I am writing this from Colombo, Sri Lanka where I have been attending the Fifth Asia Pacific Adaptation forum here with over 800 participants from over fifty countries in Asia and the Pacific, including senior officials from governments, academics and researchers, civil society, media and UN agencies and development founders, private sector, and students and children came together over three days to share knowledge and experiences of planning and implementing adaptation activities in their respective countries and sectors.

This regional forum is organised by the Asia Pacific Adaptation Network (APAN) every two years with previous ones held in Malaysia, South Korea and Thailand. So it has now almost been a decade of moving up the knowledge ladder on adaptation.

I will share some of the key outcomes of this year’s event from my perspective.

Moving from planning to implementation

In almost every country in the region, adaptation plans have already been developed at national levels and in some cases also at local levels. This means that the emphasis has shifted from planning to implementation. This shift necessitates greater resource allocation in both financial as well as human resource terms. Also, the planning process itself requires to be revised based on learning-by-doing.

This is particularly relevant for Bangladesh where the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP) is now already many years old and is currently being revisited.

Moving from short to longer time frames

A very important lesson for the planners and investors is that short term (say three or five years only) project based investments which are meant to produce short term results is no longer appropriate. From now on, all investments must be based on getting a long term outcome and impact (and not just short term output).

This means that the most important objective by which any new adaptation investment from now on must be judged is its longer term sustainability beyond the project period. It no longer matters so much what the project does during the project period but rather what the project will leave behind when it is over.

Moving from donor dependent funding to national funding

There is no doubt that the developed countries who are most responsible for the emissions of greenhouse gases are responsible for providing financial help to the poorer vulnerable countries and communities to help them adapt to climate change. However, although these countries accept their responsibilities and have indeed promised to provide funding, this has been slow to materialise in reality. Even if all the amounts promised were to be delivered in time that would still not be enough to tackle the scale of the problem.

Hence, the developing countries need to think about how to use their own finance to promote adaptation. This does not necessarily mean setting aside new and separate funds for standalone adaptation projects but rather mainstreaming adaptation into national, sectoral and local adaptation and their regular budgets.

Moving from short term to longer term capacity building systems

The final message from the Fifth Asia Pacific Adaptation Forum is the need to shift the focus from the current short-term oriented paradigm of funding and delivering capacity to tackle climate change, which is largely (if not entirely) delivered through international consultants and consulting companies from developed countries who fly in and deliver short workshops and then fly out again. This model leaves very little long-term capacity behind.

We need to think of investing in a new longer-term capacity building “system” which will be sustainable beyond the project period. In order to deliver this effectively, it is necessary to identify and invest in institutions of each country.

One set of long term sustainable institutions which are meant to build capacity of the next generation of leaders of every country are universities. Hence, a logical investment in developing longer-term capacity building systems will be to invest in capacitating universities through both South-South as well as North-South knowledge networks.

Implications for Bangladesh

Bangladesh will be developing its National Adaptation Plan (NAP) as well as its Nationally Development Strategy (NDS) over the coming months. It has the advantage of having started the planning and investment process on adaptation as well as mitigation some years ago and so, can move to the next level which needs to focus on mainstreaming climate change into national, sectoral and local actions, rather than wasting energy and resources in producing another set of reports that will end up sitting on shelves without affecting reality on the ground.

Bangladesh is well placed to lead the transition from incremental adaptation to truly transformative adaptation that is well integrated into national development plans and budgets.

Originally this article was published on October 20, 2016 as an Op-Ed at Daily Star by Dr. Saleemul Huq, Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD).

The writer is the Director, International Centre for Climate Change and Development at the Independent University, Bangladesh. Email: saleemul.huq@iied.org