current and future shocks in a world with 9 billion people.”
Limited funds, massive challenges
Bindu Lohani, vice president for knowledge management and sustainable development at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), stressed that resources currently available to “climate-proof” roads, sewers, bridges and pipelines are grossly insufficient, much less to improve data collection, early warning systems, and other activities essential to build climate resilient societies.
“Public lenders and private investors cannot continue to channel billions of dollars to massive infrastructure projects without factoring in the realities of warmer temperatures, rising sea levels and more violent storms,” he said.
The ADB estimates that the region requires upwards of US$40 billion annually to effectively meet adaptation needs through 2050, but presently only about US$4.4 billion is allocated each year globally.
The forum included a session on financing adaptation session, with speakers from the ADB, SEI, the Global Environmental Facility, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the International Labour Organization (ILO). They discussed mechanisms and opportunities to generate resources for adaptation efforts, including governance issues, micro-insurance schemes, private-sector financing, and dedicated adaptation funds.
Currently, there are limited multilateral and bilateral sources from which countries in the region can get support, and the speakers suggested that developing countries might need to finance adaptation on their own.
Luraine Villacorta from the ILO in Manila spoke about lessons from developing an innovative risk transfer mechanism involving farming communities in the Southern Philippines. She argued that climate-related disasters represent a major source of risks for poor farmers who depend on “good weather” for their survival and livelihoods. Thus, their adaptive capacities are determined and constrained by economic conditions and by their lack of access to financial and productive resources.
Given that the poor just could not afford insurance services to cover crop failure and disasters, an innovative mechanism needs to be in placed to assist farmers. The ILO found that bundling financial services with non-financial services such as trainings made the package more attractive to farmers while increasing their opportunities to maximise farm outputs and diversify their productive activities.
“These illustrate how planners, policy makers, donors, researchers, NGOs and communities are already rolling up their sleeves,” said Dr. Albert Salamanca, a research fellow in the SEI Asia Centre and manager of the AKP’s research component. “But while they are anxious to move forward, they want to avoid reinventing the wheel. That’s what our Knowledge Platform and this forum is all about.”
Other participants at the forum included the Swedish Ambassador for Climate Change, Anna Lindstedt; Shigemoto Kajihara, Deputy Director-General of Global Environment, in the Japanese Ministry of Environment; and Keith Alverson, head of the Climate Change Adaptation and Terrestrial Ecosystems Branch and Climate Change Adaptation Unit of the United Nations Environment Programme.
The devastating floods in Thailand last year, which made it necessary to postpone the forum from October until March, were a strong reminder of the urgency of adaptation in the region.