The 5th Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum (APAN 2016) has opened today at BMICH Colombo, and will go on till the 19th of October. The conference, hosted by the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, brings together policy makers, scientists, donors, youth, NGOs, media, and government representatives from countries all over the Asia-Pacific. Previous forums have brought together up to 800 participants from over 50 countries. Unlike the Paris Summit or any other Conference of the Parties, this conference is not aiming to produce a resolution or commitment on the part of the attendees, but is intended rather as an information and experience-sharing platform for the countries within the Asia-Pacific. Furthermore, the participants will discuss a wide range of topics related to climate change adaption, in terms of the science, implementation and policy.
With the ongoing drought in parts of the country that only now shows signs of relief; the recent floods (and landslides) across the island during the month of May, which affected over 500,000 people in the country; and statements released by the Department of Meteorology that Sri Lanka is unlikely to see favourable weather conditions in the near future due to climate change; climate change and adaptation to it, remains an increasingly relevant and necessary social topic to discuss.
This year’s theme is “Adapting and living below 2˚C: Bridging the gaps in policy and practice”. It is curious to see why the theme focuses on a change of 2 degrees, particularly with the current international consensus to limit global warming to 1.5˚C (beyond which the changes to the Earth’s climate are considered to be potentially catastrophic, thus the celebration witnessed across the globe when the Paris Agreement came into force). Perhaps this is a discussion on the worst case scenarios?
Unfortunately, there happens to be very little information on the forum itself, with the details available online focusing more on the overall agenda, and less on content; as well as there being next to no mainstream Sri Lankan media coverage preceding the conference, despite the scale of the event. However, I will be attending seven of the sessions over the conference, following a “resilient cities” theme and very much look forward to the discussions. Cutting away the technical jargon, I hope to bring out what these lessons learned and best practices mean for implementation of climate adaptation issues in a Sri Lankan context.
Hopefully, a real and meaningful engagement in the proceedings will be seen from the part of our policy makers and experts, who stand to gain much from the potential research collaborations and proceedings. And while it is heartening to see the Sri Lankan government placing an increasing emphasis on climate change policy, it remains to be seen how they will implement necessary policies to mitigate its effects. In light of the APAN conference, let’s hope Sri Lanka will be able to learn from the experiences of other nations and gauge its practices against an Asia-Pacific context.