Agenda for adaptation solutions

(This article was originally published here)

The Government of France is going to host the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris from November 30 to December 11, where it is expected that a new climate change agreement will be signed. It is hoped that the agreement will be ambitious and legally binding. Such an agreement was attempted at COP15 some years ago in Copenhagen which ended in failure. Hence, the Government of France is keen not to have another failure in Paris this year and is taking a number of proactive steps to engage with other countries and stakeholders to shape a positive outcome at COP21 in December.

One way that France is doing this is by appointing a set of Special Climate Change envoys to visit other countries and listen to their concerns in order to be able to ensure that all countries’ views are reflected in the final Paris agreement. Bangladesh will be one of the countries to be visited.

Another set of activities is to host a series of global meetings of key stakeholders in Paris in the run up to COP21 to get commitments from different stakeholders to tackle climate change and thus provide positive support and momentum to the governments who will be negotiating the final agreement in Paris in December.

Thus, the Government of France has already hosted meetings of private sector and business leaders last month, along with leaders of cities and sub-regions within countries that are also being proactive. Earlier this month they hosted, together with the United Nations Educational and Scientific and Cultural Organisation  (UNESCO), which is headquartered in Paris, a major science conference – Our Common Future Under Climate Change – which attracted over two thousand scientists.

I was privileged to be invited to give the keynote speech on “Adaptation Solutions” at the conference and will share some reflections of the current state of the science and scientists views on climate change.

It has only been a few months since the fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was published and already the state of scientific knowledge has moved forward in a way that many more scientists are willing to make bold statements about the need to take drastic actions to curtail emission of greenhouse gases to ensure that the global temperature does not exceed 2 degrees Celsius (at the moment it is headed for 4 to 5 degrees).

This will require a very strict limit to be placed on all fossil fuels with the greatest restrictions on coal, which is the worst of the three fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas), in terms of emission of greenhouse gases. Hence, it is very important to stop using coal as quickly as possible. The scientific community has finally overcome its reluctance to make strong prescriptive recommendations but the situation is so dire that many leading scientists have come out with very bold statements to this effect.

The second major development in the scientific field has been to move away from simply describing the problem in greater detail in terms of impacts and vulnerabilities; we have now moved from what is sometimes called the “problem space” to the “solution space”. This means moving to adaptation science (solution space) to deal with impacts and vulnerabilities (problem space). 

This is now happening at a fast rate in both developing countries (who started earlier) and developed countries. This presents an opportunity for scientists in developed countries to collaborate with scientists in developing countries to co-produce knowledge on adaptation solutions as quickly as possible. This has already started and needs to be accelerated.

Finally, Bangladesh has a significant role to play in this global co-production of adaptation solutions knowledge as the Bangladeshi scientific community has already gone up a steep knowledge curve in terms of adaptation solutions, along with policymakers and practitioners.

Bangladesh can, thus, share its experiential knowledge on adaptation with the rest of the world, both South-to-South as well as South-to-North.

Written by: Dr. Saleemul Huq, Director, ICCCAD