Asia Pacific Climate Week 2019 Highlights
Recently in September I was selected to present my work at ATREE on up cycling and wetland conservation at the Asia Pacific Climate week held at UNSECAP office at Bangkok. The climate week was organized in preparation to the UN Secretary-General Climate Action Summit which was held in New York and COP 25 to happen in Spain next month. The action week focused on raising ambitions to accelerate climate action by the countries in the Asia Pacific region to implement the Paris agreement.
Similar Climate weeks is being conducted for Latin America and the Caribbean region and Africa too (https://www.regionalclimateweeks.org/).
At APCW representatives from several of the Asia Pacific region had come together. I was lucky enough to be part of the event and was able to present my work on up cycling and women empowerment program conducted at Vembanad.
Here are some of the highlights from the event.
The aim of APCW was to develop Multi-stakeholder dialogue in the spirit of the Talona dialogue. The current climate plans on achieving NDC and carbon neutrality by 2050 was the central theme of discussion during APCW.
Bangkok discussion focused on energy transition, infrastructure, cities and local action, resilience and adaptation and nature-based solution (NbS). Asia Pacific region is at the forefront of innovation in tackling the climate crisis and, the APCW focused on boosting the region’s response to the climate crisis.
Mr Peter Thomson, the UN Special envoy for ocean, launched the event by emphasizing the importance of oceans. He said that we are about to miss the 1.5-degree target. He stressed that the contribution of oceans in mitigation is to be valued as it absorbs almost 90% of the heat and 30% of Carbon. Mangroves stored as much as 4 times carbon as compared to a tree and we have been taking the capacity of ocean, mangrove and the seafloor for granted. As ocean expanded, it aggravated sea level rise putting several small island nations and coastal regions vulnerable. He also warned about the negative impacts of ocean acidification which is affecting important microorganisms and Coral reefs. GHG emissions and global warming is causing oxygen levels to decrease in the ocean affecting marine life a; similar phenomenon happens when we boil water and oxygen escapes.
There was large consensus on the need for reducing investment on new fossil fuel-based power plants and reducing fuel subsidies. According to UNESCAP Asia pacific region need a renewable energy mix of 35% to achieve the targets that the nations have set under the Paris agreement.
Seoul initiative network on Green growth which focused on enhancing and implementing the NDCs with ambition and transparency” was discussed. Tracking NDCs achievement and using science and technology to achieve them was a primary target of the initiative. Link : http://www.singg.org/
It is to be noted that many of the nations from Asia Pacific region actually might be offsetting emissions at a quantity much more than has been accounted due to lack of technical knowledge and expertise. One of the outcomes suggested raising awareness on NDCs and enhancing the capacity of states in developing appropriate domestic policies to enhance tracking.
Yet another discussion focused on a Codesign lab for multi-level adaptation and planning which focused on bringing together different groups such as NGOs, local govt bodies, research firms, planning organization on mainstreaming comprehensive/ integrated risk management.
NGOs should note that the Asian Development bank is providing technical support, capacity building, and policy development support to member countries to enhance capacity for preparedness and to access new carbon markets.
One of the session emphasized how carbon pricing and the use of carbon revenues which is crucial in the supporting cost-effective climate mitigation and industrial competitiveness for Asia Pacific region.
Stepping up action on delivering a resilient future and early action for rapid decision making to prevent disasters was a major discussion topic. The region also needed to improve in early warning system is an adaptive measure for climate change using integrated communication system to help communities prepare for multi-level hazards adaptation and mitigation. Enhancing the power of local government in early warning systems and building resilience was a major discussion topic. Low-cost innovation for early warning system and exchange of historical data was required for local-level planning. Improving regional cooperation to improve standards of data and exchange of hydrological data was important.
Integration of system thinking in climate change adaptation and mitigation would help improve interaction and linkages of actors across scale to deliver high impact initiatives.
Inclusion and managing inequalities were a discussion topic. Gender, age, economic status, disability and how effective intersectional approached to vulnerability reduction and resilience building to be involved in policy and practice was discussed deeply. Gender equality in Climate change was given focus as the general consensus was that empowering women helped in climate risk reduction and increasing resilience.
Examples from the Asia Pacific region on small scale climate finance model were appreciated. APCW discussed how microlender ecosystem, small business, agriculture holders, microfinance institutions, can take action to strengthen climate resilience through funding. Governments needed to push lending and investment at a faster rate for implementation of NDC targets.
Learning from indigenous communities and understanding local knowledge for future resilience was yet another topic of high importance. http://www.resiliencefrontiers.org/
The impact of decarbonization on health, social life and development were discussed. Asia pacific contribute 40% of GHG emission. The region is fastest growing in trade and economic and thus it was important for the region to push for Climate Action, but with a highly vulnerable population of the region major emphasis was given in Adaptation.
