Four Adaptation Opportunities Myanmar Can Take to Build Resilience to Climate Change

Four Adaptation Opportunities Myanmar Can Take to Build Resilience to Climate Change

By Georgina Wade

Myanmar has experienced a number of extreme weather events in recent years, many of which are likely to worsen with climate change. In 2019, the country suffered record pre-monsoon heat. The city of Yangon recorded 42 degrees Celsius in April – a new record for the city. Dozens of people were admitted to hospital with symptoms of heatstroke, and seven individuals died in the Yangon and Bago regions due to the extreme temperatures. In 2008, Cyclonic Storm Nargis caused the worst natural disaster in the recorded history of Myanmar. 84,500 people were killed, and 53,800 went missing. In 2015, severe flooding affected twelve out of Myanmar’s 14 states, resulting in about 103 deaths and displacing up to a million people.The Earth is getting warmer, meaning that extreme weather events are likely to become more severe.

Adaptation efforts are essential for Myanmar to build its resilience to climate change, and achieve its development objectives. As climate impacts become more severe, Myanmar cannot afford inaction. The country does have opportunities to build its resilience to climate change, many of which are low-cost and can result in positive co-benefits. Here are four adaptation opportunities that have the potential to make a significant difference to the lives and livelihoods of Myanmar’s population.  

1.Invest in Nature-based Solutions

Nature-based Solutions (NbS) are defined as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits”.[1] NbS have a variety of co-benefits that can range from biodiversity conservation, decreases in water runoff, the creation of new jobs, and poverty reduction. For example, Myanmar’s mangroves can protect shorelines from damaging storms and hurricanes by dissipating the energy from waves and winds and preventing erosion by stabilising sediments with their tangled root systems. Mangroves provide nursery habitats for many wildlife species, including commercial fish and crustaceans, contributing to sustaining the local abundance of fish and shellfish populations. Restoring these natural habitats provides a valuable opportunity for building resilience and fisher livelihoods.

The impact of storm surge on coastal infrastructure and people with and without mangrove forests.Source: World Bank and Punto Aparte

2.Ensure that new infrastructure is climate-resilient

Climate-resilient infrastructure is planned, designed, built, and operated in a way that anticipates, prepares for, and adapts to changing climate conditions. Myanmar needs to upgrade existing infrastructure to reduce vulnerabilities and adapt to a changing climate and reduce emissions through greener transport systems. Furthermore, ensuring the resilience of infrastructure protects them from further climate-related damages. For example, changing the composition of road surfaces can prevent them from deforming in high temperatures.

Woman and child sit outside their house with an unfinished roof. By European Union/ECHO/ Pierre Prakash

3.Strengthen community knowledge management

Knowing how to use the tools for change is just as important as having them. There is an urgent need to foster knowledge and design management techniques into planning. Technological innovation and establishing institutional arrangements can help strengthen Myanmar’s capacity to adapt. Providing vulnerable communities with the knowledge, skills, and resources to mitigate the risks of and recover from climate shocks, and stresses will empower them and strengthen their resilience to climate change impacts. Additionally, educating people about different adaptation practices, such as pursuing sustainable farming methods or using new resilience infrastructure, doesn’t require any physical infrastructure to be built, making for adaptation that is low-cost, high impact and long-lasting.

Community members, Myanmar. By Sukun, 2017

4.Secure finance

Myanmar needs finance and support to adapt to climate change and pursue low-carbon development. Whilst adaptation finance to developing countries is available, it needs to increase significantly, and improvements need to be made to make it more accessible. At this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference, discussions over delivering the $100 billion finance target will take place. With Myanmar on track to experience worsening impacts of climate change, the country will need to develop investable adaptation projects that can attract finance from the principal climate finance mechanisms such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF), Adaptation Fund (AF) and Global Environment Facility (GEF).

International co-operation is needed

Climate change has already resulted in loss of life and damage to Myanmar’s economy and put its renowned biodiversity and natural resources under increased pressure. The country’s exposure to climate impacts is high, meaning that swift adaptation efforts are necessary to protect the lives and livelihoods of its population. These efforts need to be made across all parts of Myanmar’s economy and society and become fully integrated into its development planning to ensure its development. Myanmar will need support from the international community to realise these goals, particularly in the form of climate finance, technology and capacity transfers from wealthy countries.

This year’s COP26 will be significant. Coming five years after the Paris Agreement came into force, it represents the deadline for countries to renew their carbon reduction pledges, and increase their ambition towards meeting the 1.5˚C temperature target. For countries like Myanmar, co-operation with other climate-vulnerable nations will be important to ensure they are able to hold wealthy to account, putting pressure on them to meet their obligations and limit the damage that will result from climate change.

[1] IUCN. Commission on Ecosystem Management.
Cover image: Mangrove forest in Myanmar. By Dinesh Valke, Flickr.

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