Reflections on Adaptation Futures 2018

Reflections on Adaptation Futures 2018

By Laura Canevari

This year, Adaptation Futures opened its doors in Cape Town from 18 to 21 June. As the city faced the strongest drought in decades, delegates gathered in the South African capital to discuss how climate-related problems, such as the one Cape Town is facing, can be solved and managed.

Starting on the Gold Coast in 2010, the biannual conference has been frequented by a growing and largely diverse community of individuals and organisations from around the world who are all committed to developing responses to the impacts of climate change across a wide range of themes.

During this year’s conference, strong emphasis was placed on the role of community- and network-led initiatives in Africa as well as on the role of international financing institutions bridging the adaptation-development gap.

Mobilising the private sector

Efforts to demystify international climate finance continue, and voices from the private sector were heard, expressing the need to build a stronger business case for adaptation solutions.

For example, it was made evident that in order for the private sector to invest in Ecosystem-based Adaptation and Nature Based Solutions, metrics need to be developed that help translate environmental and societal adaptation benefits into indicators of adaptive performance on which to monitor progress and success. Accordingly, we need to re-integrate the time dimension into these discussions and acknowledge that not all adaptation options are formulated to produce immediate results, and that a mix of short, medium and long-term solutions is needed.

From satellites to court rooms

On Wednesday, Acclimatise, together with Space4Climate and GEO, organised a World Café on applications of Earth observation data, collecting the efforts from 13 organizations facilitating discussions around 14 case studies on agriculture, cities, financial institutions, insurance, and health. Our combined efforts highlighted the need to combine EO data with socio-economic data in order to develop adequate narratives about the experienced impacts of climate change. A summary of the session can be found by clicking this link.

On Thursday, during a session focusing on “Resourcing Adaptation”, Acclimatise reflected on the results from two Horizon 2020 projects, MARCO and EU-MACS, noting that in order to mobilise private sector investment in adaptation, we need to develop adequate services for sectors where the demand for climate information is increasing.

In our presentation, we discussed the climate service needs of the financial and the legal sector, noting how increased attention and action on climate related legislation and litigation, as well as the emergence of voluntary and mandatory financial disclosure frameworks, have triggered an exponential increase in the need to develop climate services for these two sectors.

Consolidation and innovation: two key areas for future development

At Cape Town, the conversation remained generally vibrant across the halls and in parallel sessions, but there is scope for improvement on at least two fronts. On the one hand, future conferences under this biannual series should strive to motivate participants to consolidate knowledge emphasising the need to formulate better initiatives in the future. Last week, we saw numerous case studies showcasing “success” stories, however, mostly without in-depth analyses of adaptation-enabling factors or descriptions of the mechanisms that could be used to replicate and scale up solutions. Equally, there is still a lot of room for innovative ideas and solutions. An exploration on how other fields are innovating may help to uncover some hints on how to remain innovative in adaptation: words inundating the web such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and the circular economy were missing from debates, yet they could enrich discussions around adaptation.

As noted in the opening plenary by Patrick Child, Deputy Director-General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General Research and Innovation, climate adaptation requires partnerships between researchers, innovators, and administrators. Partnerships that combine the experiences and skillsets of different actors are highly needed and should be framed around specific aspirations on adaptation outcomes. Efforts over the next two years should focus on nurturing these types of partnerships in order to create an enabling environment for adaptation innovation and consolidation.


Cover photo by Marlin Jackson on Unsplash.

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