With the organisers quoting an attendance of over 700 delegates, from over 60 countries, the APAN forum ended on the 19th of October. While getting on with work, a few days really allows one to take stock of the actual messages taken-home.
Besides APAN – What else was going on?
Firstly, I thought it maybe of interests to brief you of the activities that went in parallel with APAN2016. Sri Lanka, as the host country, actually held the APAN conference in parallel to a Blue-Green Agenda that was launched by the Sri Lankan government, led by the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, with the programme as a whole called Sri Lanka NEXT. And I have no idea what went on there. Did I mention it was going on at the same time? And while this could arguably have been made sound in principle, organisation is a dubious practice to implement in reality.
After a number of disappointing sessions at the APAN, I wandered around the exhibition area set up by the Ministry for private organisations and companies, as well as government agencies and departments. They all revolved around an environmental theme, and it was an opportunity for these entities to showcase the projects they had been working on, as well as the products they had available or were developing. It was fascinating speaking to some of the vendors, and it seems the process for this exhibition began over 6 months ago, when they had to submit a paper to the organisers on what they aimed for at the exhibition. So it’s a pity that only a very few attended it. A few schools were seemingly roped into coming, and the stallholders had plenty of time to wander round each other’s exhibits. It’s possible that a lot of networking went on there.
Did I mention that another exhibition, this time of NGOs, INGOs and development agencies in Sri Lanka, was also present during the APAN conference? They too had the time to wander around these stalls.
Is it narcissistic putting up your own tweets in your article? Well, I thought they were funny. Maybe if my social media outtake hadn’t begun a happy two months ago, they’d have had an impact, because the organisers and mainstream media certainly weren’t on the case. But fortunately, the time on their hands meant that these Reps were able to attend some of the sessions, and for some of the smaller NGOs, the content, particularly the aspects of climate financing available, was both interesting and helpful. Perhaps a number of new projects are on the horizon?
Back to APAN, where more was amissing…
… and it’s interesting that in the closing remarks the selection of points highlighted by the panellists. For instance, one thing that stood out was that a gender discussion is mentioned as solid point or result of the sessions.
There were 35 parallel sessions, with 5 streams to choose from, on top of the plenaries (where essentially all the delegates are meant to congregate), and I sat fully through 5 parallel sessions, wandered in late for a further two, and attended all of the plenaries: from the High Level Panel discussions and the topical plenaries to the closing session – a further 6; giving me a grand total attendance at 12-13 sessions. A dubious honour. At any rate, there was a session dedicated to Gender on the third day (the only one I can see from the agenda) that I couldn’t attend as I was busy wasting my time at another session. Both Vertically and Horizontally (on implementing climate financing into project development). You may have to read the agenda yourself to get that joke.
Nevertheless, while I cannot speak for this dedicated session, of the others any mention of gender was either a ticking of a box, or a passing consideration. Admittedly, some of the moderators did as a point generally take the time to single out and thank the female panel members for their kind representation and insights. And, while the sessions were more technical than social discussions, it should be obviously that a person’s gender has nothing do with their expertise on a subject. Period. Government officials, scientists, representatives from the development, the environment to the financial sector from all over the Asia Pacific: are there really so few who happen to be women out there?
What this lack of representation does affect is the emphasis or focussing of topics. When the social implementations of case studies or projects were linked to technical discussion, there was rarely either a focus or emphasis on gender related issues or even really one of vulnerable people. Not to say that this is the sole providence of women at all, yet in fact, outside of specific case studies, there was so little talk on the impacts to us a society. Given the theme of the forum was “living under 2 degrees”, and the word bandied about for a world climate over 2˚C is “catastrophic”, why the absence? For all that the forum failed to discuss the topic of damages and losses, the majority of the statistics revolved around the impacts to GDP, to growth rates, to the (estimated) costs of resilience and adaptation.
Money talks, yes. But why was not a single number put forward on the loss of life, potential or existing? It’s not a single number. True. The politics means it’s not a direct number. Heck, we haven’t even defined damages and losses yet, although some other sessions I didn’t attend seemingly brought it up. But it’s real. Unlike even the term we so often use of “natural disasters”.
Because in a pedantic world, there are no “natural disasters”: these are simply disasters caused by natural hazards. Disasters are events caused by the vulnerabilities within a system that allows for a great damage or loss of life to take place.
And the disasters now are becoming less and less ‘natural’. When the change to the world’s natural systems has been so… holistically impacted by human activity, what aspect of the climate remains natural? Will we only stop using words like “natural”, when they are paired with words like “catastrophic”? And we have so little time. I for one sometimes don’t know where 2010 went. And while the year 2050, so often quoted when referring to climate change, is further afield, we still need to deal with the effects up to that time.
Lastly, ineffectiveness of communication in some of the head panels was a clear problem. With over 60 countries in attendance, and English not being a first language for many, networking just needed a bit more effort. The dividends of multinational collaborations can be truly worthwhile. But in the panellists and speakers at the technical sessions, with no material to refer to; no translators handy; and no power to be productive; was the loss of limited time on both sides justifiable? Additionally, it was rare for more than five delegates to stay behind and pester the panel with further questions, and allow me to assure you that in most of the cases there was barely any time for Q&As. Where then was the discussion? And most importantly we are left with the question – did #APAN2016 make an adequate impact on Climate Change adaptation policies?