Panel: R-L Elisabeth Folkunger, Sida, John Matthews, WWF, James Dalton, IUCN, and Per Stenbäck, WaterAid Sweden
A week ahead of the Cop16 climate negotiations in Cancun, Mexico, the world still remembers some of the shortcomings of earlier summits. Those shortcomings have taken a while to settle in, and looking back to Cop 15 in Copenhagen, Denmark, experts today said the expectations were too high and the negotiation processes too complex.
The complexity of the negotiation process is not merely a temporary issue during summits; reaching concrete and satisfactory agreements requires long lasting, active communication between the different actors at all levels, all year round.
Panel debaters at today’s Swedish Water House seminar on “Environmental flows as a tool for climate change adaptation” were in consensus on the importance of cross-sector, global communication on what is “good” climate change mitigation and adaptation.
They noted that some adaptation measures can be harmful if they seek to reverse, delay, or change the direction of the effects of climate change. Therefore it is very important to provide global guidelines, best practice recommendations and leave the room open for sovereign implementation within an international agreement.
There was also consensus on the importance of using the same terminology, as different communities (e.g. engineers, policy makers, climate negotiators, water professionals, etc) use different terms to describe the same things. This results in putting obstacles to coming to terms on agreeable conditions.
Earlier during the seminar, several scientists provided their take on what are “environmental flows” and how looking at them can provide us with a tool to analyse and act on climate change.
Dr. Mats Eriksson at SIWI (ICIMOD earlier) gave his view on “climate change and the risk for extreme weather conditions,” warning that too much or too little water can be catastrophic in many vulnerable areas, with severe effects on ecosystems but also women, children and the elderly.
Drawing examples from Nepal and Pakistan, he pointed that local knowledge and predictions can be sometimes the key to the survival of local populations ahead of a destructive storm, but even those that survive, are becoming the world’s climate refugees who undergo many socio-economic strains in the aftermath of the storm.
Carin Nilsson, from the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI), said Sweden is predicted to witness gradual increases in temperature, ranging from 2 C to 6 C between the south and the north of the country, over the next 100 years or so. This will be coupled with increases in the intensity of rain storms, and rain in general.
Birgitta Malm Renöfält at Umeå University, Sweden, provided an introduction to “environmental flows” and the different methods used in studying them, based on the Brisbane declaration of 2007. “Environmental Flows (eFlows) refer to water provided within a river, wetland or coastal zone to maintain ecosystems and the benefits they provide to people.”
“Environmental flows - the flow regimes left in rivers, or restored to developed rivers - are a central tool helping resource managers to protect the biodiversity, resilience and ecological goods and services provided by healthy riverine ecosystems,” she said.
Dr. James Dalton from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), presented adaptation hands-on experiences from the Pangaini basin Tanzania and Kenya. He concluded that the world must move forward beyond the current knowledge base and networking to capacity development and policy influencing (i.e. from planning to implementation). In order to achieve that, fast-track funding will be needed to cover guidance and implementation.
This was supported by the last lecturer for the day, John Mathews of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). He argued that field implementation and international law formation must be achieved in parallel, and that significant efforts are made in this regards. He said it was important that change takes place “where the money is,” to be able to finance successful implementation of adaptation plans.
After this thorough presentation of the concept of environmental flows and its possible scope of implementation the speakers agreed that e-flows is a possible and interesting adaptation tool. E-Flows give rivers and beneficiary communities resilience in a changing climate. It is a practical tool to learn and understand the characteristics of Riverine ecosystems, to read the “hydrological finger prints” of the river and to respond to changes efficiently, while reducing risks and ensuring responsible use of the resources that balances economy, ecology, and hydrology.
by Rami Abdelrahman, SIWI