Impactful Speakers Series Regional Preparedness for Coping with Crisis and Fragility: From Covid to Climate

Sep 09 2020 | 02:10:10
Impactful Speakers Series Regional Preparedness for Coping with Crisis and Fragility: From Covid to Climate 7 September, 2020   Civil Society Coalition for Climate Change (CSCCC), in collaboration with the World Bank, held the inaugural webinar in their Impactful Speakers Series. The webinar explored the possibilities of a coordinated response by countries in the region to crises and workable strategies for a future that puts people first. The lessons learnt from COVID 19 were used to contextualize discussion on the looming climate crisis to get input from the panelists on way forward. The panelists included Dr. Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Dr. Adil Najam, Dr. Nausheen H. Anwar and Mr. Abhas Jha. The session was moderated by Ambassador (rtd) Nadeem Riaz.   In her introductory remarks the Chief Executive of CSCCC, Aisha Khan, emphasized the need for adopting a triple “C” approach (Collaborate , Cooperate, Coordinate) to address climate challenges in South Asia. She highlighted that COVID 19 had exposed the fragility of the world and our vulnerability to crises and used that as an example to amplify the need for regional cooperation. Climate change she said would disrupt life and dent the economy at multiple levels and therefore must be addressed in a holistic manner.   As moderator for the session, Ambassador Nadeem Riyaz highlighted the challenges facing the world due to climate change. He specifically pointed out the risks associated with out migration and the spill-over impacts of trans-boundary movements of population that may cause a humanitarian crisis and geo-political fault lines if not managed through a  coordinated plan. He noted that the South Asian Region, which is home to 1.94 billion people, did not have a concerted strategy to deal with the emerging challenges. He initiated the conversation by posing two options; to maintain the status quo or to open a new chapter of climate diplomacy in South Asia.   Dr. Iftekhar Chowdhury remarked that regional cooperation was crucial to tackling climate change because “No nation is an island”. He cited examples of the many shared commonalities in the region and said that it would be difficult to meet climate threats without collaboration. He talked about the collective climate conscience that had worked for Bangladesh and how the country had used advocacy and a heightened level of awareness to flag issues at the global stage. He endorsed the 3 "C" approach and called for out of box thinking that utilizes the intellectual resources of South Asia to develop a nexus between government, civil society and individuals.   Dr. Adil Najam stated that he did not believe that under the current political dispensation, South Asia would come together to tackle with climate change from a regional platform. He cited the example of the pandemic that offered a perfect moment for starting a conversation on common action but failed to elicit the desired response from any quarter. He emphasized the point that it was not important to discuss the obvious (need for collaboration) but rather a time for recognizing the reasons for the lack of cooperation and trying to remove the roadblocks that stand in the way of progress. He made three important points; i) need to reduce levels of hope and expectation from international climate negotiations on finding timely and equitable solutions to climate change and putting greater focus on developing National Adaptation Plans using a bottom up approach; ii)  Using lessons learnt from  COVID19 memories to bring meaningful change; iii) Plan for a new economy, new infrastructure and new employment economy in a post COVID world.   Dr. Nausheen Anwar emphasized on the need for a national initiative and said that the Karachi urban flooding was more a result of a severely degraded ecology and less due to climate change. She talked about the damage caused by poor urban planning, encroachments and its cumulative impact on compromising the relationship between people, land and nature. She stressed on the need for putting in place the right kinds of technologies and technocratic interventions for removing ambiguities that lead to impending climate chaos, land displacements, evictions, fragmented governance, climate refugees, infrastructure crisis, structural inequalities and food insecurity. She highlighted the gender dimension of climate change and need for credible data to reduce risk of violence and other forms of discrimination against women.   Abhas Jha focused on Pakistan’s climate challenges and emphasized its extreme vulnerability to climate change. Referring to a report prepared by the World Bank he talked about the risk faced by 800 million people in the SAR region,. He mentioned the sea level rise, floods, and droughts, stating that almost 21.4 million people would be pushed into poverty. He advocated for a push towards fixing the energy system, de-carbonizing the electricity grid and working towards energy efficiency. He said that cities needed to be built around people not cars, and investments made in green housing. He called for integrated urban upgrading programs and nature based solutions as the need of the hour. Most of the urban infrastructure, he said, built in the last 6000 years would be rebuilt in next 20 years. He stressed on the imperative to fix agriculture and food systems, move toward climate smart agriculture, early warning systems and effective water tariffs. The window of opportunity he said would continue to shrink and the time for action was now.      Key Takeaways Ø  There is need for developing a framework of systems in all countries.  Ø  Climate change goes beyond any single country and therefore requires political leadership to build consensus.  Ø  SAARC should not be used as a political tool for divisiveness but to create linkages to strengthen regional ties at multiple levels.  Ø  Cross learning and sharing best practices should be facilitated without hindrances.  Ø  Dialogue between science and society should be promoted to develop a better understanding of challenges and need for collaboration and cooperation among civil society actors.  Ø  All problems confronting South Asia will be exacerbated by climate change and a paradigm shift in thinking is needed for social, economic and ecological stabilization.