Reflections on Adaptation Futures 2018
I'm back at my desk following a very enjoyable week in Cape Town for Adaptation Futures 2018. It'll take a while to fully digest the week, but I thought I'd put down a few initial thoughts (in part inspired by good piece by Johanna Nalau!)
1) There's an enormous amount of work being done in the name of adaptation and resilience! There were around 1200 people at Adaptation Futures, and around 50 sessions a day, ranging from very local case studies to broad reflections on the direction of the field. But, missing in all of this were representatives from business and the private sector. While there were several sessions exploring private sector adaptation (ourselves included), there were very few delegates attending or presenting based in the private sector, with the result that at times it felt like we were talking 'about the private sector, to the private sector, but not with the private sector'. While we can bemoan the lack of private sector attendees at our conference, we also need to pause and ask ourselves when was the last time we attended a water sector conference, or an agri-business expo, or an impact investing summit? If we're serious about engaging beyond our own friendly community then these are the events we also need to be going to.
2) This felt to me like the 'Year of Climate Services'. It would have been more than possible to jump from session to session and only attend talks on climate services in one form or another. From technical and data aspects to a focus on collaboration and co-production, climate services were everywhere in the programme. The focus on the delivery usable climate information with practical applications is welcome, and I think there's going to be a huge amount of learning on this before the next Adaptation Futures in 2020. Of particular interest to me are how we assess the effectiveness of different climate services, and how we design services which are financially sustainable over the long-term.
3) Data, data everywhere, but not a space to think? I'm a bit of a data junky by nature, and I find the proliferation of free-to-use environmental datasets and data portals very exciting, so I sat in on a couple of more data-focussed sessions. There are, however, a couple of really big questions we need to think about if the data that's being made available is actually to be useful. First, as we make more and more data accessible, and very easy to use, how do we communicate the uncertainties, caveats and limitations that are inherent in all datasets? What responsibilities do data providers have for (potentially bad) decisions taken as a result of misunderstanding the data products provided? And second, exactly what are the use cases for some of these datasets? What are the decisions where finer resolution data, or a new satellite dataset really make a difference to the decision-process? At times last week it felt like the conversation was being driven by the fact that we can provide data, rather than a real need – data in search of an application, rather than targeted data to support a specific decision. I'm still processing some of this, but will try to write a more structured piece in the next few weeks!
4) Continuing their rise up the adaptation agenda, there was also a significant focus on measuring, monitoring and evaluating adaptation and resilience, and ecosystem-based adaptation/nature-based solutions. I'd suggest heading over to Johanna's blog for more reflections on measuring impact, but would also note, for anyone who's interested, that there's a call for papers currently open for a Measuring Resilience conference in New Orleans in November.
Overall, I feel inspired and refreshed from a week full of interesting people doing great things, and I'm already looking forward to next year's European Conference on Climate Change in Lisbon!