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A self-help group selling Custard Apple seeds cultivated using small-scale irrigation practices in Kibwezi, south-eastern Kenya (October 2012)

Adapting to climate change — a global approach

A vertical plant filter, clever spatial planning, and applying space technology to agriculture are just a handful of the big ideas that will be presented at this month’s World Symposium on Climate Change Adaption.

Taking place from 2-4 September at Manchester Metropolitan University, the major event will bring together the world’s leading agencies to tackle one of the most pressing issues of our time: how do we adapt to climate change?

The symposium — which is jointly organised by MMU, Hamburg University of Applied Sciences and the Baltic University Programme in Uppsala, Sweden — will showcase innovative approaches to implementing climate change adaptation. Representatives from the UNEP, WMO, WHO, UNESCO, the European Environment Agency, the UK Met Office and IPCC will come to Manchester to present their work.

An estimated 200 delegates from 40 countries are expected to attend. They include government officials, researchers, academics, business leaders, consultants and many others.

The symposium comes at a crucial time: as organisers acknowledge, modelling and forecasts have allowed us to understand the problem of climate change, but we still need to learn a great deal more about how to cope with the social, economic, and political challenges posed by climate change (CC) currently. Or, as coordinator Walter Leal puts it: “We need to adapt, here and now.”

Talks and workshops will fall under six broad sections:

  • technological approaches to CC adaptation
  • implementing CC adaptation in communities, cities, countries via outreach programmes
  • funding mechanisms and financing of CC adaptation
  • CC adaptation, resilience and hazards (including floods)
  • information, communication and training on CC
  • CC and health.

Dr Valerie Kapos, head of CC and biodiversity at the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC); Dr Filipe Lúcio from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO); and Vladimir Kendrovski from the World Health Organisation (WHO); will deliver the key note speeches.

André Jol will present the work of the European Environment Agency, while Dr Carlo Buontempo from the Met Office will discuss how to reframe the dialogue between users and providers and develop more usable climate services.

“The Met Office will present some interesting perspectives about climate change in the UK,” says Leal. “We won’t be spared CC [in the UK] but there are a number of ways to help us cope with the problem. We really have to take climate change very seriously. You will no doubt have seen the news stories about the refugees who are coming to the UK from Syria, from Africa. Well, this is nothing compared to the climate change refugees we will get if we don’t solve the problem.”

“The UN estimates there will be 200 million people classified as climate change refugees, because of the conditions where they live; if you are unable to grow crops and nowhere to live, you will migrate,” Leal continues. “For me these figures are a real cause of concern – today’s [refugee] figures are nothing compared to what they will be if we don’t start to tackle climate change on the ground. Even though climate change is global in nature, the impact is local.”

Among the other talks at the symposium, Jeremy Carter and Graeme Sherriff from the University of Manchester will discuss how to get more from spatial planning.

Peter Sänger and Victor Splittgerber from German organisation Green City Solutions will showcase their CityTree, a vertical plant filter that allows for enhanced temperature management. Adapting to any urban environment and accommodating a wide variety of plants, CityTree is part-organic, part-digital, and measures the heat it reduces in the surrounding area.

Representatives of Australia’s Institute for Sustainable Futures will discuss the importance of grassroots technology and community trust in CC adaptation, looking to the coastal settlements of Bangladesh. Meanwhile, Idowu O Ologeh from the Dangote Group in Lagos will present their pioneering work using space technology to promote climate-smart agriculture.

Another study from Nigeria will examine how fishing communities are adapting to climate change in the coastal region of the country’s Ondo State. Thomas Kiwitt and Silvia Weidenbacher from Stuttgart will examine strategies for adaptation in metropolitan areas and how to coordinate local support.

Moktar Lamari from the University of Québec will question how best to track adaption efforts in coastal ecosystems, while Elvis Chabejong Nkwetta from The Hamburg University of Applied Sciences will review how climate change is impacting food security and malnutrition in the Sahel region of Cameroon.

Also on the packed agenda are several talks on climate change and tourism. Among them: Dimitrios J Dimitriou from the Democritus University of Thrace in Greece will examine CC adaptation strategies in airports, and a team from the Wageningen University in the Netherlands will demonstrate how CC could threaten major tourist attractions in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania.

Indeed the symposium programme illustrates the vast amount of adaptation work happening around the world – both small-scale, grass-roots projects as well as larger, expansive strategies. One of the event’s core aims is to share this learning and best practice, fostering the exchange of information and ideas.

Following the symposium, a book featuring all the accepted papers will be published. Innovative Approaches to Implement Climate Change will form part of the award-winning book series Climate Change Management, published by Springer in 2008.