At the opening plenary of the 5th Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum currently taking place in Colombo, the esteemed Panel elaborated on ‘Why the focus on living under 2 degree C’ with a sobriety that one could tell was going to remain characteristic of the rest of the event too.
The Paris Conference of Parties (COP 21) last year had agreed to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. The APAN Forum which hosts delegates from across this region understand the need to adapt to the ambitious yet a far more realistic target of 2 degrees.
Most countries in the region are either still ‘developing’ economically or at a stage where the impact of climate change could potentially wipe them off. It’s no surprise that the questions that were addressed to the panellists revolved around the integration of sub-regional entities into national frameworks and the inclusion of women, children and the most vulnerable communities in adaptation as well as mitigation.
Saleemul Huq, the Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, Bangladesh aptly, described the region’s 2-degree target saying, “we need to hope for the best but plan for the worst.”
The devastating reality of the situation in the Pacific, especially, comes from the fact many of these island nations are barely five metres above sea level. “Loss to us is not the loss of buildings, it’s loss of an island”, is the grim reality described by Mark Brown, the Finance Minister of the Cook Islands.
The above stated is, in fact, the reason why most of these countries cannot simply limit themselves to the development of strategic plans to adapt to climate change; the ability to manage disasters and deal with loss has to be part of every National Climate Change Action Plan. Financing, then, becomes an issue of crucial importance.
Barney Dickinson from the United Nations Environment Programme estimates, “the annual cost of climate change adaptation in the region to be 140 – 300 billion dollars per year by 2030.”
“It is an undeniable fact that [developed] countries that have contributed to the impacts of climate change, causing this distress to our countries, will have to pay compensation; the question is how much”, mulled Brown.
Brown’s question will certainly reverberate throughout the rest of the conference.
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