The Asia Pacific Climate Week (APCW) 2018 opened with a strong pro-business and private sector sentiment. A number of heavy weights sat on the opening panel: Patricia Espinosa, Luke Daunivalu, Masagos Zulkifli, President Michal Kurtyka, Bambang Susantono. Steve Chao moderated the session. The importance of a business and private finance solution to climate change was well highlighted by the presence of such individuals.

The rhetoric among the speakers on the panel and also subsequent ones, stressed highly on the need for private finance, investments and the engagement and evolution of the business industry. The need for increased ambition by these sectors and more finance poured into addressing climate change was emphasized upon.

Singapore’s Environment Minister Masagos Zulkifli was the first of the panel. He started with an appeal to emotion and enhanced action by narrating the disasters that have been happening in the region including the ongoing flood in Japan that has claimed almost 200 lives as of then. Then, he stressed the importance of trade and the need to keep global systems open and made the age old call for urgency and the spurring of global climate action.

He highlighted innovation and collaboration as two important thrusts towards achieving a low carbon future. Certainly the image of Singapore is also based on this. Then he announced that Singapore plans to implement a carbon tax starting at 5 dollars for every tonne of greenhouse gas emitted.

“No exception!” he exclaimed.

He also reinforced that the integrity of the Paris Agreement needs to be preserved, which was somewhat ironic given that a petrochemical company was one of the platinum sponsors of this APCW.

Following him was the Executive Director of the UNFCCC, Patricia Espinosa. She brought up the need for carbon forums to be more inclusive of input from different groups of people. She also called for more action on climate change using a personal story to evoke emotion in the people. She narrated her visit to Tuvalu. At a visit to a primary school she had been ‘deeply moved’ by how the children were aware of and had to deal with the floods. It would be great if more high ranking individuals were ‘deeply moved’ by such sights so that they would persuade governments and important businesses to increase ambition.

She listed a number of things that should be done: All levels of government need to be involved. The PA work program needed to be finalised, firm commitments should be made by countries to increase climate ambition by 2020, proper financing should be provided by developed countries and they should honour their promises. She also highlighted the inadequacy of current finances,

“the global community is talking in millions and billions, but it should be trillions.”

She compared financing climate change with current finances to walking into a category 5 hurricane protected only by an umbrella. Ms Espinosa presented climate change as an unprecedented opportunity instead of an unprecedented challenge. All in all it is a dire picture, our current rate of addressing climate change.

Luke Daunivalu followed after Ms Espinosa. He stressed the importance of climate leadership at all levels: government, grassroots and the private sector. One key point he mentioned that I found particularly interesting was how he stressed on leadership that is feasible and heard by the international community. Presumably he is referring to his own. What I took away from his implications is that it is important for leadership to be mindful and inclusive of counter agendas but also one that is inspirational and significant enough to make a difference in the international community. He reiterated the importance of the Talanoa dialogue and how we need to share our stories and followed up by saying that we need to move beyond rhetoric, towards action.

Subsequently the next President designate of COP24, President Michal Kurtyka of Poland took the podium. He reinforced the messages of the previous panelists, picking up on Masagos’ idea of innovation and innovative leadership. He then praised the EU’s goal of a 40% reduction of carbon emissions. Another ironic statement, considering earlier on, Poland had protested against being assigned a portion of the intended distribution. Specifically, it had been assigned a 7% reduction in overall emissions, a percentage somewhat proportionate to its contribution to the EU’s total emissions. Given that Poland is organising the upcoming COP, it would have been a good show of faith if the president could have committed to actions that move it away from being a coal powered nation and announced policies to encourage renewable energy. As of now, more than 90% of Poland’s electricity comes from lignite and coal.

Bambang Susantono from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) wrapped up the panel. He outlined measures the ADB was undertaking with respects to climate change such as how it has been supporting the Asian Carbon Forum. One of the ADB’s seven operational strategies is also tackling climate change. He mentioned how the Asia Pacific is home to more than 60% of the population and emits 40% of total output of green house gases. Seven of the top 10 vulnerable countries are also located in the region. He issued a warning that climate change will reverse the benefits of economic development in the region. He moved on to the progress ADB has made in mobilising finance for addressing climate change and how they are working with countries to help them transform Nationally Determined Contributions into climate investment plans.

