Climate change impacts in mountains – COP22


As the implementation of the Paris Agreement was being discussed in Marrakech, Morocco, mountain governments, institutions and NGOs reviewed the needs and mechanisms for addressing the impacts of climate change in mountains globally. Organized within the framework of the Mountain Partnership, the official side event “The impact of climate change in mountain areas: a priority for a global action” was held on 14 November 2016 alongside the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP22).

Opening the side event, moderator Andrew Taber, Executive Director, The Mountain Institute, stressed the vital importance of the world’s mountains for providing essential ecosystem services and the high vulnerability of their ecosystems and peoples to the impacts of climate change. He said mountains are among the hardest hit by climate change, and currently one in three mountain people in developing countries are vulnerable to food insecurity. He noted that although the problems related to mountains and climate change are grim, they are solvable, and he highlighted mountains are recognized in 48 Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) and three targets under two Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Petteri Taalas, Secretary General, World Meteorological Organization (WMO), noted the decision-making board of the WMO made “Polar and High Mountain Regions” one of their seven priority areas for 2016-2019. He underlined how climate change is happening at a higher speed in mountain areas due to the amplifying effect of melting snow and ice. He said not only do melting and retreating mountain glaciers effect water resource availability and regularity, they also pose the risk of natural hazards. Taalas stressed adaptation measures are possible, such as building water reservoirs. The WMO Executive Council Panel of Experts on Polar and High Mountain Observation, Research and Services is also producing a white paper on adaptation and resilience.

Carles Miquel, UNFCCC Focal Point, Andorra, followed Taalas’s presentation highlighting the peculiarities of European massifs in the context of climate change.  He introduced Idoia Arauzo, Coordinator, Pyrenees Climate Change Observatory, who detailed the climate data collected from observatories in the Pyrenees, Alps and Carpathian mountain ranges. They have observed an increase in temperature of 0.2 °C in the Pyrenees Mountains over the last ten years, and 2 °C in the Alps and 1.6 °C in the Carpathian Mountains over the last century. Returning to Miquel, he called for increasing the visibility of mountains within the frameworks of the next Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change special reports.

Farzana Altaf Shah, Director General, Pakistan Environment Protection Agency, introduced the documentary “Living with Change” about the geomorphology and climatic condition of Pakistan, from its mountains to its desert areas. The portion played featured mountain peoples living in fragile ecosystems experiencing the stress of untimely snowfalls and lowland districts experiencing devastating floods. She invited participants to watch the full documentary on display in the Pakistan Pavilion.

Camila Rodriguez Vargas, Advisor, Directorate on Climate Change of the Ministry of Environment in Colombia, described three of Colombia’s climate change adaptation and mitigation projects. She said 8 million people living in the Bogotá-Cundinamarco capital region Bogotá rely on freshwater resources from high mountain wetland areas in the páramos. She noted the importance of local communities for sustainably implementing the institutional frameworks of the projects that have been devised to restore and conserve fragile ecosystems. She invited participants to join for the International Summit on Páramos on 6-7 December 2016 in Colombia.

Grammenos Mastrojeni, Embassy Councillor, Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, highlighted how the 2030 Agenda provides a new way of thinking about development. He explained how the SDG table looks like a mathematical matrix, where function connect each SDG to the other. He noted how all of the SDGs are interconnected, therefore financial resources must be allocated between objectives to balance all parts of the system. He noted how sound mountain ecosystems have been shaped by human presence and how mountain peoples have developed experience and wisdom that will be critical for achieving the SDGs.

The final speaker Martin Frick, Director of Climate, Energy and Tenure Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), reiterated the importance of systems thinking and the interdependence of the SDGs. He highly recommended pushing for language on mountains in the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) conclusion for agriculture, which is in negotiation. He declared farmers and mountain farmers worldwide are the key agents to keep global ecosystems working, and the best adaptation measures are those that work in synergy with nature.

In the discussion that followed, participants considered the need for genetic diversity in sustainable mountain agriculture and utilizing indigenous knowledge for adaptation.

This event was convened by the Governments of Andorra and Pakistan and The Mountain Institute and co-organized by the Mountain Partnership Secretariat.

See event programme 

Watch the event 

See flickr album 

Photo: The Mountain Institute

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