Global Environment

The Fifth Asia Pacific Seminar on Climate Change

[CHAIRMAN'S SUMMARY]



1. The Fifth Asia-Pacific Seminar on Climate Change was held in Sendai, Japan, from January 23-25, 1996, by the Environment Agency of Japan, Miyagi Prefecture, and Sendai City in cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Water, Green and Earth Foundation, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

Attendance

2. The seminar was attended by experts from seventeen countries: Australia, Bangladesh, China, Fiji, India, Japan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the United States of America, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. The seminar was also attended by representatives of eight international organizations, including the Asian Development Bank (ADB), ESCAP, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), UNEP, and the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The seminar's participants were unanimous in their deep gratitude to the sponsors for enabling such a well-organized and valuable exchange of ideas and experiences relating to climate change research and countermeasures. The participants were also impressed by the sincere climate change countermeasures implemented by Miyagi Prefecture and Sendai City and hoped that such local initiatives would become common in all developed nations.

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Major objectives of the seminar

3. The major objectives of the seminar were (i) to disseminate information about recent progress in international efforts such as the IPCC Second Assessment Report; (ii) to exchange views and information relating to the preparation of national communications under the UNFCCC; and (iii) to facilitate cooperation among countries of the Asia-Pacific region in coping with climate change and its impacts.

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Seminar proceedings

4. The seminar commenced with an opening address by Mr. Masami Ishizaka, the Administrative Vice-Minister of the Environment Agency, and welcome speeches by Mr. Shiro Asano, the Governor of Miyagi Prefecture, and Mr. Hajimu Fujii, the Mayor of Sendai. The opening remarks were followed by the keynote addresses: Professor Nobuo Mimura, Department of Urban and Civil Engineering, Ibaraki University, spoke on "Impacts of Global Warming on the Asia-Pacific Region - Focusing on Accelerated Sea Level Rise," and Dr. Rezaul Karim, Chief of the Environment Section of ESCAP's Environment and Natural Resources Management Division, spoke on "Regional Cooperation on Global Climate Change." The seminar elected Professor Hidefumi Imura (Japan) as Chairperson, Messrs. Ohn Gyaw (Myanmar) and Daniel Reifsnyder (USA) as Vice-Chairpersons, and Messrs. P.M. Jayatillaka Banda (Sri Lanka) and Richard Weisburd (Japan) as Secretaries. The Seminar then adopted the agenda (attached as an annex). Subsequent presentations were made on the IPCC Second Assessment Report, the recent progress in the Ad Hoc Group for the Berlin Mandate (AGBM), and climate change activities by the UNFCCC secretariat, international organizations, and seventeen countries. The presentations were followed by a round table discussion.

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General overview and specific findings

5. The participants commended the presentations of the valuable findings of the very recent IPCC Second Assessment Report. All countries of the region expressed strong concerns about climate change impacts because of the particular vulnerability of their land, people, food production, forests, etc. Small islands and low lying areas expressed particular concern on this issue. The need for vulnerability assessments and adaptation measures in the region was emphasized. It was also stressed that, considering the findings contained in the IPCC Second Assessment Report, it is time to take action. Many participants noted that developed countries should strengthen their efforts to limit or reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and fully comply with the commitments under the UNFCCC.

6. Many participants emphasized the importance of national communications. They also found that the inclusion of public participation generated useful feedback and raised public awareness. It was noted that many actions, including studies on emission inventories, vulnerability assessments, and mitigation/adaptation measures, have been initiated in the region and progress has been encouraging. More than half of the non-Annex I Parties have begun or are now preparing national studies with international support that will lead to the preparation of national communications. Despite these efforts, many nations still need to gather further information regarding original research and actual measurements to prepare for national communications. The role of GHG sinks in this same context was highlighted. Several participants questioned the applicability of IPCC default emission values to agriculture, forestry, land-use change, livestock, and other sectors in regions with conditions different from those under which the default values were determined.

7. The non-Annex I Parties require provision of new and additional financial and technological resources from developed countries to gather this information for national communications. Referring to Article 4.3 of the UNFCCC, some participants suggested a two-step approach, i.e., an initial evaluation of the cost required for the national communications to be followed by the preparation of the national communications. It was pointed out that expediting the GEF funding application approval process was important. Efforts to better inform the countries of the region about the application procedures and evaluation criteria for proposals to GEF and other sources of funds for climate change related projects seem warranted to optimize their prospects for timely funding.

8. It was suggested that the development of and access to a roster of experts knowledgeable about inventories, vulnerability assessments, mitigation and adaptation measures, environmentally sound technologies, etc. would be very useful for the countries of the region. IPCC has developed and has made available some resources of this nature. The functions of the roster should be further elaborated and the ability of the enabling countries to provide access to the experts on such a roster should also be maximized.

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Regional cooperation and technology transfer

9. Technology transfer, which includes know-how and expertise to facilitate endogenous capacity building between developed and developing countries, is vital and should be strengthened without delay. The various technologies required could include industrial processes, power generation and delivery technologies, agricultural and forestry practices, and civil engineering technologies to cope with sea level rise and flooding. Technical cooperation among developing countries may also be effective, particularly for, but not limited to, indigenous technologies.

1O. In order to disseminate climate technologies more efficiently, it may be useful to make greater use of existing regional organizations such as the ESCAP Center for Technology Transfer in India, the South Pacific Forum Energy Division in Fiji, the UNEP International Environmental Technology Center in Japan, and the International Renewable Energy Center in Australia.

11. It might be especially effective and beneficial to involve the private sector in technology transfer activities. It was pointed out that Activities Implemented Jointly (AIJ) would be one effective mechanism to involve the private sector in technology transfer activities. Some participants suggested holding a regional workshop to explore means of effective technology transfer. AIJ and endogenous capacity building would be most useful.

12. Limitations on access to information among parties involved in the UNFCCC process have seriously constrained progress on the problem of climate change. In order to better access the latest information on climate research and technology, the participants recommended the exploration of all feasible means of enhancing regional communications among the officials, researchers, and others involved in climate change related activities. These means should include, but not be limited to, workshops, newsletters, and electronic networks. The Internet holds considerable promise to ease communications, but access in some nations is limited. The opportunities for face-to-face interactions and exchange of ideas and experiences among experts through workshops and seminars were recognized as being particularly valuable. Such workshops are also useful for raising civic awareness of the problems in the host country. The participants welcomed the willingness of the Environment Agency of Japan to continue sponsoring such gatherings. Countries in the South Pacific region are being considered as possible venues for the next Asia-Pacific Seminar on Climate Change.

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Guidelines for national communications of non-Annex I Parties

13. Several participants pointed out the need for structured guidelines for the timely preparation of national communications. Some participants emphasized that the guidelines for non-Annex I Parties should not be as detailed as those for Annex I Parties but should focus mainly on the three most important GHGs: carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. In order for the national communications to be useful in the UNFCCC process, data and assumptions must be transparent, consistent, and comparable. Several participants made useful suggestions regarding the national communications of non-Annex I Parties. It was noted that the Convention provides useful guidance towards such a framework. The variety of local and regional conditions in different zones requires flexibility in the guidelines and in their use without compromising the quality and completeness of the resulting national communications.

14. The participants warmly welcomed the effort by the Japan Environment Agency toward hosting the Third Conference of the Parties and requested the Government of Japan to officially announce their willingness to host this important conference at its earliest opportunity.

Sendai, January 25, 1996

Hidefumi Imura
Chairperson of the Fifth Asia-Pacific Seminar on Climate Change
Professor, Kyushu University

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