A five-day Workshop on Agriculture Adaptations to Climate Change was held in Bangkok from 19 to 23 November 2012 to understand the key risks posed by climate change on agriculture and the actions that decision makers and planners need to take to address these risks. It was organized in collaboration with the Asian Productivity Organization (APO) and the Thailand Productivity Centre (TFTI).
Representatives from governments, mostly senior officials attached to agriculture, environment and finance ministries, from 20 economies as well as representatives from knowledge institutes attended to the workshop. Participants shared practical experiences and explored ways to more effectively mainstream adaptation concerns into developmental planning.
The program consisted of a series of four thematic sessions covering the following topics and issues.
The production and activities in agriculture, forestry, and fisheries sectors are inherently affected by variability in climate. The predictions of climate change are often expressed in terms of anticipated patterns of temperature and rainfall, frequency of extreme events and sea level rise, the impact on agricultural production, and GDP. Assessment of the exposure is the first step in developing strategies for climate change adaptation. These heavily draw on the outputs of global and regional models for predicted climate change impacts across a country.
Assessing the sensitivity is a two-step process. The first step is to assess the likely exposure to natural resources by using climate model outputs. The second step is to examine the follow-on impacts of changes on human economic and social systems, and important eco-systems. Changes in agricultural production directly impacts human welfare in many countries. Options for adaptation to climate change in the agriculture sector include developing new crop varieties, maximizing water use efficiency, formulating new standards for infrastructure design, exploitation of co-benefit approaches, institutional capacity building, and changing the policymaking environment under which all other adaptation activities typically occur. However, there are formidable informational, attitudinal, technological, economical barriers to implementation of adaptation measures.
Diversified adaptation measures are being undertaken by the Asia-Pacific countries. The effectiveness of a measure tends to depend on location, sectoral capacity, and the social economic situation. Structural and non-structural measures are used to deal with floods and inundation. These can also be grouped into structural or non-structural measures, while building the resilience capacity involves finding a better combination of both.
Adapting to climate change also demands the prevention and removal of maladaptive practices. Maladaptation refers to measures that do not succeed in reducing vulnerability but instead increase it. Examples of measures that prevent or avoid maladaptation include better management of local irrigation system and removal of laws that inadvertently increase vulnerability such as destruction of mangroves in coastal zones, etc. There is a large body of knowledge and experience within local communities in coping with climatic variability, extreme weather events, and health risks, which should become an important element in urban planning that brings co-benefits.
The Asia-Pacific region is giving serious consideration to early warning systems to counter fatalities and property damage caused by floods. The regional flood forecasting ability in the region is improving but local flood forecasting remains a big challenge. The maintenance of ground-based measurement stations is a particular challenge. Recently, advanced methods to introduce early warning systems by remotely sensed precipitation data in combination with a digital elevation model have been introduced. Warnings could be given well ahead of a flood without the establishment of local climate and flood measurement stations. The social side of flood warning systems needs improvement. For example, formulation of emergency action plans involving all concerned groups remains to be established for the most flood-prone areas.
Sector-specific insurance models based on the principles of public-private sector partnerships are evolving in the region. Financial relief for climate change damage could be provided by insurance companies in the Asia-Pacific region. So far this possibility has been underexploited, in particular, in the economically disadvantaged parts of the region where many peasants cannot pay the required premium for catastrophic damage. Here, conditional cash transfer schemes such as subsidies to the premium should be paid by states until appropriate insurance schemes are established. Weather derivatives are agreements where farmers get paid e.g., in case of a previously defined period is too dry, or people are compensated if an extreme precipitation level or a disastrous wind velocity is exceeded. The problem in introducing insurance-based options is the lack of a dense climate stations network in wide areas of the Asia-Pacific region, which eludes the measurement of climate induced damage.
Community-based approaches greatly reduce the degree of local vulnerability to climate change by bringing appropriate awareness to local people. Examples of such approaches are successful lowering of river erosion in Bangladesh, avoiding expected desertification in Mongolia, and introduction of renewable energy systems in Indonesia. The projects facilitated the innovation of a number of pro-poor technologies in agriculture, natural resource use and disaster management, which have been replicated outside the project implementation areas. The people involved received considerable economic incentives, such as improved household consumption, sales, and higher food security, as well as better management of basic health, water, sanitation, and livestock diseases.
