By Annie Sugrue
Scientists, technology developers, government, civil society, donors and development practitioners descended on Cape Town at the CTICC between the 18-21st of June for the 5th Adaptation Futures International conference 2018 with the theme “Dialogues for Solutions”. It was a packed program with three plenary sessions and over 40 sessions on each day, as well as seven immersive ‘learning journeys’ (field trips) on the first day and an extension of the conference via several masterclasses for young development practitioners on the 22nd June 2018.
The variety of the talks spanned across every development sector, with strong emphasis on urban and rural resilience and conservation management in the face of climate change. There was a balance between talks on finance and financial mechanisms and development approaches, technologies and science available to tackle the impacts of climate change. Early on in the conference delegates heard that climate adaptation projects have received significantly less finance than mitigation responses despite the pledge by the GCF to have a 50:50 spilt of mitigation: adaptation projects. Speakers noted the difficulties of making a business case for adaptation, particularly for loans.
There were questions about why adaptation seemed to be taking more of a back seat than mitigation. In discussions, various participants agreed that mitigation was seen as a sector that generated income from the delivery of large technological solutions, but that adaptation was mistakenly seen by many as a drain on resources through the need to climate proof development. Throughout the 4 days of the conference, it became clear that climate adaption needs at least as much effort as mitigation and that there was a strong business case to place more emphasis on adaptation. The conference delegates were loud and clear in their calls for more emphasis to be placed on adaptation, as this is the only solution many vulnerable communities have to deal with climate change. We heard that 19 million people have already been displaced as a result of climate change, 33 people/minute and that this figure is set to rise as the impacts become more severe. Many of the displaced are poor people who live on the margins of society, in areas subjected to severe floods and droughts. Government and development agencies have a key role to play in rolling out climate adaptive responses. A figure of $500 billion was given as being required to deal with climate adaptation, whereas about $30 billion is available. Senior officials from banks and development agencies were vocal in their calls to address this shortfall to avoid many more people being displaced.
Given the plethora of session and topics, and a very short time frame, it was necessary to try to focus on specific areas of interest. I concentrated on two main areas within the conference, climate finance and sessions that involved dry and arid regions as I am working closely at present with extensive rangeland management both within conservation and agricultural areas. The European Investment Bank (EIB), early on in the conference, revealed that they are the largest financier of climate projects having financed € 19,4 billion of which only €0,8 billion was taken up for financing adaptation projects. The EIB has been developing a climate risk management screen (ISO 1490), which will be used in the screening of all projects by 2020.
Officials from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) were active participants in the conference, noting that more funds were needed especially for adaptation. Jerry Velasquez, the Director of the GCF, noted the need to balance resources 50:50 for mitigation and adaptation but noted that far more resources were going to mitigation than adaption (30%), mostly in the form of loans for mitigation and grants. Questions were raised about the business case for adaptation, as it is important to get the private sector fully on board so that development is climate resilient. Steve Nicholls from the National Business Initiative assured the conference that there is a business case for the private sector to include adaptation in its plans and pointed particularly to the issue of water, noting how critical this resource was for industry and how 12 catchments in South Africa provide 50% of all the water. He urged delegates, government and finance agencies to move faster with making change and finance available. It was noted that if the banking sector takes on the challenge, it could spur on change far faster than any other sector. The World Bank, GEF and other financing mechanisms were challenged to channel their funds in the right direction. Many participants said that the banks and the development sector needed to ensure that they were asking the right questions, in order for solutions to be relevant and climate proof. Delegates were concerned that the involvement of the private sector at the conference was low and noted that this needs to be addressed in future adaption conferences.
A wide spectrum of partnerships were presented at the sessions in the conference, and many were delivering significant benefits to development projects. At the same time, science and research is an important factor in any partnerships, to ensure that impacts are monitored accurately in order that scaling up and mainstreaming can take place as rapidly as possible. Participatory planning processes were being utilized extensively within vulnerable communities to ensure that projects addressed the needs of the beneficiaries to make them more resilient to climate shocks.
Arid and semi-arid lands are coming under severe constraint as a result of climate change. Many of these regions are home to livestock and poor rural communities. As the grip of climate change tightens, these areas become more marginal. In many of these areas, reserves and/or conservancies can be found. Speakers from the Adaptation to Scale Program (ASSAR- a project within the START think tank) presented interesting approaches to dealing with the impacts of climate change in various parts of the world. IIED presented on their Nature-Based Solutions Platform, which provides information about climate change adaption all over the globe. The Climate Resilience Infrastructure Facility (CRIDF), funded by DFID is mobilising £55 of Finance from the private sector, governments and development finance institutions, and catalysing and influencing the use of a further £465 million from a variety of sources with a particular emphasis on securing water for rural poor communities. WWF shared their work on conservation management, which has a focus both on nature and people, recognising the strong interlinkages between planet, people and nature.
The Adaptation Futures Conference was a rich experience, bringing together people from all over the world to share their experiences with each other and learn about what approaches have worked and what lessons can be learnt. There were strong calls to continue sharing and learning, that communication will be important in our global fight against the impacts of climate change. South-south peer learning was also seen as a critical to ensure that solutions reach the intended targets.