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Advancing the knowledge and practice of climate services for climate resilience - ICCS6

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Our Knowledge Innovations & Management Officer, Jacob Myers, recently attended the International Conference on Climate Services (ICCS6), read about his trip below:

I recently attended the International Conference on Climate Services (ICCS6) in Pune, India. Organised and run by the Climate Services Partnership, I joined more than 200 people from 22 different countries representing multiple institutional areas including government, policy, research, NGOs and think tanks to take stock of current climate service practice.

Ana Bucher, Archana Shukla, Filipe Lucio and Rupakumar Kolli on the Synthesis Panel

Themed ‘advancing the knowledge and practice of climate services for climate resilience’, the conference was very relevant for The Walker Institute whose research projects address the many complexities surrounding this topic. As the Knowledge & Innovations Management Officer for The Walker Institute, my role at the conference was firstly to absorb the current findings, best practices, knowledge gaps and identify the future direction and priorities of climate services. To capitalise on gathering these insights, I had a number of 1:1 discussions with the sector’s leading experts where I got a chance to ask them the tough questions such as what strategies have organisations used to sustain long term inter-governmental collaboration. Secondly, my role was to highlight the work we do at the Walker Institute with our numerous partners on climate service projects such as RAINWATCH, BRAVE, NIMFRU, ASPIRE and IDAPS

This was my first solo conference on behalf of the Walker Institute, an eye-opening and rewarding experience, making me acutely aware of the key challenges facing climate services and absorbing all the knowledge I could throughout the conference. Being part of the BRAVE and NIMFRU projects for the last year, along with supporting RAINWATCH activities, I have worked closely with climate service providers, but not directly, so I was excited to speak in person with others in the field and hear their experiences.

This conference was spread over three days with a full schedule of presentations, side events and workshops. From discussing the commercialisation of climate services, heatwaves and climate services, co-production through to the interrogation of the ethics of climate services, it was a truly interdisciplinary conference. I identified several key challenges, and therefore, priorities for climate services that came out of the conference, centred on the following aspects:

  • Capacity building on the types and use of climate information
  • Privatisation (PPP)
  • Co-production of climate services
  • Socio-economic information in climate services
  • Interdisciplinary & Intergovernmental collaboration
  • Communicating climate services & ‘reaching the last mile’

I attended a very awakening talk, presented by Dr Atiq Rahman, which showed that, if the sea level were to rise by 1m in Bangladesh (IPCC, 2013), Dhaka, along with all coastal areas would be submerged (shown in the image below). It is this type of image that everyone needs to see, clearly illustrating the gravity of the scenario, communicated in an easily understood format that could not be ignored.

Dr Sanjay Srivastava of UNESCAP also shared some fascinating findings from a recent report on the The Disaster Riskscape Across Asia-Pacific, that dissected the social and demographic impacts of climate change and vulnerability. He noted that the region loses around $675bn per annuum to disasters, 85% of which are climate related losses. I absorbed so much new information during the conference, from the huge range of data tools and early warning systems ICIMOD have created, to the wide-ranging activities under the ARRCC project. We look forward to sharing the conference report in due course.

During the conference, it struck me what amazing work the Walker Institute has been carrying out around some of the key issues raised at the conference. For example, integrating Household and livelihoods information, using the Household Economy Approach, to better understand the socio-economic and livelihood context in the Katakwi district of Uganda (NIMFRU project), to better target flood forecasting and disaster management interventions. NIMFRU can clearly support the call for the need to integrate socio-economic information into climate services. Co-producing radio broadcasts, RAINWATCH bulletins, and Scenario Futures in BRAVE are direct examples of how effective co-produced climate services can be. Training and working collaboratively across 15 countries as part of RAINWATCH supports the cry for integrated capacity building and understanding of governmental needs to improve climate service information dissemination. I wanted to shout it from the stage but I found that spreading the word through 1:1 conversations was sufficient!

I was fortunate enough to get a few days of annual leave prior to the conference, giving me the opportunity to see more of the city than the four walls of the conference centre and take advantage of travelling all the way to India. Pune, the host city, is just a couple hours journey from Mumbai, but feels completely different to the big city buzz. It is still a busy city, with beautiful food vendors and restaurants galore which, despite my best efforts, I only managed to sample a handful of. It was truly a green city, with the urban centre set against rivers and intense greenery.

One thing that jumped out at me almost immediately, was the widespread awareness of climate change and social issues facing the Indian population. On every free wall, building and bridge there are murals and statements about climate change, child slavery, waste and others. In the hotels, new policies to reduce the amount of, in my opinion, unnecessary laundry and cleaning are posted in every room. The visible pollution in Pune is a daily reminder for people about the impact of greenhouse gases, with most motorists wearing air pollution masks. Of course in the UK, we also have a wide awareness, however, unlike India and other countries around the world, we are not experiencing the impacts of climate change in our everyday lives in quite the same way, and, fortunately, we have more resilience to respond to the impacts we face. Yes, a delayed tube due to an XR strike can be inconvenient, but have most of us ever had to work in 45C heat?

This image, miraculously snapped driving over a bumpy bridge on a rickshaw, with the 5 Star Westin Hotel on the right juxtaposed against a heavily polluted river and “No Nature, No Future” is one of my favourite pictures from the trip.

I would like to the thank the organisers of the conference for creating the space for such rich discussion and collaboration, the Indian Institute of Tropical Medicine for hosting us on their beautiful grounds for the week and of course The Walker Institute for giving me this opportunity and sending me on behalf of the Institute. It was a very productive conference, identifying key challenges and priorities moving forward that the entire climate services community can mobilise around. I am pleased that the Walker Institute is already well on its way in achieving some of the key challenges laid out in this conference.

‘While the institutions that support our community have and will continue to change, we as a group remain committed to coming together to share knowledge and experience, learn from each other and speed our path to a more climate-resilient future.’

                Closing statement, ICCS6, Feb 2020

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