A forum on fighting climate change was held in Thailand recently. Viet Nam News spoke to Robert Mather, head of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Southeast Asia Group, about the project.
Can you tell us about the project?
The project started last year and will last until December 2014. Supported by funding from the European Union, it seeks to strengthen the capacity of local governments and people to plan for and adapt to future climate risks in Cambodia's Kampot and Koh Kong Provinces, Thailand's Chanthaburi and Trat, and HCM City, Ben Tre, Soc Trang, and Kien Giang in Viet Nam.
This will enable local government agencies to conduct vulnerability assessments, identify pilot activities to reduce the vulnerability, design, implement, and monitor the success of these activities, and carry out cost-benefit analysis and feasibility assessment for replicating pilot actions over a wider area.
It will identify best practices developed by local people and provide opportunities for communities on different parts of the coast to learn from each other.
In Viet Nam, the IUCN has two partners – the Viet Nam Administration of Sea and Island and German Society for International Co-operation (GIZ) – with their own projects and collaborative ones in various Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta provinces.
What we have in the project that will be important is sharing and learning between the different countries and different provinces or sites working in each country.
Climate change is now becoming a familiar word. How can we cope with it?
Climate change is real. It has already happened and is happening now. We don't know how long it will happen and how quickly. We do know it has already happened and is getting worse.
The impact of climate change will be totally different for different people, depending on who you are, where you live, what you do, and how you feel about climate change.
If you look at one community, one place, depending upon whether you are a man or woman, old or young, fishermen or farmer, it will be different for you.
Climate change is a new issue that as garnered a lot of attention. Climate change adaptation is something that I think a lot of people are trying to find how we should do, what we should actually do, what climate change adaptation really needs.
That is why we need to find out local places for a project to share and learn from each other. And also carry out exchanges between local communities, local governments, technical experts and also higher level of national government.
It is important to learn, to exchange both vertically and horizontally.
So climate change adaptation is still a question without an answer?
Here is an obvious message: There no single solution for climate change. There are many solutions because we need solutions for every community and for different groups of people.
I try to think of a number. There may be 20 million communities around the world. Let us say we need at least 10-20 different climate change adaptation solutions for each community. So in the world we need 200 – 400 million solutions for climate change. And our project can only help deliver 20 to 40.
What we really want to focus on is how nature can offer us solutions. We want to focus on nature-based solutions because we really need nature.
Whether we reforest the watershed or replant the mangrove forest, all natural solutions to climate change will be important. Natural solutions will not be the only solutions, we are still seeking some hard-infrastructure options but when we think about the benefits of natural solutions, they are available to everybody and cheap.
If you build a wall to stop the sea level from rising, it will cost a lot of money. If you have mangroves to stop the sea level from rising, it is cheaper and you can get a lot of other benefits too.
But none of this is going to work unless local communities, local people really have secure access to natural resources and local environment so that they can manage climate change adaptation.
Is there anything else on the forum agenda?
Writing about climate change, how to figure out what is climate change is difficult for journalists too. If even people implementing the projects are still not sure about the right solutions, how can we expect journalists to understand the right solutions? And if journalists carry stories on newspapers or TV, how many people reading, listening, or watching can understand?
So a strong focus on the media with regard to climate change is very important and we also want to know how the media understands climate change and tells the public about the issue.
We hope this is the first step in starting close long-term collaboration between international organisations and the media to figure out the right thing and take it to everyone in these countries. — VNS