14 Mar 2018 Press release Climate change

Climate change is here: Landmark forum set to determine how humanity will adapt

  • Scientists say reducing carbon emissions is no longer enough to stem the effects of climate change. Adaptation will also be key, which is why the momentous 2015 Paris Accord produced a ‘Global Adaptation Goal’.
  • Next week, some of the world’s greatest experts in climate change adaptation will be meeting at a forum in Abu Dhabi to discuss how humanity can best adapt to global warming.
  • The forum will showcase some of the most successful techniques for adaptation.

Since records began in 1850, seventeen of the eighteen hottest years have occurred since 2000. Climate scientists assert we’ve now reached a situation where even if carbon emissions were to immediately halt, global temperatures would continue to rise. Hence, reducing emissions cannot be the sole strategy for tackling global warming, but rather there is an additional need for climate change adaptation – the practice of building resilience to withstand climatic extremes.

Next week, some of the world’s greatest experts in climate change adaptation will be meeting at a forum in Abu Dhabi organized by the United Nations Global Adaptation Network. The results will inform a series of vital international discussions on climate change later in the year, and will be crucial in determining how societies are going to adapt.

"As the impacts of climate change become more apparent, adaptation is increasingly recognized as an urgent task. UN Environment is supporting many countries adapt to these impacts", said Ibrahim Thiaw, the Deputy Executive Director of the UN Environment.

A lesser-known outcome of the 2015 Paris Accord was the adoption of the ‘Global Adaptation Goal'. Starting on 20 March, the two-day conference is likely to be pivotal in formulating how to set the metrics for this goal, while identifying the optimal strategies for adaptation, from the Gulf States to the islands of the South Pacific.

If action is an antidote to despair then adaptation may offer some escape from climate defeatism. The upside of adaptation activities is that they provide practical solutions for right here, right now. Activities can include planting heat-resistant tree species to combat more frequent bushfires, installing sea walls for improved flood defense, or developing rainwater storage to alleviate the effects of drought.

A pioneering scheme to be discussed at the forum is how to expand the EPIC Network. This was a project initially created by Oregon University to link students from sustainability courses to their local city’s real-world problems. Students obtain direct hands-on experience, while cities simultaneously resolve their environmental challenges. As hosts of the Forum, the UN’s Global Adaptation Network will be exploring how to develop this worldwide.

The forum will invite participants to provide input to the ‘Talanoa Dialogue’. This is a process was initiated by Morocco and Fiji in their roles as Presidents of the last two Climate Conferences. It is a form of participatory discussion that seeks to encourage cooperation and transparency in the interest of climate action: https://talanoadialogue.com/

Adaptation is especially important in developing countries where communities have a more direct dependence on their natural resources and less capacity to invest. Accordingly, the forum will explore the necessary actions for reaching those most vulnerable to the effects of global warming.

Since 2016, the Global Adaptation Network has been initiating a series of learning exchanges around the world, whereby adaptation practitioners visit their counterparts in other countries to share and promote effective techniques. These exchanges have produced a range of success stories, such as the transfer of engineering solutions to Mozambican communities for tackling sea-level rise. The upcoming Forum offers a platform to appraise these initiatives, as well as identifying opportunities for further dissemination of critical adaptation knowledge.

Notes to Editors

  • The outcome of this forum will inform international discussions later in the year, such as the UNFCCC’s Bonn Climate Conference in April: http://unfccc.int/2860.php
  • The Technical Examination Process on Adaptation (TEP-A) was initiated at the COP 21, and it seeks to identify optimal strategies for building climate resilience prior to the 2020 adoption of the Paris Agreement. The Abu Dhabi Forum will feature a regional Technical Examination Meeting on Adaptation (TEM-A) in order to contribute to this process: http://unfccc.int/adaptation/workstreams/technical_examination_process_on_adaptation/items/9542.php
  • The forum will shape the further development of the Global Centre of Excellence on Climate Adaptation. The Centre was initiated by UN Environment and the governments of the Netherlands, Japan and the Philippines. It seeks to accelerate action on climate adaptation. https://gceca.org/default.aspx

For more information:

Shari Nijman, UN Environment, nijman@un.org