Outcomes from the Forum

Dr. Louis Lebel, Unit for Social and Environmental Research, Chiang Mai University, shares his personal selection of take-messages from the 4th Asia-Pacific Adaptation Climate Change Forum discussions.

Adaptation solutions

  • Adaptation is a process that needs to take place on multiple temporal and spatial scales. Solutions are needed at different levels and for cross-links.
  • Solutions are often available, somewhere. Knowledge or technology needs to be shared, accessible and affordable.
  • Solutions are often partial, tentative or provisional. We need to learn-by-doing from safe-to-fail experiments; we need more innovation.

Mainstreaming and transformative change

  • There are opportunities to mainstream climate change adaptation into spatial planning, disaster risk reduction, and more. A key goal should be to minimize policy contradictions.
  • Incremental and ‘tinkering’ adaptation can only address a subset of risks, for a while. Ultimately, ‘metamorphosis’ is needed.
  • Many innovations and insights are coming from place-based, on-the-ground, initiatives that learn from doing in the Asia Pacific.

Inclusive and gender-sensitive

  • Women and men have distinct adaptation capacities and needs. Adaptation needs to transform to become much more inclusive and gender-sensitive.
  • The key to just or fair adaptation, given diverse interests and values, and unequal power relations, is the empowerment of marginalized and vulnerable people.

Development at the Water-food-energy nexus

  • Water, food and energy systems individually face rising constraints, and are increasingly interconnected. Attention to synergies can support adaptation.
  • The role in climate resilient development of large-scale hydropower, and land concessions for biofuel, etc. remains controversial in many places, because of its impacts and sensitivities to climate change.
  • Governance of “supply chains” through regulations, standards and certification is important for adaptation issues in the nexus.

Disaster risk reduction and human security

  • Floods and droughts already have huge impacts under current climate. Risk management remains critical to adaptation in most sectors.
  • Long-term recovery following disasters remains a challenge. A key reason is that interventions often do not address underlying drivers of vulnerability such as political marginalization, and insecure rights.
  • Loss and damages can be reduced by adaptation and mitigation. Meanwhile, the residual, will require significant knowledge and resources to address.

Biodiversity and ecosystems

  • Ecosystem-based adaptation brings benefits to communities and countries, and is cost-effective in a wide-range of situations.
  • Local governments, however, do not always engage communities closely or take into account roles that ecosystems may play in adaptation.
  • Indigenous and local knowledge is useful for both ecosystem- and community-based adaptation
  • Innovative instruments that reward stewardship of ecosystem services can facilitate adaptation.

Cities and coastal development

  • Building urban resilience requires actions across sectors and city boundaries, and special attention to the disempowered poor.
  • Adequate and robust water supply and sanitation provision are fundamental to resilient development.
  • On-going migration into vulnerable urban and coastal areas is an outstanding adaptation policy challenge.
  • Infrastructure solutions are about getting the right technology in the right place. Solutions should be safe-to-fail, not assumed to be fail-safe. 

Money for action

  • The finances needed for adaptation are significant but not large in comparison to major investment stocks and flows.
  • The potential private finance available for adaptation is huge and uncounted. While governments should enable these flows, so can we as individual investors and shareholders.
  • Leverage for action comes from good ideas for adaptation projects, programs and policies.

Science to action

  • Evidence-based decision making on adaptation and climate resilient development is critical. Science and practical experience are important sources of such knowledge. 
  • Effective ways to improve the links between science and action are known. Most involve building and maintaining relationships in which action or practice can also inform science.
  • The challenge from adaptation is for science, practice and policy to jointly become more future-oriented.

New partnerships for resilient development

  • Successful adaptation often requires involvement of multiple stakeholders. Quality multi-stakeholder processes take time and resources.
  • New partnerships are needed, and that demands attention to communication, incentives and roles.
  • Businesses face increasing risks of damages and losses. Adaptation is also a business opportunity. Businesses will need to work together.
  • Civil society organizations are valuable as partners, not just as ‘local facilitators’ or ‘communicators’.

Reality check

  • Adaptation is one of many agendas and not the immediate priority. For many, climate change is still just an environment, not development, issue.   
  • Mainstreaming adaptation is a decadal project of becoming invisible. It gets harder with success.
  • Adaptation planning needs to consider uncertainty, starting with ranges of plausible futures, not just hopeful guesses on what is ‘most likely’. 
  • High-level policy frameworks and international agreements do not give a lot of guidance on trade-offs or priorities in adaptation. That has to come from other work – like ours.