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The climate and us: a matter of adaptation

How can we adapt to the earth’s changing climate? This is the main question on the agenda at the Adaptation Futures 2016 conference being held from 10 to 13 May as a follow-up to the Paris climate agreement. 1700 delegates from over a hundred countries will meet in Rotterdam to discuss successful and less successful examples of climate adaptation.

Climate change

Photographer: Arie Kievit/Hollands Hoogte

Conference in Europe for first time

Adaptation Futures, held every two years, is taking place in Europe for the first time this year, having previously been hosted by Australia, the United States and Brazil. This is no surprise, as climate change is high on the European research agenda, the Netherlands inspires the rest of the world with its Delta Programme, and the country also currently holds the EU Presidency. So the Dutch government, European Commission and Provia (the Global Programme of Research on Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation) brought the conference to Rotterdam.

No negotiations, just knowledge sharing

Unlike in Paris, the aim of the Rotterdam meeting is to share knowledge, to help us make adaptation to climate change a success. ‘As holder of the EU Presidency, the Netherlands is keen that we should learn from each other,’ says Christiaan Wallet, manager of the Adaptation Futures 2016 project at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. ‘All the sessions are therefore designed to form a bridge between scientists and practitioners. What is the challenge to society? What are the research questions? What results have come from research so far? How can they be put into practice? What works and what doesn’t? Knowledge like this is a springboard to adaptability.’

Climate adaptation as a business case

Adaptation costs a lot of money, so the 11 May session will consider the business case for climate adaptation. ‘Governments, NGOs and companies can all help,’ says Wallet. ‘Take small entrepreneurs in Africa. They often have no access to microcredit. With funding, they can invest in a product or piece of machinery that makes climate adaptation possible. This is good for their socioeconomic position and it provides commercial opportunities.’

Combining interests

Most eye-openers result from successful – or less successful – practical examples. ‘We often look for technical solutions,’ says Wallet. ‘But projects tend to be most successful if they are embedded in an economic and social system. Bangladesh, for example, which is highly vulnerable to sea-level rise, stands to benefit more from a solution that combines community interests. So the solution might be a lock that local residents manage, ensuring flood risk management goes hand in hand with jobs and projects for local businesses. And all that gives you more public support.’

The power of ecosystems

It is also possible to achieve multiple benefits by harnessing the power of nature. While the dunes in the Netherlands provide protection and drinking water, the mangroves on Indonesia’s coast help prevent erosion and protect biodiversity. The conference’s Ecosystems sessions will reveal more such practical examples.

Conference Adaptation Futures 2016

Themed sessions and plenary speakers

There will be 155 themed sessions, seven high-level round table sessions and 13 excursions during the conference. They will cover all issues associated with climate change, including:

  • cities and infrastructure
  • public health
  • ecosystems and ecosystem-based adaptation
  • disaster risk reduction
  • finance and investment.

The 26 speakers include Christiana Figueres, head of the UN climate agency, and Queen Máxima, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development. Melanie Schultz van Haegen, Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment will open the conference, and Sharon Dijksma, Minister for the Environment, will give the closing address.

You can find a summary of the sessions and the day’s plenary programme here: