This regional workshop discussed the risks posed by climate change and the assessment tools used to evaluate adaptation measures in the agricultural sector. It was organized by ADBI in collaboration with the Asian Productivity Organization (APO) and the Korea Productivity Center (KPC).
Senior officials attached to agriculture and other relevant ministries from 21 economies as well as representatives from knowledge institutes attended to the workshop. Participants shared practical experiences and explored ways to mainstream adaptation concerns into developmental planning more effectively.
The workshop had four sessions:
- strategic assessment of climate change impacts in agriculture sector;
- assessing successful climate change adaptation strategies in vulnerable areas;
- developing adaptation road maps; and
- capacity building strategies for mainstreaming climate change adaptation.
Climate change is a serious threat to economic development in the Asia and Pacific region. As it is directly dependent on weather conditions, agriculture is particularly exposed to the risk of climate-change-related effects. While there will be some economic benefits in some regions, globally the productivity of agricultural systems is likely to decrease as a result of climate change, raising pressure on food production systems and food security. Farmers need to adapt their practices to cope with the adverse effects of climate change.
Forecasts for Asian countries unanimously predict a decrease in crop yields, livestock losses, damage to fisheries and forests, loss of biodiversity, increasing desertification and land degradation, and a greater need for irrigation. These impacts are expected to negatively affect the agricultural system as it strives to produce, supply, and distribute adequate quantities of food at constant real prices.
Increasing the resilience of natural and human systems to climate change risks will include both structural and non-structural measures, such as developing new crop varieties, maximizing water use efficiency, formulating new standards for infrastructure design, exploiting co-benefit approaches, building institutional capacity, and changing the policy-making environment under which all other adaption activities typically occur.
Adaptation to climate change has not yet become a high priority in most Asian countries, as policymakers are preoccupied with other priorities. Improbability and uncertainty is often cited as a reason for inaction, coupled with limited knowledge of cost-effective best practices. Adaptation strategies are also largely being addressed in isolation from other development issues. In order to mainstream adaptation into developmental planning, policies need to be integrated at sectoral and local levels. Efforts to mainstream adaptation may encounter resistance, particularly in the sectors directly related to economic and social development, as there are usually tradeoffs between climate change adaptation and economic development.
The resilience of the region to climate change needs to be enhanced through regional, national, and institutional commitment, as well as technical and scientific capacity. Adaptation strategies will require development and environmental goals: improving the livelihoods of the people most affected by climate change and promoting the resilience of natural systems.
There were robust discussions among delegates at the workshop, highlighting both practical experience and creative thinking. The main recommendations that emerged were as follows.
- Scientific capacity needs to be strengthened to reduce the uncertainty of climate change information. Policymakers need to be able to access specific information that will help them predict the probability of climate change and its potential effects on agriculture and on food security and economic development. With regard to food security, the most pressing needs are related to: (i) impacts of rising carbon dioxide concentrations, increased mean temperatures, and changes in precipitation patterns on crop productivity and agricultural systems; (ii) the need for irrigation in areas affected by droughts, and (iii) the potential for crop expansion in colder regions.
- Agricultural agencies need to disseminate straightforward and understandable scientific information generated by knowledge institutes to help local communities to make sound adaptation choices to increase their resilience. All stakeholders need to have full access to reliable information about climate change and its potential impacts to avoid breakdowns in the system and adverse food security outcomes.
- Agricultural, water, environmental, and financing agencies need to act in a coordinated way to guarantee that best practices are implemented. Local governments are in the best position to put in place the right incentives to ensure the coordination needed. More powers need to be devolved to them and their capacity to develop and implement climate change adaptation programs needs to be strengthened if they are to achieve measurable improvements in climate risk reduction, with the participation of all concerned sectors and affected communities.
- Governments in Asia need to make better use of existing funding opportunities. New financing mechanisms need to be established with broader and more flexible approaches, integrating different funding sources and innovative delivery schemes to reach producers, including the private sector. In the long term, innovative financing schemes will be needed, including risk-sharing instruments, such as catastrophe bonds, weather derivatives, and micro-insurance index-based schemes through partnerships involving the private sector.
- Policymakers must be able to make continuous adjustments and improvements to adaptation measures through learning by doing and regional cooperation. Where existing technical options are inadequate, investment in new structural measures may be required. In some cases, traditional assessment methods can be revived, if they are suited to new climate challenges. Line agencies should include climate change impacts in their planning process and report regularly on adaptation measures being undertaken and their impact.