By Imelda V. Abano
MANILA, Philippines – Rice farmers in the Philippines have seen harvests plummet due to rising temperatures and shifting rainfall patterns. In Indonesia, coastal communities are threatened by flooding from a combination of land subsidence, rising seas and increasing rainfall intensity. Meanwhile, some fishing communities in Palau get swamped with saltwater intrusion due to rising sea levels.
These are just some of the day-to-day realities communities in Asia and the Pacific region face as climate change bites, according to climate experts at the 6th Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum being held at the Asian Development Bank from October 17-19, 2018.
Linking climate science to adaptation actions and exploring the challenges of governance in finding new solutions to address the impacts of climate change are the central focus of the discussion at the forum attended by over 1,000 delegates from 60 countries.
The forum focuses on the theme “‘Enable Resilience for All,” recognizing that climate change is a cross-cutting threat all over the globe. This year’s forum is built around four streams: (1) resilience of social and human systems; (2) resilience of natural systems; (3) resilience of industry and the build environment; and (4) resilience of island communities.
“ Climate change is not a specter on the horizon. The disasters are not looming or impending. They are happening now, and they will only get worse if we continue with business as usual,” Philippines Climate Change Commission Secretary Emmanuel De Guzman said. “Climate talk all over the world is happening in the same vein. The threats and vulnerabilities are shared by all. The efforts to build adaptation and resiliency are not anymore limited the global south.”
The forum is being held a few weeks after the release of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on global warming of 1.5C that paints a bleak picture of a future world riddled by climate impacts if left unsolved.
As this latest climate science informs national policy and global action, Secretary De Guzman also emphasized that now is the time to uphold the integrity of our ecosystems, to protect local communities from the onslaught of extreme weather, and to secure sustainable food and water supply, and the health and safety of our homes and communities.
“The recent IPCC report not only highlighted the possibility and feasibility of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees, but also the need for transformative transition in many aspects of socio-economic activities. So it is due depending on the decisions we take today. This forum is taking place at a very special time and at a cusp of transition in climate action,” said Youssef Nassef, Director of Adaptation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
President of Palau Mr. Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr. in his message to the forum participants said: “Adaptation ensures that we, as a people, are prepared and resilient enough to survive through the impacts of climate change with our culture and identity intact for generations to come.”
On the other hand, Yasuo Takahashi, Vice-Minister for Global Environmental Affairs of Japan’s Ministry of the Environment emphasized that there is a need to highlight climate resilience and solutions at the forum in order to pave the road for a resilient society, economy, and ecosystem using platforms from Asia and the Pacific.
ADB’s Vice-President for Knowledge Management Bambang Susantono said ADB has invested about US$4 billion in adaptation in the last five years on urban water, transport and agriculture sector projects in the region.
“In the changing climate and environment, we need a holistic perspective. A holistic and integrative approach is a must to strengthen the resilience of our human and social systems, ecological systems, critical infrastructure, and financial system,” said Bambang Susantono, Vice President for Knowledge Management, ADB.
Red Constantino, Director of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, said that countries must realize that it is not enough for adaptation or mitigation to be implemented but rather for money to flow to those who need it most like the vulnerable communities, women, children, elderly and other marginalized groups in order to ensure that economies are resilient.
“ It is not enough to just say adaptation or mitigation, the main yardstick is whether this translate into development. We need to bake in climate policies into development policies and make sure that we put money to who needs it the most,” Constantino said.
The Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum is the flagship event of the Asia Pacific Adaptation Network (APAN) and gives delegates the opportunity to forge partnerships and share learnings from actions, cutting edge science, and practical solutions that will strengthen resilience. The forum also helps establish regional priorities and mobilize political support for the international climate conference (COP24) in Katovice, Poland in December 2018.
Co-hosted by the Government of Palau, the Philippine Climate Change Commission, and ADB, together with the APAN secretariat at UN Environment, the forum is the largest gathering of adaptation practitioners in the Asia and Pacific region.