Plenary Tuesday


The largest-ever conference on adapting to climate change

“You are the best and the brightest—the crème de la crème.” With those flattering words, moderator Vivienne Parry today welcomed about 1.700 attendees from over 100 countries to Adaptation Futures 2016, the biggest conference ever held on adapting to climate change.

The ambitions of this conference are high - because the stakes could not be higher. And that means that organisers kept to the highest standards in making their selections. Thus, out of more than 1.100 abstracts and 200 session proposals, only 155 sessions were selected for the wide-ranging conference programme, which groups seven themes and three mutually intersecting issues.  “We are already a trending topic on Twitter in Holland - and we want this to go worldwide!” added Parry.

In her own address, Dutch Minister for Infrastructure and the Environment Melanie Schultz van Haegen also took the larger view: “Responding to big changes is one thing”, she said. “But we have to stay ahead. We have to make economies and countries resilient. For every dollar we spend on prevention, we save seven on clearing the debris after a disaster.”

Schultz van Haegen noted that, thanks to the Paris agreement, adaptation is higher on the agenda than it was before. But she also cautioned such changes need to translate into concrete results. “Now we urgently need action. We need thinkers and doers. Practical solutions.” She gave an example of a floating school in a Nigerian lagoon. “The school moves with the changes in the tide, and makes education possible for hundreds of children, That is an inspiration for the local community.”
Schultz van Haegen ended her address by laying down a challenge, which was addressed as much to those in the larger community as to those gathered: “With adaptation, we need to combine the love of science with the recklessness of the entrepreneur.”
For his part, Robert-Jan Smits, Director-General of DG Research and Innovation at the European Commission, noted that storms and hurricanes not only wreaking destructin and havoc on communities around the world, but costing 250 to 300 billion dollars a year. “By 2050 this will be trillions”. Even as he insisted that CO2 emissions would have to be reduced, he noted that that “greenhouse gases will continue to act in the atmosphere for centuries.” Like Minister Schultz van Haegen, he also focused on the practical: “We are in urgent need of solutions to move forward, we need to adapt. We need to start new adaptation partnerships between science, businesses and governments—and this meeting gives us possibilities”.

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), today received the Royal recognition Officer in the Order of Oranje Nassau,  gave a powerful speech that focused on women and men who want to have a future for their children. “Think about the women, men and children. Think about the individuals. Because that is where we need to make a difference.  The question that we need to wake up to every morning is: have we made the life of these people any easier and more livable? That is what we need to answer, that is what adaptation is about.”

Last speaker of the plenary was Roger Pulwarty: “Stop thinking about what might happen, and look at was is happening! There is a strong risk that we will underestimate the consequences of climate change. Everything the people in this room are doing can make a difference. The most fundamental question is not: What do we need to do? It is: What are we doing?”

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Kick off conference  (video)   

Welcome by the hosts (video)

  • Melanie Schultz van Haegen, Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment, the Netherlands (presentation)
  • Robert-Jan Smits, Director-General for Research and Innovation, European Commission
  • Ibrahim Thiaw, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme (presentation)

Setting the scene for practices and solutions

  • Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (video)
  • Roger Pulwarty, Senior Advisor for Climate Research, and, Director of the National Integrated Drought Information System, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), USA (video) (presentation)

Where will we go, a short film of Kadir van Lohuizen, the Netherlands (video)

Panel (video)

  • Debra Roberts, eThekwini Municipality, Durban, South Africa, and IPCC Working Group II
  • John Firth, Acclimatise, United Kingdom
  • Christiana Figueres, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
  • Roger Pulwarty, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), USA
  • Mark Watts, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, USA