Framing the bigger picture: climate change in SE Asia

6 November, 2013 by (comments)
© Rebekkah Sparrow3

Dr Le Hoang Ang, Climate Change Division of the Department of Science, Technology and Environment, Vietnam © Elisabeth van de Grift

One thing is clear – thrashing out the big picture on climate change is not easy. Day one of the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security and Food and Agriculture Organization’s Economics and policy Innovations for Climate-Smart Agriculture (EPIC)* program’s Southeast Asian workshop: “Scenarios for Future Food Security, Environments and Livelihoods in Southeast Asia,” is over, and culminated in some heated debate.

A ripple of applause rang out at the close of the day, as the realization that the building blocks for the next few days had been reached set in among an exhausted team of Southeast Asian delegates. The possible scenarios for the future – and what climate change could mean for future policy decisions around agriculture and food security in Southeast Asia – is taking shape.

Dr Dinh Vu Thanh, Vice-Director of Department of Science, Technology and Environment in Vietnam, who welcomed efforts to address climate change in the region, said during his opening speech in the morning that in recent years, negative impacts of extreme weather patterns such as flooding in Vietnam and across the region have already become evident.

“Our efforts in coping with climate change are faced with constraints – we hope that by developing these scenarios we will have [a] better quantitative background to develop policy and a work-frame or strategy,” he said. “Also, this workshop will be very important to build networks with partner countries in the region, who we share common resources with.”

Elisabeth van de Grift ©

© Elisabeth van de Grift

A wall covered in brightly colored post-it notes is evidence of the first day’s progress, as groups of delegates shaped key possible factors of change in the region to 2050. Groups discussed what factors are likely to frame the future of food security, environment and livelihoods in SEA – from policies, industrialization, infrastructure, regional cooperation or political dispute – and rated these according to relevance and uncertainty.

Not without some disagreement. How can agricultural development and agricultural investment be lumped together under one factor labeled “Agricultural innovation?” Isn’t agriculture investment a precursor for agricultural development – one leads to the other? How do you define “conflict”? Are we talking about weak policy, or lack of enforcement?

“This is the most abstract and difficult point in the process, said Dr. Steve Lord, Adjunct lecturer from the University of Adelaide. “People will be worried that things are falling out of the scenario process. It creates a worry that we are not being inclusive. At the moment the participants are not seeing the narrative beyond the detail, but the aim of this is to generalize and explore five or six top factors.”

Dr Joost Vervoort, Scenarios Officer for CCAFS, said he was pleased with the way the workshop is reaching consensus, and the first building blocks for the scenario-building process were in place. “The most difficult part is over,” he said.

“Ultimately the goal of scenarios work is to guide policy, investment and institutional change. These are not strategies, they provide context to create better strategies, and we are looking at highly uncertain change from the local to the global, so the first most difficult process of getting the bigger picture is over.”

The result is six possible scenarios of change in 2050, which will be further narrowed down to four on day-two of the workshop.

The workshop which takes place between November 5-7, Halong City, Vietnam, brings together experts from the Kingdom of Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Vietnam. The initial phase of this global project will document changing factors likely to impact food security and increase vulnerability to climate change, with the intention of testing out future policy responses in Southeast Asia.

Read more about the workshop here. 

*This post was modified on November 18th to include The Food and Agriculture Organization’s Economics and policy Innovations for Climate-Smart Agriculture (EPIC) program as organizers as well as supporters of the workshop.

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