Global Environment

The Sixth Asia Pacific Seminar on Climate Change

[CHAIRMAN'S SUMMARY]

November 4-8, 1996, Suva, Fiji



1. The Sixth Asia Pacific Seminar on Climate Change was held in Suva, Fiji, on November 4-8, 1996, and was hosted by the Environment Agency of Japan, the Government of Fiji, and the University of the South Pacific in cooperation with the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the Secretariat of the South Pacific Forum (SPF), the United States Country Studies Program, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

Attendance

2. The seminar was attended by experts from twenty-six countries: Australia, Bangladesh, China, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, India, Japan, Kiribati, Malaysia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, New Zealand, Niue, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga, Tuvalu, the United States of America, Vanuatu, Vietnam, and Western Samoa. The seminar was also attended by representatives of ESCAP, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), SPREP, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the Secretariat of UNFCCC. Representatives from Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Yamanashi Prefectural Government of Japan also attended the seminar. The seminar's participants were unanimous in their deep gratitude to the sponsors for enabling such a well-organized and valuable exchange of concepts and experiences relating to climate change.

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Major objectives of the seminar

3. The major objectives of the seminar were to exchange information, experiences, and views on climate change among the countries of the region and to facilitate the steps to address climate change problems in the region. The seminar was convened for the following reasons.

  • (a) To discuss and facilitate the preparation process for national communications among the countries of the region through sharing experiences and discussing the status preparations for initial communications from Parties not included in Annex I
  • (b) To review the outcomes of a series of studies on vulnerability assessment and adaptation strategies in the South Pacific and discuss the possibility to apply these results to other parts of the region
  • (c) To discuss possible regional mechanisms to access to the latest scientific and technological information on climate change
  • (d) To exchange information on the progress of activities implemented jointly (AIJ) and methods to facilitate this process in the region.

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Seminar proceedings

4. The seminar commenced with an opening address by Mr. Hironori Hamanaka, Director-General, Global Environment Department, the Environment Agency of Japan, and a welcome speech by Rt. Hon Vilisoni Cagimaivei, the Minister of Urban Development, Housing and the Environment, the Government of Fiji. H.E. Mr. Tuiloma Neroni Slade, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Samoa to the United Nations and the Vice-chairman of AOSIS, delivered the keynote address entitled "Recent progress of the international negotiations on Berlin Mandate process." The seminar then elected Ambassador Slade as Chairperson and Mr. Nasome (Fiji), Professor Mimura (Japan), and Dr. Fitzgerald (USA) as Vice-chairpersons.

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GHG inventories and national communications

5. In their responses to a questionnaire, participants discussed the difficulties encountered, lessons learned, and experiences shared during preparations for national communications among the countries of the region. The participants pointed out these exchanges are important to provide a common platform to countries to discuss the requirements on national communications from both Annex I and non-Annex I Parties established by the Framework Convention on Climate Change.

6. The participants stressed the need to fully take into account economic and social development concerns and respective capacities. It was noted that for non-Annex I Parties to implement Convention requirements, developed country Parties must effectively implement their Convention commitments related to financial resources and transfer of technology. It was also noted that a Party must submit initial communications within three years after the Convention becomes effective or if the Party is a less developed country, then it may make its initial communications at its discretion.

7. The participants discussed and grouped their concerns in five areas: institutional, human resources, data and information, technical, and financial. They advanced the following broad conclusions recognizing the connectivity that exist among these five areas.

8. Many felt that adaptation is a priority for small island countries that have minimal contributions to global greenhouse gas emissions. The participants noted that the guidelines provide flexibility for non-Annex I Parties to prepare initial communications. The participants also noted that they need assistance to comply with these guidelines. It was emphasized that non-Annex I Parties need technical and financial assistance for activities to create sustainable capacities to comply with the guidelines.

9. It was strongly suggested that each country consider designating one full time individual and, where circumstances permit, a technical team responsible for climate change studies and information exchange for the preparation of initial communications. The team approach would also help build and maintain institutional records. In addition, interagency coordination among all relevant sectors was encouraged. Many participants pointed out that high level political awareness and interest at all levels is crucial for taking necessary actions.

10. Some participants emphasized the need for requirements for strengthening institutions in non-Annex I Parties. It was recommended that institutions be strengthened through transfer of technologies, materials, and equipment and through access to the latest information, methods, and techniques, such as e-mail and the Internet.

11. It is important that technical experts come from within the country or at least from the same geographic region. Where experts outside the region are needed, their primary role should be to develop and strengthen endogenous capacity. The training of local experts is key to apply methodologies and to develop the ability to use and adapt models for the preparation of national communications.

12. It was widely felt that there were gaps in the activity data, and that each country should collect, store, and aggregate such data and have it available at a single national center. It was pointed out that further research for generating country-specific conversion factors for priority gases need to be addressed on a priority basis. It was felt that it is desirable to identify regional mechanisms to provide support for and act as a repository for data and information.

13. Networking at local, national, and regional levels among the relevant actors was considered important for facilitating the exchange of experiences, data, and information. Tools such as access to the Internet could be cost-effective means for providing technical support. It was also felt that regional mechanisms should be identified to provide technical support through better use of the existing regional institutions and national expertise from other countries in the region.

