TAKING STOCK OF ADAPTATION PROGRAMS IN THE ARCTIC. May 2013.
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The impacts of climate change and other changes in the Arctic are occurring at a rapid pace and indigenous peoples, residents, governments and industry require information and tools to respond. In recognition of this reality, the Arctic Council adopted a new initiative, “Adaption Actions for a Changing Arctic”. “Taking Stock of Adaptation Programs in the Arctic” represents one element (Component B) of this larger initiative. “Taking Stock of Adaptation Programs in the Arctic” focused on climate change adaptation activities that are being implemented at national, sub-national, regional and local levels within the Arctic region. The primary means to collect information for this project was by a written survey using a template that included a mix of open-ended and multiple choice questions. The information provided in survey templates was supplemented by follow-up consultations with Arctic Council state and Permanent Participant project representatives identified for the project. The analysis of the information gathered provides a “snapshot” of a range of adaptation activities that are occurring in the Arctic region and has allowed for the elaboration of a number of descriptive factors related to these activities. The intent of the project was not to present a fully representative picture of all Arctic adaptation-related initiatives. The adaptation activities fell into five main categories: planning and decision- support tools; awareness-raising; monitoring and provision of data; training; and, mainstreaming. By far, the majority of the activities were characterized as adaptation enabling and included the development of community adaptation plans, hazard and vulnerability assessments and maps, communications products, monitoring information, and training resources. Many of the activities reflected an immediate need to respond to infrastructure issues. In some Arctic states, the effect of climate warming on permafrost is severely impacting roads, airstrips, buildings and drinking water utilities. In other states, the concerns focused on infrastructure risk due to coastal erosion and flooding because of sea level rise and storm surges. An objective to support traditional lifestyles was a cross-cutting theme in many activities. The disruption of subsistence economies, including hunting, fishing, and animal husbandry has motivated the implementation of adaptation measures. Local and traditional knowledge was noted as central to understanding the changes that are occurring in Arctic communities and for developing appropriate responses. At the same time, it was recognized that the uncertainty surrounding some changes means reliance on traditional knowledge is not always sufficient and it is the integration with scientific research that is key. The presence of partnerships was an overwhelming component of the adaptation activities reported for this project. Partners included all levels of government, indigenous groups, civil society organizations, academic or research bodies, industry and community members. In addition, a number of activities involved multi- national collaboration. Consequently, positive and effective partnership arrangements were commonly cited as fundamental to the success of an initiative. Respondents provided perspectives on the challenges faced in implementing adaptation activities. Many challenges revolved around practical issues like lack of funding, capacity, expertise, and data. Other challenges related to aspects of communication, for example, developing a common vision among many stakeholders; making scientific and technical information meaningful to practitioners; and, convincing decision-makers of the need for action in the face of competing priorities. A common theme throughout this project was the demand for more information about adaptation in the Arctic. This ranged from a desire to learn the details about how a specific measure was implemented, to having greater access to expertise and tools, to gaining knowledge from others’ experience in overcoming barriers and lessons-learned. The Arctic Council produces valuable scientific and other research that contributes to adaptation planning and implementation. The Arctic Council could also play an important role by further facilitating the exchange of information and expertise about adaptation measures between Arctic Council states and organizations for decision-makers at all levels. This report presents a number of considerations for future adaptation-related initiatives by the Arctic Council that would support such a role.
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