Address by Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw at the Ninth Conference on Community-based Adaptation to Climate Change

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`Measuring and enhancing effective adaptation`.

Nairobi -- Your Excellencies,

Dear Colleagues,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to Nairobi, a place that we in UNEP also call home, next to our Kenyan hosts.

There's a famous Swahili saying that goes : 'Haba na haba, hujaza kibaba', which translates as 'little by little, the pot gets filled.' Every small change at the community-level on adaptation contributes over time to global success. The famous story that the late Wangari Maataai used to tell, of the humming bird, is also true for adaptation.

Climate change this year is in every mind! Conferences, research actions, field projects....the road to the Paris goes through meetings like this one. Needless to say, the road to Paris will be bumpy and that's how it should be as we prepare ourselves. But once we get to Paris, at the Climate Conference, we should all be ready to sign a landmark climate agreement. Our level of ambition in Paris will, to a large extent, determine the future trajectory we want for our planet and for people.

Adaptation has long been considered as a local issue. Well, not anymore in international negotiations! Much of the world's attention has been focused on how strongly countries will commit to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. This, of course, is crucial to ensure that any agreement will prevent global temperatures from rising to the 2°C target above pre-industrial levels, that we set for ourselves.

However, make no mistake: even if we cap our emissions today, climate change is here to stay, is hitting hard and will continue to affect us, leaving no option for any of us, but to adapt. Contrary to what some believe, all nations, no matter rich or poor, will need to design and develop their adaptation plans. Poor countries are obviously more vulnerable, and have limited resources to face the threat.

Adaptation is coming at a high cost to humanity. According to the UNEP Global Adaptation Gap Report, published for the first time last year in Lima, costs for adaptation could climb as high as US $150 billion per annum by 2030; they can even skyrocket to US $250-500 billion per year by 2050 in the worst case scenario.

Enough progress was made in Lima to give hope that an agreement on emission reductions can be reached. Much less certain, though, is how the international community plans to deliver the funding, technology, knowledge and tools that countries, communities, and ecosystems need to adapt efficiently to climate change.

In 1997/98, Kenya experienced floods that cost the economy up to a billion dollars. Then followed a devastating drought, which cost close to US $3 billion. Recently, the 2011 drought contributed to inflation that caused maize prices to rise 55 per cent above global levels. And there is, of course, the human cost in terms of livelihoods damaged and traditional ways of life, such as pastoralism. Such calamities will only become more frequent.

Community- and ecosystem-based adaptation

Some countries could already see that unfortunately man-made structures such as sea walls, with minimum consideration of the contribution of ecosystems, are not necessarily efficient nor are they sustainable. Ecosystem-based adaptation options can be especially relevant where the cost of technical solutions is prohibitively high. In Santa Cruz, for example, a barrier of salt marshes, as little as ten meters wide, could reduce wave heights by 50 per cent. By extending to 500 metres, the reduction was typically 90 per cent. Nature-based solutions are often cheaper, more resilient and have multiple benefits. We should work with nature as we cannot work against the force of nature.

Local communities have unique knowledge in identifying the ecosystem services that underpin livelihoods and ensure their good management. Such knowledge is often overlooked if not ignored by scientists and experts. Adaptation measures should be ecosystem-based and community-based. A fundamental step forward was made by the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem services - IPBES - when they decided last year to formally integrate indigenous and local knowledge in their assessments. Communities in their wisdom have been using ecosystem-based adaptation for hundreds of years, as evidenced in aridiculture practices developed in the Sahara.

Ladies and gentelmen,

The first United Nations Environment Assembly gave the mandate to UNEP- working with governments, scientific institutions, UN agencies, civil society and other relevant stakeholders-to support countries in preparing ecosystem-based adaptation programmes. It was remarkable that UNEP received a mandate from an intergoverrnmental body to specifically work on ecosystem-based adaptation. Such actions can only be implemented through community-based adaptation.

Through the landscape approach, UNEP contributes to over 30 ecosystem-based adaptation initiatives that help communities in diverse ecosystems, from mountains to the coast, to build resilience to climate change.

In addition to the Mau ecosystem - that I understand many of you visited over the weekend - UNEP supports pastoral communities in the Peruvian Andes to maintain the carrying capacity of their land, protect water resources and open up new sources of income by adopting the management of wild populations of the native vicuña, animals valued for their precious wool.

How to measure and improve efficiency

Ladies and Gentleman,

Science and evidence show the urgent need for adaptation, but measuring the impact of adaptation projects and their efficiency is not always easy.

There are useful tools put in place to measure the impact of the adaptation programmes, but we still need to learn a lot about enhancing the efficiency of adaptation measures through monitoring and evaluation tools. A review, supported by UNEP, of the evidence base for the effectiveness of ecosystem-based adaptation was published last year in the journal Climate and Development. We found that, while there was some evidence for the positive social, environmental and economic benefits of ecosystem-based adaptation, there still remained significant gaps in the overall evidence base. This meeting, therefore, should contribute to further documenting and measuring the efficiency of adaptation techniques.

Funding shortfall

In order to bring about a sustainable development that leaves no one behind, especially at the community-level where people face difficulties in accessing or benefitting natural resources, funding will be critical; le 'nerf de la guerre' as French say. Unfortunately, the world is largely unprepared to cover the costs of adaptation. In Africa alone, the cost of adaptation could rise as high as US $50 billion per annum by 2050, according to UNEP's latest Africa Adaptation Gap report. The additional burden will be unbearable for most developing countries, least-developed countries, and Small Island Developing States.

In some parts of the world, we are making progress in addressing adaptation needs. Evidence suggests that African countries-such as Ghana, Ethiopia and South Africa-are already committing some domestic resources to adaptation efforts. Hypothetical case studies suggest that by 2029/2030, under moderately optimistic growth scenarios, Ghana and Ethiopia could commit close to a quarter of a billion each to adaptation financing, while South Africa will get close to a billion.

Globally, adaptation funding from public sources reached US $23-26 billion in 2012-2013. However, this excludes what civil society and communities are doing. The main challenge will be to mobilize private finance for adaptation, including ecosystem-based adaptation.

Fundamentally, global support on adaptation - incorporating financing, technology, and knowledge - could go a long way toward advancing countries' sustainable development aspirations.

Thank you

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