More than 30 world leaders, 50 ministers, 50 international organisations, experts and other stakeholders gathered at the virtual Climate Adaptation Summit 2021, hosted by the Netherlands at the end of January.
During 27 different sessions and 160 side events participants shared knowledge, insights and plans to develop the Adaptation Action Agenda intended as a guide for the coming years to accelerate adaptation action, and to bring together individual actions and coalitions to achieve the ambition of a climate-resilient future by 2030. Wetlands International hosted two side events on Building with Nature Asia and Blue Lifelines for a Secure Sahel (more here).
Three issues cut across discussion – that while many nations have some adaptation plans in place, financing and implementation are falling far short of what is needed; that the cost of annual adaptation in developing countries is estimated to reach $140-300 billion in 2030 and that nature-based solutions, which are critical for adaptation, require greater attention.
Adaptation can be made more effective by shifting from ‘stand-alone solutions’ often resulting in mal-adaption towards a systematic integration of climate risk and adaptation planning and measures into all areas of decision-making including policy, budgeting, implementation and monitoring, at different scales.
The role of nature-based solutions in adaptation – co-benefits and preventing financial risk
Nature-based solutions was discussed in sessions on water, infrastructure, resilient cities, food security and economic resilience, with the case frequently made that “for every dollar spent on restoration, between $3 and $75 of economic benefits from ecosystem goods and services can be expected”.
Wetlands International was among the stakeholders that underlined the crucial role of wetlands as a ‘nature-based solution’ in accelerating adaptation, by storing carbon, regulating water flow and availability, buffering storms and helping keep cities cool.
The session, Water Resilience for Economic Resilience, organised by the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation, and at which Wetlands International CEO, Jane Madgwick, spoke, went further, underlining the risks to the economy stemming from growing climate and water-related risks.
“There is growing recognition that climate change is a financial risk – and through the physical risks (e.g. drought, flooding, sea-level rise) will cascade through to asset valuations, financial markets, sovereign ratings, the cost of borrowing and credit worthiness. It will affect insurance markets and liabilities. The effects of climate change don’t just sit in the water domain, they sit right across the whole economy,” said keynote speaker, independent ecological economics researcher and consultant, Paul Watkiss.
Addressing economic resilience entail addressing water risks, and to do that, we need to address the systems in the landscape that store and regulate water, which are wetland ecosystems, Ms Madgwick emphasised.
Accelerating adaptation through integrated planning and an enabling environment
As well as sharing best practices and examples of nature-based solutions, one of the major ways to accelerate adaptation is to ensure there is an inclusive and comprehensive design process, involving multiple disciplines, sectors and local stakeholders. This integrates solutions into development planning and across local economies.
To bring adaptation action to scale, engagement with a wider range of players is needed to create an enabling regulatory environment and favourable investment climate. Transformation of tender processes and standards to improve the way risks, costs, benefits and uncertainties are calculated, evaluated, financed and shared is one example. This requires capacity building to move to innovation and not stick to the normal solutions that work with predictable change.
Action on wetlands is urgently needed
Around 70% of all wetlands have been lost since 1950 and with it, vulnerability is increasing across the globe. To boost resilience and accelerate adaptation, Wetlands International is developing two ambitious and comprehensive regional multi-stakeholder initiatives targeting the resilience of communities and biodiversity across Asia and the Sahel. Both initiatives were presented at the Climate Adaptation Summit to further mobilise political support, partners and resources.
Building with Nature Asia
Building with Nature Asia aims to mainstream nature-based solutions in water and marine engineering practice across Asia. Wetlands are very often the place where big water infrastructure has an impact, diverting water away from wetland systems or disturbing them.
Through a Building with Nature approach local stakeholders join hands with ecologists, engineers, governments, civil society and finance institutes to develop a more integrated approach. The initiative builds on 12 years of Building with Nature experience in the Netherlands and Indonesia and will comprise largescale demonstration projects, as well as programmes that drive innovation such as knowledge and capacity building, regulatory change and the mobilisation of finance.
Tom Panella, Director, Asian Development Bank, who spoke in the Building with Nature Asia webinar said: “We believe that the Building with Nature Asia programme provides a sustainable and flexible approach in the face of climate change. We must collaborate and share knowledge and resources and make collective efforts to make the application of nature-based solutions more widely mainstreamed”.
Reviving the wetlands of the Sahel to build resilience in Africa
Blue Lifelines for a Secure Sahel aims to restore and revive wetlands across the Sahel and Horn of Africa to increase water security, and boost the local economy and resilience of communities. The seasonal flood pulse of Sahelian wetlands is the engine of the local economy for tens of millions of people – including some of the poorest and most vulnerable on the planet.
By reviving wetlands, the continuing degradation of wetlands that lead to livelihood losses, poverty, disasters, and conflict over resources, can be turned around. The BLiSS initiative will catalyse change and convert political commitment into major investments to revive wetlands, influencing policies and investment decision so that they are based on resilience, and enable inclusive water governance so communities are empowered to make decisions and take actions in related development.
The initiative will add the essential blue dimension to existing initiatives to regreen drylands and to climate-proof the region, and focus especially in hotspots of rising conflict over natural resources.
Elvis Paul Tangem, Coordinator of the African Union Great Green Wall for the Sahel and Sahara Initiative, who spoke as part of the Blue Lifelines consortium said: “We support the BLISS programme, because water is life, water is everything. Without water, the Great Green Wall would not happen”.
Tina Birmpili, Deputy Executive Secretary, UNCCD added: “The drylands and the wetlands are two sides of the same coin. For any action taken along the Great Green Wall, we cannot talk about land restoration, without talking about wetlands.”
Interested to know more?
- Watch Building with Nature Asia event here.
- Watch Blue Lifelines for a Secure Sahel here.
Banner image credit: CAS 2021