Periodic Reporting for period 2 - AF16 (Adaptation Futures 2016)
Reporting period: 2016-01-01 to 2016-07-31
Adaptation Futures is the biennial conference of the Global Programme of Research on Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation (PROVIA). In 2016 the European Commission and the Government of the Netherlands hosted the fourth edition, from 10-13 May 2016 in the city of Rotterdam. Adaptation Futures 2016 is where scholars, practitioners and policymakers go to connect, learn and inspire. It highlights adaptation practices and solutions for people, governments and businesses.
Why is it important for society?
Adaptation Futures 2016 intends to lead to major progress in climate change adaptation. It fosters an active exchange of new and practical ideas, experiences and insights among governments, businesses, researchers and civil society from around the world. The conference combines discussion of the latest adaptation research with an Adaptation Expo. At the Adaptation Expo knowledge based supply will be connected to practitioners’ demand. It will contain stands, matchmaking facilities and signing ceremonies. At the Expo cutting edge adaptation projects are shown.
What is the overall objective?
The overall objective of this action is to support the preparation and implementation of the 'Adaptation Futures 2016’ conference. The specific objectives are to contribute to the coordination of the conference planning, the overall and local organisation of the programme and venue, the participation of delegates from economically developed and less/least economically developed countries, and the organisation of the 'Adaptation Expo': a networking event aimed at business, including SME, organised around an exhibit of adaptation projects from all over the world.
The objectives of the conference are:
1. Connect science and practice
2. Present innovative ideas, products and services
3. Create opportunities for developing partnerships
4. Demonstrate the business case behind adaptation
The conclusions of the action are:
Adaptation Futures 2016 brought together over 1700 experts from 103 countries to share their adaptation practices and solutions. They included more than 600 adaptation scholars, 400 policy-makers, 100 people from the business community and about 400 practitioners. In between Adaptation Futures 2016 and its predecessor, Adaptation Futures 2014 (Fortaleza, Brazil), the world witnessed a climate landmark: the Paris Agreement. Governments unanimously expressed their ambition to limit climate change and recognised that, like mitigation, adaptation is a global challenge. COP 21 also reconfirmed the important role that non-state actors, such as business, play in addressing climate change. Adaptation Futures 2016 was the first of its kind to engage actively with the private sector, with over 90 companies participating.
As historic and ground breaking as the Paris Agreement might be, it would be nothing but a piece of paper if it did not inspire more action. The world needs to move forward decisively from making the case for climate adaptation (“why is it important”) and planning for adaptation (“how do we do it”) to taking action now. Adaptation Futures 2016 marked the beginning of a new, more solution-oriented phase in climate adaptation. We now invite and encourage all conference participants to put the lessons learned into practice, and ensure that communities and ecosystems are prepared to face the impacts of climate change.
Impressions by the Practice and Science Advisory Committees of Adaptation Futures 2016
With an explicit focus on practices and solutions, Adaptation Futures 2016 helped to shape an inclusive, innovative and influential global adaptation agenda. Climate adaptation has gained momentum, but the work is only just beginning. For example, the effective use of climate information, and related uncertainty, continues to be a challenge to policy-makers, and it remains challenging to connect scholars and practitioners. The lessons learned in the three plenary sessions, 158 sessions, more than 100 science posters, 27 expo booths, 23 projects and the Tool Shed are too numerous to list in this summay. For the full set of practices and solutions shared by scholars, practitioners and policy-makers, we refer you to the individual session reports, published through www.adaptationfutures2016.org. We restrict this summary to impressions of individual members of Adaptation Futures 2016’s Practice Advisory Committee (PAC) and Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) (with special thanks to Chris Gordon), set against the background of the objectives of the conference:
1. Connections: opening silos and communicating among actors
Adaptation Futures 2016 made clear that the adaptation community is complex and interdisciplinary. It is encouraging to see actors moving from operating in silos to cross-fertilization and co-production. It is key to connect scholars with policy-makers and practitioners. These are important messages related to further connecting disciplines and actors within and outside of the academic community:
- The message for adaptation should be reframed. Instead of focusing on the complexity of the problem and risk assessment, adaptation should be increasingly solution-oriented
- Although adaptation is a challenge in its own right, the adaptation community must avoid developing an adaptation silo. Adaptation is linked with other agendas, especially with development, poverty reduction, biodiversity loss, disaster risk reduction and mitigation. The adaptation community should remain dynamic, learn from other communities and develop synergies
- Adaptation is contextual. There is no single blueprint for all sectors and locations. Successful adaptation depends on context and situation. Successful adaptation requires a close connection between national level strategy and policy, and interventions at the regional and local level
