From the Representative: How the “Capacity to Adapt to Climate Change” is enhanced?*

01 Dec 2011

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It has been 66 years since the spirit of international collaboration and the global commitment towards eradicating the problems that blight the world led to the formation of the United Nations.

New Horizons - Since then the complexion of the challenges and the problems we face, have changed massively:

66 years ago there was hardly any mention of the climate change, today it is a global debate and a mounting threat beyond borders that concern us all.

Global temperatures now average 0.75 degrees Celsius higher than at the beginning of the 20th century.  Some of the largest increases are in already hot parts of developing countries.

Unbridled human activity is aggravating the situation further: burning fossil fuels, cutting forest, which increases carbon emissions.

The average sea level has risen 20 centimeters since 1870 with progressive acceleration in the rate of change. For small island states, this is indeed devastating.

The likelihood of natural disasters, such as droughts, storms and floods has almost doubled over the last 25 years and its deleterious impact is highest in low and medium income countries.

Loss of forest cover threatens livelihoods and biodiversity. Environmental trends over recent decades show deterioration on several fronts, especially for the millions of people who depend directly on natural resources for their livelihoods and are living in the marginal and fragile eco-systems.

There is no simple choice

The scientific evidence is abundant and unequivocal: there is an urgent need to act now to save especially the poorest and the most vulnerable segments.

Integrating what we do on climate and broader environment issues with what we do on development is essential.

There is no simple choice to be made between fostering growth and development or protecting our climate and ecosystems. 

Both objectives are essential and could be pursued as fully compatible and complimentary.

What is required is a concerted collective action within an effective multilateral system to develop a recipe which blends the livelihood needs of the poorest with the integrity of the ecosystems of our planet.

Indeed,  beyond the Millennium Development Goals, the world needs a post-2015 development framework that reflects equity and sustainability; Rio+20 stands out as a key opportunity to reach a shared understanding of how to move forward.

Climate change is a development issue

Unsustainable development, in the past and the present, is its root cause; only sustainable development can confront the challenge.

It was precisely in recognition of this daunting challenge that the UN Joint Programme on “Enhancing the Capacity of Turkey to Adapt to Climate Change” was first launched.

No one would have imagined that this joint initiative between the Turkish Government and United Nations would lead to a treasure of groundbreaking experience.

Through the dedicated works of all national partners from public institutions to the private sector and from NGOs to academia, Turkey now has a National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy but the Joint Programme is not just about policies and strategies. It genuinely touched people’s lives.

Eco-efficiency pilot projects and the climate change adaptation Grants Programme acquainted the local communities with a better understanding of their environment and fostered innovative approaches for adaptation to the changing climate.

These communities now can deal with their vulnerabilities better and increase their resilience much more than ever before.

The fight against climate change requires dedicated resources and human capital, unswerving political leadership and the strongest possible partnerships among all who can contribute to making a difference.

* Shahid Najam, UNDP Resident Representative in Turkey and UN Resident Coordinator in Turkey