The Voice of APAN Forum

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time. Today we face a changing world where extreme typhoons, heat waves, droughts have become the new norms.  The adverse effects of these phenomena are felt strongly across regions and addressing climate change is fast becoming one of the needs in many countries. In order to lead the way as a nation, and contribute to building of awareness on the issue, Sri Lankan government has expressed its interest to host the Next Blue Green Era- 5th Asia – Pacific Adaptation Forum (APAN).

The 5th Asia – Pacific Adaptation Forum took place from 17th – 19th October 2016 in Colombo. During three days the forum brought together scientists, government, representatives, donors, policy- makers and youth from nearly 50 countries. The forum theme was, “Adapting and Living under 2 0C: Bridging Gaps in Policy & Practice”. The forum focused on a number of climate change adaptation issues which covered a range of financial, developmental, political and social aspects of adapting to changing climatic conditions. The forum consisted of four major streams: adaptation planning, financing for adaptation, climate resilient development and multi sector cross learning.

The Paris climate change talks led to an agreement to keep the increase in global temperature well below 2 degrees and to pursue efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degree. However, there is a future of uncertainties. In almost every country in the region, adaptation plans have been already developed at national levels and in some cases also at local levels, from the momentum since the first event in 2010 and more recently with the previous event in 2014 in Kuala Lumpur. This regional forum is organized by the APAN every two years with previous ones held in Malaysia, South Korea and Thailand.

The conference began with the high level panel discussion about the need to focus on living under 2 0C. The Paris Agreement puts into place some essential elements to ratchet up national ambition towards the 2/1.5 degree limit and net zero emission during the second half of this century. They discuss about the importance of preparing for living under 2 0C world.  H.E Rachment Witoelar, and Ms. Schipper states that, climate change the biggest threat that faces mankind. The world is already faced with extreme weather events as we gave heard. These impact of climate change present substantial new risk for most sectors of business, across all levels of government and communities. Now is the time to address our need on how to manage these risks and to start taking adaptation plane.  Adaptation consist of action undertaken to reduce the adverse consequences of climate change, as well as to harnessing any beneficial opportunities. Adaptation actions aim to reduce the impacts of climate stress on human and natural systems.

Executive Director in Bangladesh Center for Advance Studies, Atiq Rahman said that “at the local level, people do not have the luxury of planning too far ahead. When faced with a flood or drought, the issue is their immediate survival.” Poor communities are most vulnerable to the impact of climate change. They live in places which are hazards-prone areas (river banks, mountain areas), sometimes without rights to their lands, in overcrowded settlements, inadequate infrastructure and other poor living conditions. That situations have a negative effect on agricultural production, human health, social stability and diverse problems multiply which eventually increase poverty and create food insecurity. These factors are associated with security threat of the states. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the effects of climate change are expected to be of greatest concern in developing states, in terms of loss of life, effect on investment  and there by on the economy and finally on national security.  These situations require immediate action at the global and national level in order to build adequate capacities and resilience.  But, it can be stated that low awareness and knowledge of communities about climate change and its impact to them is a crucial fact which create undesirable situations.

Representating Sri Lanka, RDS Jayathunga, added that it is a huge challenge to build capacity and resilience in Sri Lanka, especially if affected communities will have to deal with the realities of a world set to cross the 2 degree temperature threshold. He emphasized the need to draw from the past experiences and build a collaborative future among developing countries battling climate change and added that south – south cooperation is a must for building resilience for most vulnerable communities to combat climate change.

Indonesia’s Former State Minister of Environment H.E Rachmat Witoelar, began by arguing that, climate change is everybody’s business and everybody should be on board.  He followed this with a direct call suggesting his country’s agricultural vulnerability and high deforestation rate, arguing that, “adaptation is part of migration because you cannot fight climate change while people are suffering”.  He added that, changing the behavior of business so that they see the benefits of protecting the environment is a key. As an example, a hotel which is situated in front of the sea to protect a coral reef so that tourists would continue to visits it’s a win- win situation. Continuing on the same theme The Finance Minister in Cook islands, Mark Brown, said households in the pacific nation that source their energy from solar panels can sell excess energy back to the grid, which provide them with an additional source of income.

The panelized also emphasized that investments and activities on adaptation cannot be a measured within short term. As Saleemal Huq from Bangladesh‘s explained the paradigm of short term thinking no longer makes sense. “In today’s changing climate, “you may have short term investment, but they need long term impacts”. That is the a most important lesson for the planners and investors is that short term project based investments which are meant to produce short term results is no longer appropriate. It can be states that, from now on, all investments need to be based on getting a long term outcome and impact”. This means that the most important objectives by which any new adaptation investment from now on must be judged on its longer term sustainability beyond the project period.

The clear message from the APAN forum was that there was a need to focus on the opportunities in adapting to climate change and practical solutions such as financing and technical assistance relating to everyday activities. It also helped practitioners, civil society and business community showed contribute resilience into their investments. APAN forum experiences will help to win trajectory of the Paris agreement and avoid the calamitous effects of climate change.

Thilini Kasthuri Intern – Research