Climate change is already being felt across Asia and the Pacific region: shifting seasons, changing rainfall patterns, retreating glaciers, rising sea levels, and in many places, heightened disaster risks. Adaptation is crucial to protect lives and livelihoods and to ensure the rapid progress made in recent years is not undone.

Yet adaptation isn’t an isolated process – climate and policy experts increasingly agree that it needs to be integrated with development plans and public policy, to try to avoid conflicts, reduce risks and vulnerability, and make the most efficient use of resources. This is what is called “mainstreaming” adaptation, and it is the focus of a major forum that has drawn more than 400 people this week to Incheon, Republic of Korea.

The 3rd Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum, March 18 to 20, is organized by SEI, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Institute for Global Environment Strategies (IGES), and the Regional Resource Centre for Asia and the Pacific (RRC.AP). It is hosted by the Korea Environment Institute (KEI) in association with the Korea Adaptation Center for Climate Change (KACCC), with generous support from the Korean government.

This week’s forum follows two highly successful events in Bangkok, Thailand, in October 2010 and March 2012, that drew hundreds of participants from government, intergovernmental organizations, funding agencies, think tanks, civil society and youth groups. SEI was a co-founder of the forum series as part of its broader mission to bridge science and policy to support sustainable development in the region. SEI is also a core technical partner of the Asia Pacific Adaptation Network, lead organizer of this year’s event.

Getting strategic about adaptation
A key goal of the forum is to help decision-makers at all levels of government, in business and communities be more strategic and effective in addressing the challenges of development in a changing climate.

The first day’s programme focuses on the merits and limitations of the strategies governments, organizations and communities have adopted in adapting to climate change, looking at examples of success and failure and drawing lessons. Mr. Woochong Um, deputy director general of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Regional and Sustainable Development Department, gave the opening keynote address, and panel discussions throughout the day are bringing together government officials, major funding agencies, and researchers active in the region to discuss a wide range of topics, including how to coordinate across sectors; the role of insurance in disaster risk reduction; finance for adaptation; and capacity-building at different levels.

“Adaptation doesn’t happen all at once – it’s a learning process,” said Johan L. Kuylenstierna, executive director of SEI, who is moderating a panel on capacity-building and speaking at a plenary session on “learning from success and failure”, moderated by Jonathan Shaw, of the Asian Institute of Technology, and also including Saleemul Huq, of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD), and Mozaharul Alam, of UNEP. “Information and approaches relevant to adaptation are evolving all the time,” Kuylenstierna added, “so we need an iterative approach where we act, learn and then act again, taking further decisions based on the best available information.”

Lessons from different places and sectors
Day 2 will provide insights from adaptation actions being taken in specific locations, sectors and systems, starting with a plenary session moderated by Eric Kemp-Benedict, director of SEI’s Asia Centre, in Bangkok. Panel discussions throughout the day will focus on coasts and islands; mountains and uplands; cities and towns; forests and biodiversity; infrastructure; public health; agriculture; water resource management and fisheries; disaster risk management, and ecosystems. An afternoon plenary session will focus on the experiences and insights of the Republic of Korea.

“Adaptation measures work best when they are tailored to the specific place or sector in which they are applied – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of lessons that we can learn from one another,” Kemp-Benedict said. “Policy-makers, planners and practitioners across the Asia and Pacific region have been testing new approaches to everything from rice cultivation, to transportation design. These sessions will provide an excellent opportunity to share ideas and to evaluate what works, what doesn’t, and how we can do better.”

Also on Tuesday, a special social media Q&A session is being held, focused on “Building Urban Climate Resilience in Asia”. Questions are being accepted by Twitter (@ACCCRN) and Facebook (facebook.com/ACCCRN) until 4 pm, Korea time, to be answered by expert panellists.

Who’s missing at the table?
Day 3 of the forum will ask participants to identify ways to close gaps and overcome barriers to adaptation. Bernadette Resurreccion, a senior research fellow in SEI’s Asia Centre, will be part of a plenary session on what governments, organizations and communities can do to better engage stakeholder groups who are critically important in adaptation, but are often left out of discussions. Representatives from some of these groups will be asked directly how they would improve planning and policy processes.

Afternoon sessions on Day 3 will focus on knowledge management for adaptation: how to make better use of existing knowledge to support adaptation strategies and actions; how to deal with uncertainty, a key challenge for decision-makers; how to build better mechanisms to link research and policy; and how to incorporate local and experience-based knowledge with science to inform adaptation.

To learn more about the 3rd Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum and see a detailed programme, visit http://www.asiapacificadapt.net/adaptationforum2013.