Youth-led innovation to tackle the climate crisis was heavily discussed topic. Local action for community-based adaptation needs to be promoted by youth. Youth needs to be trained in entrepreneurship for sustainability. Leveraging university platforms for achieving NDCs, SDGs and climate action was discussed.
Industry needed to be pushed for transformational and systemic change by developing innovative and sustainable technology for reducing emissions, and the model needs to run across the value chain.
Disaster risk reduction needed interpretation of data from multiple levels. Risk and vulnerability assessment have to be done using modelling for which there is a need for more technical experts or transfer of modelling knowledge to local communities of government bodies.
Local actors need to be considered in local-level planning and adaption planning. To understand the evolving pattern of risk knowledge of local people has be given primary importance. There was large consensus that just expert knowledge or text book science itself didn’t help making adaptation plans.
88% climate associated problems are faced by children and 1 in 4 children die due to climate change impact. There was urgent need for reducing Climate impact on the future generation.
Nature-based solution was discussed in detail as it was one of the ways by which we can address the issues of Climate Change apart from the scientific approach. New Zeland was pioneering in using the strategy along with scientific knowledge to solve the climate crisis. Bringing nature in planning and achieving NDCS was emphasized. Nature based solution is a strategic action to protect, manage, restore and modify ecosystems which address climate change effectively and adaptively providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits. It was suggested that nature-based solution for a resilient future in enhancing adaptive capacity and protecting of biodiversity was important.
Nature-based solutions are Efficient, Effective and Affordable. Understanding and Reinforcing value of ecosystem services is the core of the particular solution. NBS can improve ecosystem health, protect biodiversity and food and water security. The potential for NBS is quantified to be about 12 giga ton of carbon emission reduction. It could also boost the economic growth by about 2.3trillion dollar. The idea is to bring back nature into production systems and considering every inch of ecosystem service that nature gives. Enhancing sinks are much more affordable than developing new human-made sinks.
The private sector needs to realize that investing in adaptation is a great way to stay in business. National policies should help private companies to invest more on adaptation
We need not just the environment and climate change department of states to involve in adaptation and mitigation efforts. There was a need for multiple department/agency coordination.
UNFCC High-Level Champion, Tomasz Chruszczow, said at APCW - "Asia is a continent that should, can and will be a hub for renewable energy, innovation and engagement of all actors. It is a continent of opportunities - climate change is a threat but acting on it is an opportunity".
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), by 2050 crop yields will decrease by 25% if we do not address climate change now. Southeast Asia is one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change. It is bound by more than its proximity but also with their cultures, and customary practices.
Challenges and opportunities for developing countries in accessing international support to improve the existing measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) arrangements towards the enhanced transparency framework under the Paris Agreement was discussed. New institutions have been built, such as the Green Climate Fund, which have also started to deliver finance. Outside the UNFCCC context, bilateral and domestically mobilized finance have also increased. Since public finance alone will be insufficient, the role of private finance has become increasingly important. Access to finance has to be given to the regions where its most needed and there needs a doubling of the available finance
THE APCW meetings had all emphasized the need for collaboration and enabling policy environment for fastening climate action. A low carbon growth for the region needs integration of multiple dimensions of development by bringing together the private sector, governments at all levels and civil society.
Finally, there is a consensus that subnational regional cities and local community are key drivers of change. Local communities and indigenous knowledge is being put at the center of Climate Change adaptation and DRR at APCW.
Smart mobility was a topic of discussion where scaling up of existing solutions in transportation had to be sped and integrated with policy and infrastructure development planning. This also needs investment from public and private sector.
It was very appreciable of the organizing committee for the fact that all of the emissions caused due to the conference such as that of travel by participants, electricity etc. would be offset by purchased certified emission credits preferably from clean development mechanism project (https://unfccc.int/climate-action/climate-neutral-now).
A shift from a linear to a circular economy is critical and needs to be coupled with societal changes towards sustainable lifestyles and consumption patterns.
Finally, APCW closed note by saying it’s a “’race we can win”
Apart from APCW, I was part of a discussion held at UNICEF office Bangkok on” How age and gender influence children and youth’s resilience to climate change across the diverse Asia Pacific region”
Child labor occurs across a large age range could possibly make it challenging to pinpoint different age categories and their specific vulnerabilities.
As for gender, there were recurring themes of males facing outmigration due to the loss of livelihoods as a consequent of climate change and females (girls and women) bearing the brunt of collection of fuelwood and water resources. It was also shared that girls having to sit in cowsheds when menstruating also face increase chances of being attacked. This is a result of rising reptile activity from the higher temperatures.
While LGBTQ issues were less discussed, important points that would render them to be more vulnerable in disaster situations were being raised.
Incorporation of disaster management and preparation into mainstream education and also gender based education to help each gender understand their distinct vulnerabilities.
There also suggestions to empower youths through greater partnerships among governments, NGOs and grassroots and the introduction of equal opportunity legislation.
An interesting point on environmental education for urban children was brought up to increase their awareness on resource constraints and challenges in rural areas.