Our Common Future Under Climate Change

International Scientific Conference 7-10 JULY 2015 Paris, France

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International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)

International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)

Developing countries ahead of the game in preparing for climate change, says expert

201505-05

By Michelle Kovacevic

DHAKA, Bangladesh (5 May, 2015) Developing countries are making significant progress in carrying out innovative research and initiatives to better adapt to the impacts of climate change, said a prominent climate researcher ahead of 2015’s largest international climate science conference.

“As we move from looking at the ‘problem’ of climate change to solutions based-adaptation, surprisingly it is the poorer countries who are most affected by climate change who are taking action and learning more, while rich countries are sitting back” said Saleemul Huq, Director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) and speaker at the Our Common Future Under Climate Change conference in Paris, which brings together scientists from across the world to discuss innovative solutions to the huge challenges posed by climate change ahead of December’s UN climate meeting in Paris.

“There is a lot of scope for rich countries to learn from developing countries in terms of different ways to manage the impacts of climate change,” he added.

In Bangladesh, for example, over one million hectares of land in the coastal areas are affected by salinity due to increased flooding caused by climate change, meaning that traditional rice crops are unable to grow. In response, the government has invested millions of dollars into rice research, which has enabled scientists to develop a saline tolerant variety in order to increase food production.

Although solutions-based adaptation science is fairly new, said Huq, scientists and stakeholders from across the world are already making significant progress in sharing experiences and lessons learnt in developing national adaptation strategies. 

“Adaptation science is growing rapidly all over the world...we have only had three major conferences in less than a decade but the learning curve is very fast”, he added. 

This is part of a blog series profiling climate scientists, economists, social scientists and civil society members who are presenting and discussing innovative climate science at the Our Common Future Under Climate Change conference. For more follow @ClimatParis2015 and #CFCC15 on Twitter. 

Below is an edited transcript of an interview with Saleemul Huq, who can be reached for comment at saleemul.huq@iied.org 

Q: Your keynote will be focused on the ‘adaptation solution space’. What does that mean and what you plan to present?


A: The first point I’ll be making is that globally we are now moving very rapidly from recognising climate change as a problem that will have adverse impacts in various parts of the world to the need to tackle those problems through adaption. So we are moving from impacts and the ‘vulnerabilities space’ to the ‘adaptation space’. 

Secondly, as we move to solutions-based adaptation, surprisingly it is the poorer countries who are most affected by climate change who are taking action and learning more, while rich countries are sitting back and in denial. Most rich countries are way behind the least developed countries in the world who have done a lot more to deal with the impacts. 

Thirdly, when it comes to adaptation to climate change, the rich can actually learn from developing countries who are much more realistic than rich countries about the impacts of climate changes. 

Q: What have been the major areas of focus in current solutions-based adaptation research? 


A: Adaptation is a science that is growing rapidly all over the world. It is less about technology and instead about human organisation and institutional reactions to dealing with a problem rather than technical fixes. 

In 2013, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) created a National Adaptation Plan Expo (NAP-EXPO) to support countries in developing national adaptation strategies and to provide a space for sharing experiences. 

In terms of improving the science in climate change and adaptation, we have a major scientific biannual conference called ‘Adaptation Futures’, which was held last year in Brazil, and next year will be held in the Netherlands. 

Q: What’s an innovative research project that is helping communities adapt to climate change?


A: One of the most significant areas of progress is in rice research. Bangladesh is a country vulnerable to climate change, particularly from flooding.

In coastal areas, over one million hectares of rice lands are affected by salinity, which means that traditional rice crops are unable to grow. Scientists have therefore developed a saline tolerant rice variety in order to increase food production. Also because of the soil salinity, local people lack fresh drinking water. The technology is now being developed to enable local people to harvest rainwater from their rooftops and collect it in tanks.

Q: How important is it for governments and the scientific community to work together on these problems? 


A: It has to happen if we are to tackle climate change and it is starting to happen. For example, the government of Bangladesh together with the scientific community have developed a climate change strategy and action plan in which the government has invested $500 million.

Q: What message do you hope people take form the conference? 


In terms of adaptation, we want people to realise that this is very young science that is moving very quickly. We have only had three major conferences in less than a decade but the learning curve is very fast. 

There used to be this pervading idea that developed countries would not be affected by climate change, but this idea has now been shattered. For example, California is experiencing its worst drought in history. 

Every country in the world is going to have to adapt to the impacts of climate change, so I would encourage young researchers to pursue this science and help build up the scientific evidence base of what works and what doesn't. 

We then need to share this learning and knowledge across the world. In developed countries, there is often an emphasis of new technologies and the transfer of that knowledge from north to south, however while new technologies will play an important role, they are not essential. 

There is a lot of scope for south-south learning and south-north learning in terms of different ways to manage the impacts of climate change. For example, at the International Center for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) we have trained over 400 young people from all over the world, mainly from Asia and Africa, providing them with new skills to enable them to better respond to the challenges of climate change. The courses also provide networking opportunities and the chance to learn from experienced professionals in the field. 

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