The workshop was convened following a request by the tenth Conference of the Parties (COP 10) in decision 1/CP.10, calling for the UNFCCC Secretariat to organize three regional workshops and one expert meeting for small island developing states to enable information exchange and integrated assessments to assist in identifying specific adaptation needs and concerns. COP 10 further requested the UNFCCC Secretariat prepare reports on the outcome of these workshops, to be considered by the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) at its twenty-sixth session in May 2007, with a view to making recommendations on further actions to COP 13 in December 2007.
A total of 62 participants attended, mostly from Asia but also other regions, as well as representatives from UN agencies and intergovernmental organizations. The UNFCCC Secretariat, under the guidance of the Chair of the workshop and the SBI, Bagher Asadi (Iran), will prepare a report summarizing the outcomes and recommendations of the meeting.
A brief history of adaptation to climate change and Asia
Climate change is considered to be one of the most serious threats to current and future sustainable development, with adverse impacts expected on the environment, human health, food security, economic activity, natural resources and physical infrastructure. The international political response to climate change began with the adoption of the UNFCCC in 1992. The UNFCCC sets out a framework for action aimed at stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases to avoid "dangerous anthropogenic interference" with the climate system. Controlled gases include methane, nitrous oxide and, in particular, carbon dioxide. The UNFCCC entered into force on 21 March 1994, and now has 189 parties. The parties to the UNFCCC typically convene in an annual meeting of the COP, and twice a year in meetings of the subsidiary bodies – the SBI and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA).
The Kyoto Protocol
In December 1997, delegates at COP 3 in Kyoto, Japan, agreed to a protocol to the UNFCCC that commits developed countries and countries making the transition to a market economy to achieve quantified emissions reduction targets. These countries, known under the UNFCCC as Annex I parties, agreed to reduce their overall emissions of six greenhouse gases by an average of 5.2% below 1990 levels between 2008-2012 (the first commitment period), with specific targets varying from country to country. The Protocol also establishes three flexible mechanisms to assist Annex I parties in meeting their national targets cost-effectively: an emissions trading system; joint implementation of emissions-reduction projects between Annex I parties; and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which allows for projects to be implemented in non-Annex I parties. To date, there are 169 parties to the Kyoto Protocol, including 37 Annex I parties representing 61.6% of 1990 Annex I greenhouse gas emissions. The Protocol entered into force on 16 February 2005, and the first Meeting of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP/MOP 1) was held in conjunction with COP 11 in Montreal, Canada, from 28 November to 9 December 2005.
Adaptation is a cross-cutting theme under the UNFCCC and is referred to in different articles. In particular, Convention Article 4.1 states that parties shall "formulate, implement, publish and regularly update national and, where appropriate, regional programmes containing measures to facilitate adequate adaptation to climate change," and "cooperate in preparing for adaptation to the impacts of climate change." Convention Article 4.4 states that developed country parties shall "assist the developing country parties that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change in meeting the costs of adaptation to those adverse effects." While COP 1 in 1995 addressed funding for adaptation (decision 11/CP.1), it was not until the adoption of the Marrakesh Accords in 2001 that adaptation became a prominent area for action, as set out in decision 5/CP.7 (adverse effects of climate change).
Following consideration of the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), COP 9, held in Milan in December 2003, initiated a discussion on adaptation. At that time, the COP requested the SBSTA initiate work on scientific, technical and socioeconomic aspects of, and vulnerability and adaptation to, climate change (decision 10/CP.9).
Parties reached a milestone in 2004 at COP 10 with decision 1/CP.10, known as the Buenos Aires Programme of Work on Adaptation and Response Measures. The programme of work was later elaborated on at a workshop in Bonn in October 2005. COP 10 set up two complimentary tracks for adaptation: the development of a structured five-year programme of work on the scientific, technical and socioeconomic aspects of vulnerability and adaptation to climate change under SBSTA, which was adopted at COP 11 (decision 2/CP.11); and the improvement of information and methodologies, implementation of concrete adaptation activities, technology transfer and capacity building under the SBI. As part of the latter, COP 10 requested the UNFCCC Secretariat to organize three regional workshops and one expert meeting for small island developing states (SIDS) to facilitate information exchange and integrated assessments to assist in identifying specific adaptation needs and concerns. COP 10 further requested the UNFCCC Secretariat to prepare reports on the outcome of these workshops, with a view to making recommendations to COP 13 on further necessary actions. The first of these regional workshops, for the Latin American region, took place in Lima, Peru, from 18-20 April 2006, while the African workshop was held in Accra, Ghana, from 21-23 September 2006. Two separate expert meetings were held for SIDS: the first, aimed at Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean SIDS, was held in Kingston, Jamaica, from 5-7 February 2007; the second, aimed at Pacific and Indian Ocean SIDS, was held in Rarotonga, Cook Islands, from 26-28 February 2007. The Asian regional workshop is therefore the final mandated workshop of its sort.