- Adaptation is complex. It is important to understand how to promote ideas and strategic visions to local communities and others involved in adaptation. To deal with this, an enabling environment, in which thereis room for connections between actors, needs to be created
- Decision-makers must look beyond numbers as the basis for their decisions. Adaptation efforts are only as effective as the impact they have on each individual person. Local-scale (qualitative) analysis can complement aggregate numbers
- Many academics and practitioners tend to examine individual case studies. Case studies are often useful, but the opportunity for deeper learning might be missed. There is a huge opportunity for learning across cases and identifying shared lessons, either within large programmes or using a range of individual projects
- Communication of research findings should be short, clear and focused on immediate problems. This is an effective way of contributing to solving bigger societal problems: poverty and development, biodiversity and economic prosperity
- There is still a long way to go before the adaptation community can talk about integrating and mainstreaming adaptation into decision making. Mainstreaming will only happen when incremental change turns into systemic practice
2. Innovation: introducing new ideas, products and services
Innovative solutions, like the ones demonstrated in the Tool Shed, are essential to put adaptation into practice. In order to advance climate adaptation action, there is a need to clarify institutional responsibilities and increase resources in policy design and implementation. But there are challenges to overcome before research and innovation can provide the tools required for climate adaptation:
- The adaptation community needs innovative research on social issues, on how business and stakeholders can work together and how to make sure that they have the legitimacy to operate. Scientists need to translate results and data into meaningful information and services for stakeholders
- Scientists need to inform future generations. Engagement is needed at university and school levels. Unless the adaptation community starts talking and addressing this issue now, scientists will not be able to carry core messages forward to new generations. Scientists need to ensure wider outreach, in which social media and e-gaming may assist. The IPCC, UNESCO, UNEP and UNITAR could have a role in developing curricula to reach different age groups
- The adaptation community needs more structural learning from large adaptation programmes. Various international adaptation funding programmes hold useful information on implementation success. Instead of continuously reinventing the wheel, these findings can serve as a basis to make progress
- Adaptation research is largely applied research, although there are benefits from more theoretical approaches as well. Adaptation research includes research on adaptation and research for adaptation, and they are mutually reinforcing
- City-to-city learning is a valuable way to accelerate progress in building resilient cities around the world. This includes learning how to lead change, connect solutions, and build trust for collaboration. It is especially important for small and medium-sized cities. However, the lack of incentives to change – evenwhen the evidence and information are clear and available – hampers the building of resilient cities
- Nature-based solutions are gaining ground. Nature-based solutions can be used to improve the resilience of cities and communities, increase water access, protect natural ecosystems and reduce disaster risks in a cost-effective and sustainable manner. It is important to monitor and evaluate implemented measures and adjust the approach if needed
3. Partnerships: collaborating with respect, trust and equity
Adaptation Futures 2016 made an effort to bring together scholars, practitioners and policy-makers. This provided an opportunity to explore commonalities, differences and possibilities to integrate interests. Connecting different groups will not lead to climate adaptation, collaboration will. Here is what is needed to better facilitate partnerships between different experts and stakeholders:
- Avoid maladaptation through effective collaboration. Adaptation needs the clear and interactive involvement of all stakeholders to avoid use of good information for unsustainable projects. For localmeasures to be successful, they should be developed, selected and implemented jointly, and make use of the knowledge from all stakeholders
- Scientific uncertainty is no excuse for inaction, but can be an obstacle. Practitioners and policy-makers need to understand what climate change means for them. Partnerships driven by trust and sharing of tasks and responsibilities among different actors (public and private sector) are key to address this barrier
- Adaptation needs strategies and policies that are underpinned by a strong science and evidence base. Survey before planning, then develop scientific methods to answer the questions the adaptation community wants to answer. Collaborative and inclusive research results in questions that help lead towards resilient and impactful solutions for policy-makers and practitioners
- Assessing winners and losers is critical in deciding which adaptation responses to adopt. There is a need to be more explicit in identifying and understanding the role of conflict, trade-offs and value judgments in socio-ecological systems and natural resource use
- Adaptation requires a combination of bottom-up and top-down approaches. This, in turn, requires partnerships operating in an environment of trust, openness and communication. For example, indigenous communities embed adaptation traditions in their knowledge systems. To adapt to climate change, more flexibility for alternate use of land must be co-created
