The need for action

 

“Addressing climate change is an opportunity for the territories to build resilience in the face of the inherent vulnerabilities associated with their size and natural features...”

 

Hazard, vulnerability and risk UKOTs ought to assume that future climate impacts will be more severe than anything experienced to date. The scope of the problem, the challenge of reaching global consensus, the uncertainty of future projections becoming reality, the question about how much change is due to natural variability and how much is human-induced, and the very practical issue of cost should not be barriers to taking decisive action now.  No matter what the scenario for the future of greenhouse gas emissions, change is already underway. The big question is, can countries and citizens afford to do nothing in the face of inexorable changes in climate patterns?  It is only with hindsight that we will have conclusive evidence, but by then it could be too late.  People and the environment will already be confronted with the consequences of changed conditions. Taking action now to cap greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for climate change impacts will be less costly and more effective than remedial measures in the future.

 

Although climate change and its impacts may seem daunting, there are things UKOTs can do about them in their local context. Addressing climate change is an opportunity for the territories to build resilience  in the face of the inherent vulnerabilities associated with their size and natural features, in addition to adapting to changing climate conditions. It is also an opportunity for these countries to take measures to stem future impacts as part of a strategy of moving towards what former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has referred to as  “safer, sounder models of development” (Annan, 2006). UKOTs have the potential to be models of climate change adaptation for the rest of the world.

 

The Triple dividend, a win-win situation - Source UNEP Finance Initiative, 2006A ‘win – win’ proposition

Adaptation can be a ‘win-win’ situation for UKOTs. Targeted actions  designed to address current issues such as the need for effective biodiversity conservation and the reduction of vulnerability to climatic events (for example, droughts, storms, floods) are the first steps in the climate change adaptation process.   This approach is based on the premise that if a country or community is not fully able to cope with current climatic conditions, it cannot expect to effectively adapt to future changes in climate. Any commitment or investment in current needs therefore eliminates the question of whether to invest in current needs or climate change adaptation.