Transformative change in the making
'Change is in the air. Today’s Climate Summit has shown an entirely new, cooperative global approach to climate change….Today shows that the world is finally waking up to the economic and social opportunities of taking action on climate change.'
That was Ban-Ki Moon just yesterday, reflecting on the outcomes of the UN Climate Summit in New York -and his positive message can only have served to encourage participants in the Deltas in Times of Climate Change II Conference, as they came to the Rotterdam’s World Trade Center to kick off the third and final day of workshops and sessions.
The first speaker up at the closing plenary session was Henk Ovink, Senior Advisor to the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Taskforce. Picking up on a theme from yesterday’s session, Henk stressed that adaptation opens up a whole range of possibilities for improving the quality of the spaces we live in while reducing their vulnerability. He gave two examples of this potential for transformation, both from right here in the Netherlands: the Room for the River Programme, which is increasing the discharge capacity of the Rhine while improving the overall environmental quality of the region; and the Delta Programme, which is ensuring both that the Netherlands remains safe and attractive, and that it will have enough freshwater in the years to come.
Henk also had a few pointers based on his experience with the Rebuilding Taskforce, noting in particular that 'resiliency should not just be about bouncing back, but about bouncing back differently, better, instead of a copy-paste of what was there before.'
Frans Berkhout, Professor of Environment, Society and Climate at Kings College London, was on hand to announce the winners of the Young Scientist Awards on best presentation and best poster: they are Brenda Walles from Wageningen UR, the Netherlands for her presentation on The role of biogenic reefs for coastal adaptation and conservation and Ana Genua Olmedo from the Institute of Agriculture and Food Research (IRTA), Spain for her poster on Modeling the impacts of relative sea-level rise on deltaic rice fields.
It then fell to Paula Verhoeven, Session Chair and Director, Sustainability and Climate Change, with the City of Rotterdam and Chair of the Rotterdam Climate Proof Recommendations Committee, to thank the Organising Committee for what she rightly called an 'amazing and inspiring conference.'
Professor Pier Vellinga, Director of the Knowledge for Climate Programme and Chair of the Conference, highlighted some of its outcomes in his Observations and Concluding Remarks. In remarks that resonated with a point Stéphane Hallegatte made at yesterday’s plenary - 'We need an entirely new narrative, a new way of conceiving of adaptation' Pier highlighted not just one but a whole cluster of such shifts: from a focus on statistics and towards new narratives and learning from best practices, from damage control to value creation, from climate-proofing to future-proofing, from blueprint mainstreaming to creating opportunities for intervention, and from awareness-raising to pilot projects. At the same time, Pier drew attention to some sobering statistics: of the larger European cities, 8% have no adaptation plans or strategies at all, 68% are planning on having plans at some point but have nothing in place, 16% are actively working on a plan…leaving a mere 8% with plans in place. Pier expressed the hope that these numbers will have changed markedly by the time the PROVIA International Adaptation Futures Conference takes place here in Rotterdam in 2016.
In closing the session and the Conference as a whole, Pier had the following wise words for participants to take home with them as they continue with their work: 'It’s not technology that’s the bottleneck for adaptation', he said. 'It’s having the courage to work together to test new solutions and strike out in new directions.'
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