Hannah Campbell is attending the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP16 meeting in Cancun, Mexico. Read other posts from and about COP16 here.
Adaptation has been the “ugly duckling” of climate change for decades. In the climate change policy community, no one wanted to talk about adaptation — instead, we wanted to see emissions reduced to the point where no one need worry about impacts like sea level rise or droughts.
While emission reductions are critical for the health of our planet and people, we no longer can hope to avoid impacts. We are already seeing effects like melting glaciers, more severe weather patterns and changes in the onset and length of seasons. Therefore, climate policymakers must work together to help countries adapt to these changes and prepare for the impacts scientists believe are likely to occur in the future.
Here in Cancun, negotiators have an amazing opportunity to do just that. Over the past three years they’ve been working on how best to provide support to vulnerable countries in the developing world and how to share our collective knowledge on local and global climate impacts and successful adaptation efforts. As a result, they now have the skeleton of a strong agreement.
Though developed countries have created the lion’s share of global emissions, many of the most severe impacts are being felt by the developing world. From sea level rise in the Pacific to increased flooding in Bangladesh, populations and the ecosystems they rely on are being stressed. The people of these countries are already struggling to meet basic needs; climate change will only create additional challenges for them.
In Cancun, I have been typing away madly on my BlackBerry on the long shuttle rides down the hot highways, setting up meetings with country negotiators as we support them in moving the debate forward. These long meetings involve listening to countries’ positions, collaborating with and supporting CI’s field staff and their national delegations, and having one-on-one discussions about how ecosystems and communities contribute to adaptation. We are also collaborating with nongovernmental organization (NGO) partners to create articles and talking points, and working with CI’s Philippines and Mexico field offices to present two short films that were accepted into the Development and Climate Film Festival this weekend.
Through all of this, my main goal is to ensure that over the next two weeks countries make significant progress on developing a climate adaptation framework that includes and values local communities and the natural ecosystems (and species) that support us all. That framework needs to be linked to financing that is adequate, sustainable and additional to current development and conservation funding for developing countries. It also must ensure that adaptation actions don’t undermine the health of ecosystems or violate human rights.
Adaptation is no longer a bad word — it is a necessity.
Hannah Campbell is the senior manager for climate adaptation and communities in CI’s Center for Conservation and Government. Learn more about ecosystem-based adaptation by downloading our factsheet (PDF – 577 KB).