The View from Southeast Asia: Does one Size fit all in the Battle Against Climate Change?”

12 Feb

From Special Correspondent Suzanne Kelly-Lyall, PISA Deputy Director:

Thailand has a great deal about which to feel proud: abundant natural beauty, delicious cuisine, a complex and highly textured culture shaped by Theravada Buddhism and other influences.  One might add the city of Bangkok to this list – a major Asian city attempting to balance tradition with radical modernity.  A new rapid transit line, the “BTS”, plans for the introduction of electric vehicles as part of a Clinton Foundation initiative under the C-40 plan, coupled with efforts to retrofit many of the older, energy inefficient buildings of downtown Bangkok, are all tribute to the nation’s mitigation efforts.

How does this urban emphasis on mitigation square with the needs of Thailand’s still vast rural population? Are there lessons here for other Southeast Asian nations trying to balance the demands of industrialization with the traditional livelihoods of the rural poor such as farming and fishing?

While multilateral donor agencies such as UNDP and the World Bank are beginning to emphasize the need for urban resilience that requires a combination of mitigation and adaptation strategies, other donors and community activists are focusing on community based adaptation strategies (CBA). CBA’s, it is argued, are low-cost, replicable, and in direct response to the needs of communities on the frontline of climate change.  Witness the upcoming conference in Dar es Salaam on Community Based Adaption hosted by the International Institute for Environment and Development. The stakeholder conference will bring together representatives from the developing word to share best practices.  It is striking that those favoring adaption measures are seeking common cause with like-minded organizations from other parts of the world.  Likewise, movements such as the C-40 spearheaded by Hong Kong-based Civic Exchange are actively seeking linkages to city leaders around the globe who are confronting similar challenges and looking toward mitigation efforts to address climate change.

Will these cross-border efforts strengthen national-level measures on climate change by building momentum for a more nuanced approach that is mindful of the need for action on both adaptation and mitigation? How will these potentially divergent trends impact important blue-print documents such as the National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) emanating from the COP15?  Stay tuned as we delve into these topics within the context of Asia.  Finally, do regional organizations lose authority if member nations seek partnerships across the globe?  Let us know what you think as we probe these trends in upcoming weeks.

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