Analysis of resilience and vulnerability, understanding the links between disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, and downscaling of climate change and impact assessment data are essential capacities that are required to deal with the effects of climate change. Because policymakers work at a very important interface, they must have adequate operational national systematic observation networks, and access to the data available from other global and regional networks.
Global warming will continue to increase because of existing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the atmosphere, even if the emission of GHG is reduced to acceptable levels. Climate change affects countries and social groups differently. Therefore, local capacity should be developed to forecast climate change and assess the impacts on various sectors at the local level, and appropriate adaptation measures need to be designed and alternate strategies devised. Higher education institutions should be mandated to play a major role in this respect.
The consequences of natural disasters can be severe, visible, and unpredictable. However, resources available for natural disaster prevention and mitigation are limited. In fact, many financial schemes exist but their effectiveness is low, making it difficult for households or local government authorities to take ex-ante activities against natural disasters. Ex-post support in the form of government assistance, emergency donor relief, etc., is socially inefficient. Therefore, there is a need for a financial scheme that is highly self-reliant, comprehensive, sustainable, and appropriate to insure households. Measures in the long term have to be closer to the "market rules," meaning that capital spent can be refunded or profitable. A community managed insurance scheme based on Self Reliance Funds (SRFs) is needed. Accessing the funds, which are available at present, is a complex and lengthy process. Even if this process is streamlined, a lot more funding would be required for adaptation. New international financial mechanisms and sufficient responses to adaptation are needed.
Incorporating or integrating adaption to climate change into planning process is a necessary strategy for sustainable development of the Asia-Pacific region. Climate change impact does not happen in isolation—impacts on one sector can adversely or positively affect another. In many countries there are difficulties in mainstreaming adaptation concerns into developmental planning due to: low staff capacity for monitoring; poor data on adaptation options and lack of mechanisms for information sharing and management; and limited funding for adaptation. Effective training and capacity building need support and funding, often from external agencies and donors. New funding and improved access to funding is needed to effectively provide technical and financial support and capacity building opportunities.
Given that many countries experience similar effects of climate change, sharing experiences can broaden knowledge on how to address adaptation challenges. In this regard, South-South cooperation and North-South cooperation on adaptation is an effective tool for promoting the implementation of adaptation measures. International collaboration mechanisms fostered by the UNFCCC process include: the assessment of vulnerability and risk associated with climate change such as funding for national communications and National Adaptation Plans of Actions (NAPAs); public education and outreach; data and observations; decision support; adaption planning; and implementation. Operational guidelines could be prepared to help integrate adaptation into various sectors from the national to the local level and from the local to the national level, and to encourage countries in the region to implement more pilot projects and funding for such projects.
Effective implementation of climate change adaptation is complicated because of different scales involved; the level at which action leading to change occurs is often different from the level at which decisions regulating such actions are taken. Lack of cooperation among ministries is highlighted as a major barrier to progress on adaptation. In order for real progress to be made, key government agencies such as ministries of finance need to be informed by the relevant outputs of impact and vulnerability assessments. Sectoral institutions need to be strengthened to address the complexities of coordinating the implementation of adaptation action.
Capacity building at the local level (for example, strengthening coping strategies and feedback to national policies), the national level (for example, inter-agency policy coordination in the water sector and legal provisions for mainstreaming), and the regional level (for example, incorporating climate risks in projects of development agencies) is vital to enable developing countries to adapt to climate change. It is important for stakeholders and development partners to recognize the role of university and knowledge institutes. Enhanced support is needed for institutional capacity building, including establishing and strengthening centers of excellence, so that they can resolve the complexities of addressing and coordinating the planning and implementation of adaptation actions. Effective regional cooperation among the countries will also help structured dissemination internationally and nationally of the best practices, sharing of climate information, supporting institutional coordination, and generating additional resources for enhancing the adaptive capacity at the local level.