Proceedings Report: South Asia Climate Change Focal Points and Experts Consultation Meeting, 16-17 November 2011, Thimphu, Bhutan
South Asia is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change because of fragile ecosystems, potential for glacial melt, low-lying land areas, and large poor and remote village populations. Many communities have already experienced problems due to climate change such as Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs), intrusion of saline water, sea level rise , impacts on human health and scientists predict a variety of detrimental conditions that will affect the health of people and ecosystems in the future.
Research and actions to study and mitigate the effects of global change must be undertaken on the regional scale in order to effectively combat the threats shared by neighboring nations. Recognizing the need for coordinated policy and priorities among nations, the UNEP’s Asia Pacific Action Network (APAN) organized a two-day stakeholder consultation to discuss climate change issues on November 16-17, 2011 in Thimphu, Bhutan. The meeting brought together experts and policymakers from across the region, with the aim of opening channels of communication for sharing strategies, stimulating interdisciplinary and international discussion, and achieving consensus on the way forward. Objectives of the meeting were to share best practices among stakeholder, to identify and bridge key gaps in policies at local, national, and international levels, and to enhance regional cooperation towards a common vision of sustainable development for vibrant economic, social and environmental future.
The event began with a discussion of the conference objectives and the importance of networks for both adaptation and mitigation measure regarding climate change. The purpose, importance and structure of UNEP’s APAN network, as well as the Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA) were explained. These networks are designed to help coordinate regional research, discussion, and response to major climate threats, such as flooding, changes in river flow, drought and landslides. Experts from the UNFCCC and South Asia University shared regional research and experiences in the Hindu Kush Himalayas and Bhutan with relevant lessons for other areas. The conference then held separate lectures and discussions first on mitigation, then on adaptation in the region, with a special focus on the Global Water Partnership. The meeting concluded with presentation on capacity building, specific threats for each nation, and a discussion among participants about next steps, strengthening local efforts and regional cooperation.
Regional coordination of individual commitments and efforts is the key to understanding and addressing issues of climate change. The conference emphasized that while local and national concerns and strategies may vary, there must be a unified Asia Pacific agreement to combat global climate change threats. With time running out, strong support and open discussion among stakeholders in the region is crucial to developing effective means of mitigation and adaptation to threats shared among all these nations.