- The participatory process of building a common adaptation vision is essential. Such vision needs to be supported at multiple levels and by multiple stakeholders to be viable
- Governments are not accustomed to community engagement throughout the adaptation process. Now that the urgency for adaptation increases, governments must seek to connect with and learn from others
4. Business: moving beyond mitigation, embracing adaptation #adaptationpays
The Business Day at Adaptation Futures 2016 was important to get the private sector and the non-private sector actors to meet, speak and better understand one another. Although there is a gap in terminology and priorities between academia and business, companies are feeling the impacts of climate change and can provide adaptation solutions. Adaptation pays, so there is a business case for adaptation. However, the business case for adaptation requires work to emerge:
- Business needs adaptation metrics (quantitative and qualitative measurable outcomes) that can express results in terms of costs and risks. Only when climate risks and costs are translated to tangible numbers, climate adaptation will make it to the board room
- Business is good at managing risks in general, and it is important to use such expertise to improve climate risk management. However, researchers often find it difficult to engage business as business targets short-term results, while adaptation tends to focus on medium- to long-term results
- Disaster risk financing and climate risk insurance can play a vital part in mitigating extreme weather events. These disaster risk financing strategies must be integrated into a comprehensive disaster risk reduction framework
- Donors and investors perceive small-scale adaptation solutions to have high transaction costs. A change in attitude is needed to create financial acceptance of local and people-oriented adaptation solutions, in order to leverage finance flows and promote investments. At the same time, adaptation should not be focused solely on development if there is a business case to be made
- The business case of adaptation for SMEs includes the potential to strengthen their competitiveness as well as to reduce their vulnerability to climate change. Lack of awareness is a barrier to adaptation investment as part of a risk management strategy. For banks it is often difficult to invest in measures that have no immediate return on investment
- Research can support the development of solid business cases and adequate narratives for policy-makers based on businesses that have been analysed, so the adaptation community understands what works, what does not and why. For example, the nexus of cities, water and disaster risk reduction presents a business case with potential
- Market-driven mitigation was considered the solution to climate change, and adaptation was thought of as an undesirable, reactive response. This has changed: researchers and industry now think of adaptation in a more systemic way. For this, researchers need the private sector and vice versa, but dominance of economic over social values should be avoided
- Evidence that certain business and institutional models supporting adaptation are effective must be better analysed and communicated. Researchers must go beyond sharing success stories. Examples of good practice need more constant monitoring and updates to show trends and the complete situation, ideally through longitudinal studies
- Select a Professional Congress Organiser (PCO)
- Constitute a Science Advisory Committee (SAC)
- Constitute a Practice Advisory Committee (PAC)
- select a venue for the Conference
- with the help of the SAC, we selected scientists in different fields to assess the scientific abstracts
- Set up a plenary programme, invite speakers and get confirmations
- Organise a call for abstracts and sessions
- Organise a meeting of the PAC and the SAC to assess the submitted session proposals
- Set up a draft programme
- Define criteria for participants from LIC/LMIC, early career scientists and start-up SMEs to apply for a grant for travel and lodging
- set up a registration system and open the registration to participants
- set up a media plan and start effectuating it (set up social media channels, elaborate a press strategy)
- set up an excursions programme for the final (forth) day of the conference
- set up a dedicated business programme for the 2nd day, aligning the general programme. Several business oriented elements were added to the general programme. This includes an executive breakfast, a business round table, and a major company CEO as high level key note speaker.
All preparations came together in the week of 9 to 13 May 2016. We welcomed 1,800 participants from over 100 countries. There were plenary sessions, with high level speakers like HM Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, there were 150 parallel sessions covering a broad range of adaptation subjects and perspectives. The business day added energy and an extra layer of interaction to the event.
Also from an organisational point of view, the conference was a success. There were no major shortcomings or omissions to the programme or the logistics. Many participants expressed their positive experience with the quality of the organisational part of the event.
The results of the conference are:
- A meeting report, including written reports of all plenary and parallel sessions
- all presentations, speeches and posters used in all sessions
- a photo album covering all three days of the conference
- videos of the plenary sessions
These results are published through the conference website, which will remain online until after the next Adaptation Futures conference in 2018.
The number of 1,800 participants clearly exceeded our expectations (we aimed at 1,250 participants). In addition, the heterogeneity of the audience - from 103 countries - was beyond our expectations.