Regional governments positioned for COP 23 at International Conference on Adaptation

The second edition of the International Conference on Climate Change Adaptation, entitled “Islands, land of innovative solutions for all territories” took place from 5 to 6 October in Saint Denis, Reunion Island. The conference, organised by the Regional Council of Reunion Island with support of the nrg4SD, focused on the acceleration of climate action through highlighting innovative solutions and challenges faced by islands and regional governments.

The conference saw a broad variety of attendees, ranging from regional governments and their international networks, like inter alia the nrg4SD, ORU Fogar and The Climate Group, to representatives from island states governments and the research community. The conference aimed to highlight islands’ and regions’ expertise, in order to raise awareness on their role in adaptation and identify solutions to effectively tackle the challenges of climate change. The multiple stakeholders taking part in the conference discussed on how to build greater resilience and effectively adapt to climate change, as well as on how to advance the development and implementation of solutions through investment, finance, awareness and innovation.

Before the official start of the conference, participants were invited to join the open session of the nrg4SD’s General Assembly in the morning of 5 October, focusing on its ongoing projects and initiatives. The nrg4SD Secretariat, as well as nrg4SD members presented the work and progress of the RegionsAdapt initiative, the Regions for Biodiversity Learning Platform and within the Sustainable Development Agenda.

The conference was officially opened by Didier Robert, President of the Regional Council of Reunion Island. Joined by Maria Cecilia Alvarado, Chair for the South of nrg4SD and Vice-President of Azuay, Ecuador, as well as Ministers from Maurice, the Comoros, the Seychelles, the Mayor of Tianjin and the ambassador of Reunion Island and patron of the Conference, Pauline Hoarau, he laid out the determination and dedication of regional and insular governments in addressing climate change with innovative and exemplary solutions.

The following roundtable discussed the crucial role of regional governments and islands in climate change adaptation. Moderated by nrg4SD Secretary General Natalia Vera, different stakeholders like the President of ANAAE, Roberto Alcalá, as well as the Secretary General of ORU Fogar, Carles Llorens, and representatives from R20, The Climate Group and IUCN discussed on the challenges resulting from climate change and how to adapt to these. This session further took a look at the upcoming COP 23 and how regional governments, islands and partner organisations can enable and support the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

Participants then had the chance to choose between two parallel sessions. One of these focused on islands and coastal areas and their innovative solutions in adaptation, resilience and energy. Different stakeholders discussed the unique role of islands and territories in building resilience and energy independency through the development of new sources of renewable energy. Building on the good experience of the Reunion Island, different stakeholders exchanged on best practices, expertise and information regarding production and solutions allowing the decrease of dependency to fossil fuels and thus leading to greater resilience of islands and coastal areas.

The other session examined the climate change impacts to social and economic sectors. Stakeholders from different disciplines shared insights on how climate change affects economic activities and the social sectors of regions and vulnerable communities, as well as the response of regional governments to these challenges. The session further discussed how the public and the private sector work jointly to help increase resilience and how the private sector can be integrated into public climate policies.

The second day of the conference, 6 October, started with the third thematic session, focusing on the environmental challenge resulting from climate change affecting biodiversity, forestry, agriculture and food security. Representatives from regional governments and academia discussed on the specific challenges to biodiversity within their territories and how nature-based and ecosystem approaches can help build resilience to climate change. They presented new and more dynamic strategies to protect and restore ecosystems while reducing the extent of climate change. The participants elaborated how the work with nature – rather than against it – can lessen the extent of climate change and build greater resilience to it.

The closing ceremony presented the highlights and outcomes of the discussions during the two days of the conference and resulted in a signing ceremony of a common position paper as the outcome document of the conference.

The event was complemented by a field visit of the Akuo Energy photovoltaic farm and the restoration project of sea turtle nesting sites.

Common message to COP 23

As the outcome document of the International Conference the joint position paper “Regions and islands  – the key to climate success” was presented and signed at the end of the second day by the Reunion Island Government, the nrg4SD and other networks of regional governments like ORU-Fogar, The Climate Group and R20. Through this position paper regional governments share with the global community their adaptation actions and innovative solutions, the challenges of securing climate finance and building resilience, as well as their interest in working in partnership across all levels of actors. The position paper contains general recommendations to Parties to the UNFCCC with regards to acknowledging the crucial role that regional governments play in climate action and policy, as well as a specific position to COP 23.

With regards to the COP 23 negotiations, the position paper asks Parties to regard regional governments as key partners in the implementation of the Paris Agreement and emphasises their ability to scale up ambition to close the gap between the current status from the NDCs and the goals of the Paris Agreement. In addition, the paper recommends ensuring synergies between adaptation and mitigation and to link climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction to reduce vulnerability and build resilience. The Facilitative Dialogue 2018 should constitute an opportunity for regional governments to be considered as valuable sources of information and providers of innovative solutions. Further, the position paper requests the development of dedicated mechanisms for regional governments to unlock international funding.

The position paper will feed into the negotiations and parallel events hosted by nrg4SD taking place at the COP 23 to be held in November 2017 in Bonn.

From Left to Right: Magnus Berntsson – R20; Helen Clarkson – The Climate Group; Didier Robert – Pres. Reunion Island; Maria Cecília Alvarado – Co-Chair for the South – nrg4SD and Vice-Pres. Azuay; Carles Llorens – Sec. General of ORU Fogar
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