by Sajani Ranasinghe
The adverse impacts of climate change that result from extreme weather events and slow onset events are experienced around the world and across all sectors of society, driving states to integrate mitigation and adaptation actions into their policies and planning. To cope with residual impacts that cannot be mitigated, adaptation becomes pivotal in addressing climate change.
Adaptation to climate change is a means of coping with the potential damages as well as benefiting from the opportunities that come with climate change. It requires changes in processes, practices, and structures as well as adjustments in ecological, social or economic systems. In short, it refers to adjustments and changes to respond to climate change. This also indicates the complex interactions between climate risks and socio-economic factors which are necessary to plan and implement adaptation actions.
In this context, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) established the National Adaptation Plan (NAP) process under the Cancun Adaptation Framework in 2010. During the discussions, it was understood that adaptation actions are context-specific and will require a country-driven, gender responsive, participatory, and fully transparent approach. Thus, stakeholder engagement is a vital aspect of adaptation planning and implementation while adaptation actions have to be integrated into both existing and new policies and planning in all sectors.
According to Decision 5/CP.17, the objectives of the NAP process include reducing vulnerability to the impacts of climate change which includes building adaptive capacity and resilience; and facilitating the integration of climate change adaptation, in a coherent manner, into relevant new and existing policies, programmes, and activities. This refers in particular to the development planning processes and strategies, within all relevant sectors and at different levels, as deemed appropriate.
The NAP process aims to make adaptation a part of development decision making rather than a separate environmental issue, as the adverse impacts of climate change were not limited to the environment and ripple across all sectors. There are four key elements to the NAP process that help countries through their decision making. These include laying the groundwork and address the gaps; preparatory elements; implementation strategies; and reporting, monitoring, and review.
The NAP process in itself provides an understanding of the importance of climate risk information in adaptation which is important for the creation of policies, plans, projects, and strategies. Risk consists of hazards, vulnerability and exposure. In the context of climate change, climate risk information provides science-based information on past, present, and future climate which allows for the creation of proper adaptive measures. The comprehension of the risk of each sector through climate information is necessary for adaptation. However, mere climate risk information is not enough and will require context- and user-specific climate risk information.
National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHS) can provide information for adaptation at the local level by combining local climate data and knowledge and climate change projections. The capacity and capabilities of these services play a significant role in providing accurate and relevant climate information. To create user-specific data, data and information products produced by these services can be amalgamated with non-meteorological data such as health trends and agricultural data.
Furthermore, climate risk management requires climate information at the local level. Implementation strategies in the NAP process involve climate risk management, thereby making climate information a necessary and integral part of adaptation. With the prioritization of climate change in the states agendas, policymakers are under immense pressure to ensure that proper adaptation measures are integrated into existing and new policies to cope with unavoidable impacts of climate change, requiring accurate and context-specific climate risk information.
The role of climate information in coping and adapting to current and future climate change impacts is clear. However, it can be argued that the effectiveness of climate information relies on its accuracy. Some of the challenges faced in getting accurate climate information are associated with the uncertainty of the climate and capacity of climate information services. Further, climate change risks are continuously changing and impeding the accuracy of climate information. While uncertainty is caused by different elements and does not impede adaptation decisions, it is necessary to understand these uncertainties linked to an adaptation intervention, allowing numerous probabilities to be anticipated and be managed.
The lack of reliable climate information products is an issue faced by many developing countries. To address this gap, identified uncertainties will need to be taken into consideration and all risks anticipated. Climate information services must ensure that context- and user-specific climate information are produced which requires stakeholder engagement for the specific climate information product.
The uncertainty of climate risk information can be understood, managed, and used in NAPs thereby providing science and evidence-based information for adaptive measures. Evidence-based adaptation measures are far more effective and appropriate to cope with climate change than measures based on common knowledge.
Furthermore, climate risk management and climate risk transfer can form a part of local- and national-level adaptation measures, which highlights the importance of climate risk information to create evidence-based NAPs and the importance of taking into account the uncertainties of climate information when arriving at adaptive decisions.
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Sajani Ranasinghe has an LLB from the University of London and a BA in International Relations from the University of Colombo. She is also a President's Guide, and has also received many environmental awards including President Environment Pioneer Medals (Swarna, Rajatha and Haritha) for her actions on environment protection.