Strategies to Reach Scale: Adaptation and Climate Resilient Initiatives in Coastal Zones

The coast is a battle zone. Coastal communities all over have to fight to survive against rising sea levels, worsening typhoons, depleting fish stocks and ocean acidification. That makes them one of the more vulnerable communities to climate change. At the recent Asia Pacific Climate Week that took place in July in Singapore, coastal zone climate initiatives got its own discussion session. A panel sat down to talk about “Strategies to Reach Scale: Adaptation and Climate Resilient Initiatives in Coastal Zones”.

The panel featuredYoussef Nassef, Director of Adaptation, UNFCCC; Singapore Red Cross secretary-general Benjamin Williams, Andi Eka Salva, Ms Rima Al-Azar Senior Natural Resources Officer from the Climate and Environment Division of the FAO,Stefanos Fotiou, Director for Environment and Development at UNESCAP and the UNFCCC High-level Champion Tomasz Chruszczow.

Community led adaptation and mitigation measures are important in coastal zones. This is for a variety of reasons such as:

  • They can respond flexibly to disasters,
  • Their knowledge of local issues is advantageous in such situations,
  • They can be more efficient than a government or an international NGO in many instances and
  • Their solutions can be very unique and suited to their context.

The panel was asked to share some innovative models from communities in coastal zones that have managed to achieve a large impact. While they did not quite manage to share on these (perhaps a reflection of the general lack of attention on ground up initiatives) they each spoke of coastal adaptation and mitigation measures in their own contexts.  

Benjamin Williams talked about the Redcross’ Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment (VCA). The tool aims to enable local priorities to be identified and appropriate action taken to reduce disaster risk.

Mr Williams also stressed on the importance of finance in adapting coastal communities for climate change resilience as well as in disaster risk responses. The financing model needs to improve to take an integrated approach to addressing climate change issues by involving all relevant partners, across geographic and type boundaries.

Andi Eka Salva talked about a variety of conditions needed for effective adaptation and mitigation in coastal communities. These included early warning systems, timeliness in response and building literacy among communities regarding such measures. This is so that they will be prepared to aid and respond to such problems. For example, teaching farmers how to collect data.

He also emphasised on the importance of youth involvement in scaling up coastal climate change adaptation and mitigation measures. Forest fire and tsunami response education should be adapted into suitable mediums for children. In order to engage with the younger generation, he stated that there is a need to adapt to using their language and technology. In line with the principle of intergenerational equity, this is an area that should be given more focus in general. There is a lack of involvement and consideration of the future generations in climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies.

Stefanos Fotiou referenced the 1991 publication by John Clarke as a good guidebook on integrated coastal management. The guidebook puts out 17 different activities that can be taken in  coastal zones. He also noted that participation is an important factor for the Small Island Developing States.

Ms Rima Al-Azar focused in on the context: that 3.1 billion people around the world live within 10km of the coast. Coastal zones also have large implications for countries given that 84% of NDCs and INDCs mention aquaculture and fisheries as important.

She made a distinction between scaling up vs scaling out: up has not been as successful and that we are still at the pilot stage of scaling out. Better vertical and horizontal coordination and integration management is needed to address this. And this needs to be paired with a greater awareness about this issue. 

Youssef Nassef also highlighted that coastal zones are important areas of focus for the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) for loss and damage. This Mechanism  addresses climate induced loss and damage. These could be extreme events or slow onset events.

He reiterated that developing countries in particular are vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. There should be more contingent measures such as insurance and innovative finance. It must be noted however, that insurance is a controversial solution. This stems from the international negotiations where developed countries were careful to address the issue of loss and damage as one that does not provide a basis for any liability or compensation. Therefore insurance was brought up as the alternative.

However many CSOs highlight the unfairness of expecting poor, vulnerable communities in developing countries to bear the costs of climate change disasters when they have disproportionately smaller greenhouse gas emissions.

EnviroNewsNigeria: Tomasz Chruszczow, Special Envoy for Climate Change from Poland

Tomasz Chruszczow spoke on how adaptation measures need to be integrated into general development planning in the countries. There is potential here for synergy between the Sustainable Development Goals and climate change when making national infrastructure, education and development plans. He highlighted an obstacle to adaptation which was that it is difficult to measure and there is no standardised system for this.

Written by Lhavanya

Edited by Varun and Renee