14. Finally participants emphasized the current and future need for financial assistance and were informed of the new procedures for expedited project approval in GEF. Some countries have received support for studies that will provide input to national communications. But, it was stressed that additional activities may be necessary to prepare and periodically update national communications in accordance with the approved guidelines. Finance for the acknowledged full costs for the preparation of initial communications will be provided upon request by GEF to the non-Annex I Parties.

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Vulnerability assessment and adaptation strategies

15. The participants reviewed the present status of vulnerability assessment and planning for adaptation in the preparation of national communications in the countries of the region. It was noted that developing countries in general, and small island countries and countries with low lying areas in particular, will have adaptation difficulties such as increased cooling requirements, the need to switch to different crops and crop patterns, the loss of livelihood dependent on marine resources, the loss of economic infrastructure, and the resettlement of people due to rising sea levels.

16. The participants discussed the concept, framework, procedures, and constraints of adaptation strategies. It was recognized that a no-regrets strategy, which can be defined as beneficial even if the predicted change in climate or rise in sea level fail to occur, is a good way to start adaptation planning. It is also effective to incorporate adaptation measures into existing social and economic development policies, such as land use planning, environmental conservation, resource management planning, and sustainable development. Integrated Coastal Zone Management, in particular, was recognized as an adaptation strategy to deal with the environment and climate change to achieve economic sustainability in coastal and small islands countries.

17. In reviewing adaptation strategies currently underway in some of the countries in the region, the participants identified the following constraints: lack of data and information, lack of methodologies for vulnerability assessment applicable to countries in the region, limited human resources, and poor coordination within and between agencies.

18. The participants concluded the following.

  • There is a need for human resources development to cope with climate change issues, particularly those pertaining to adaptation strategies.
  • There is an urgent need for information and data relating to climate change and rising sea levels so that informed decisions can be made with respect to adaptation options.
  • There is a serious need for collection, handling, maintaining, storing, and accessing data relating to climate change and rising sea levels in the region.
  • There is a need for local, national and regional institutions and to strengthen them to develop policy and activities pertaining to climate change and rising sea levels.
  • There is a need for local, national, sub-regional, and regional vulnerability assessments and a perceived need for the development of a common methodology with a sub-regional and regional focus.
  • There is a perceived need for a stronger commitment for public awareness and education at all levels, particularly through a process of identifying adaptation strategies.
  • Adaptation policy options should be integrated into national sustainable development policies.
  • Article 4.4 of the UNFCCC is significant when seeking assistance for adaptation measures.

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Regional cooperation on climate change

19. Given the global nature of environmental issues such as climate change, the need for global cooperation was stressed.

20. The participants took note of the regional activities on climate change being undertaken by UNDP, ESCAP, SPREP, the University of the South Pacific (USP), South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC), and others. It was agreed that such regional activities should be continued and strengthened. The participants welcomed the initiative of ESCAP on development of the proposed regional network on climate change and suggested that it be coordinated with other initiatives such as the annual Asia Pacific Seminar on Climate Change. It was emphasized that national and regional technical institutions should be involved to the extent possible in such activities.

21. The participants agreed that the crucial areas for regional cooperation include capacity building and human resources development, research projects to assess regional and sub-regional vulnerability, monitoring of rising sea levels, preparation of regional and/or sub-regional data bases on climate change, and transfer of environmentally sound technologies. Taking into account existing efforts and information, a directory detailing availability and accessibility of environmentally sound technologies should be prepared on a priority basis.

22. Recognizing that various other initiatives relating to climate change are currently underway in this region, the participants stressed the need for stocktaking of activities relating to climate change, to avoid duplication with other initiatives and to make best use of scarce resources. It was pointed out that for regional activities, existing regional organizations should be used to the extent possible.

23. Besides activities by national governments and by regional and international organizations, it was felt that local governments could also play a vital role in promoting regional cooperation. The participants expressed appreciation for the climate action plans of Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Yamanashi Prefectural Government of Japan.

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Activities implemented jointly AIJ

24. The participants reviewed the conclusions of the Workshop on Transfer of Environmentally Sound Technologies and Activities Implemented Jointly (AIJ). They also recognized that AIJ projects are voluntary for the Parties to UNFCCC. Some participants expressed their interest in identifying and implementing AIJ projects, indicating that feasibility studies are needed before proceeding to AIJ investment projects. It was pointed out that technical support for AIJ projects is vital.

25. Baseline emissions calculations, and long-term tracking of actual greenhouse gas reductions, and other methodological issues need to be further elaborated. Methodologies to evaluate the results of AIJ projects also need to be developed.

26. The participants emphasized the importance of developing an institutional framework for AIJ in both developed and developing countries. Countries should encourage independent verification of these projects. It was emphasized that endogenous capacity building and technology transfer to host countries are helpful for preparing and implementing AIJ projects. The participants also recognized that, to promote AIJ projects, better understanding among the relevant government agencies and awareness in both public and private sectors would be essential.

27. The participants appreciated the initiative of the Government of Japan to host the Third Conference of the Parties of UNFCCC. They also welcomed the offer of the Yamanashi Prefectural Government of Japan to host the Seventh Asia Pacific Seminar on Climate Change sometime during the summer of 1997.

Suva, November 8, 1996

Tuiloma Neroni Slade
Chairperson
The Sixth Asia-Pacific Seminar on Climate Change
Ambassador and Permanent Representative
of Samoa to the United Nations
Vice-chairman of AOSIS

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