In Nairobi in November 2006, COP 12 renamed the SBSTA five-year work programme to the Nairobi Work Programme on Impacts, Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change. The work programme aims to: assist countries, in particular developing countries, including the least developed countries (LDCs) and SIDS, to improve their understanding and assessment of impacts, vulnerability and adaptation; and assist countries in making informed decisions on practical adaptation actions and measures to respond to climate change on a sound, scientific, technical and socioeconomic basis, taking into account current and future climate change and variability.
Climate change vulnerability and adaptation in Asia
The major limitation on assessments of impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change in Asia is the availability of adequate data on all regions. Assessments conducted to date indicate that vulnerabilities vary widely throughout the continent in light of physical, social and economic differences. The most vulnerable sectors to sea-level rise and other hazards appear to be agriculture and food security, water resources, natural ecosystems, forestry and biodiversity, coastal zones and human health. It is likely that the projected impacts of climate change will exacerbate water shortages in some areas and increase the frequency and intensity of floods and droughts in others.
Adaptive capacity varies across Asia, based on social structure, culture, economic capacity and the level of environmental disruptions. Limiting factors include poor resource and infrastructure bases, poverty and income disparities, weak institutions, and limited technology. Financial, technological and institutional barriers hamper the implementation of adaptation measures in many Asian countries, particularly LDCs.
Report of the workshop
The Asian Regional Workshop on adaptation began on Wednesday, 11 April, with opening statements and presentations on recent developments under the UNFCCC, the workshop objectives, and climate change in Asia. Participants then addressed integrated impact and vulnerability assessments. On Thursday, 12 April, under adaptation planning and implementation, participants discussed agriculture and food security, water resources, coastal zones, health, mountainous regions, and support for adaptation in the context of sustainable development. On the morning of Friday, 13 April, two roundtables on regional collaboration were held, one on South-South collaboration and another on North-South collaboration. That afternoon, workshop participants broke into groups to discuss outcomes and ways forward. The results of these discussions were presented to the workshop, before the meeting closed.
Welcoming participants, the Chair of the opening session, Wang Qingli, Ministry of Agriculture (China), noted that the Ministry of Agriculture considers the workshop to be a priority. On behalf of Wei Chaoan, Vice Minister for Agriculture (China), Wang said that adaptation, especially in the agricultural sector, forms an important part of responding to the adverse impacts of climate change. He expressed hope that participants would exchange views on solutions for building the adaptive capacity of developing countries in Asia.
Gao Feng, UNFCCC, on behalf of Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer, thanked the Government of China for hosting the workshop and noted recent findings by the IPCC on the negative impacts of climate change. Stressing that climate change is a long-term challenge, he said the Kyoto Protocol addresses approximately 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions and that 2007 is a critical year for the climate change process, as parties consider how to move forward. He highlighted that this and other workshops will inform the outcomes of COP 13 on next steps for adaptation.
Yang Xiongnian, Ministry of Agriculture (China), said the workshop will play an important role in building the capacity of Asian countries for adaptation. He noted the vulnerability of China to climate change and outlined domestic adaptation measures, including: water saving programmes; crop redistribution; rainwater harvesting; weather modification operations; and research into impacts of and adaptation to climate change. He called on developed countries to speed up research on adaptation, transfer adaptation technologies, and cooperate with developing countries to build adaptive capacity.
Sun Cuihua, National Development and Reform Commission (China), said that the Chinese Government attaches great importance to climate change, and is taking both mitigation and adaptation measures. She explained that under the leadership of the National Coordination Committee, China’s National Climate Change Programme has been completed and will soon be publicized. She also suggested that the workshop would contribute positively to China’s adaptive capacity.
Lu Xuedu, Ministry of Science and Technology (China), said China’s agriculture, water resources and coastal zones are particularly affected by climate change. He highlighted the importance of strengthening research on adaptation and response measures, and said his Department has made progress in adaptation research. He noted that the National Assessment Report on Climate Change was published in December 2006. He expressed hope that the workshop would promote cooperation in research, and that the funding mechanisms will support research and capacity building for developing countries in Asia.
Highlighting that China has experienced increased temperatures in recent years, SBI Chair Bagher Asadi (Iran) praised its efforts to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change. Emphasizing that the negative effects of climate change are being experienced by the entire continent, he said the objective of the workshop was to exchange experiences and lessons, identify adaptation priority areas and produce practical and applicable recommendations.