Adaptation to climate change

Climate change has for decades been a challenge facing the world globally. Various solutions are used, depending on specific needs, possibilities and characteristics. In principal, climate change adaptation includes measures which can be implemented by: states, local governments, companies, organisations, and individuals.

Some adaptation best practices can be:

  • Building anti-flooding dams respecting the expected changes in intense precipitation;
  • Building flash flood barriers, along with anti-erosion works within water sheds taking into consideration the expected intensity of precipitation in the future;
  • Sustainable energy generation respecting reduced water availability;
  • Integrating expected future disaster and climate change risks, particularly strong precipitation, temperature extremes, into designing infrastructure (roads, railroads, anti-flooding dams, irrigation systems, residential and other buildings, sewerage systems, rainwater drainage), as well as selection of materials and construction techniques;
  • Amending construction standards in a way which takes climate change into consideration (ex. Increased thickness of layers when constructing roads and adjusting drainage/sewerage systems on roads affected by high rainfall over short periods of time);
  • Establishing early warning systems for weather and natural disasters, particularly heat waves;
  • Substitution farming crops and cultures with ones more resilient to high temperatures and droughts;
  • Afforestation with species capable of sustaining the expected climate changes;
  • Changes and amendments in the planning methods, integrating the adaptation needs in the spatial plan of the Republic of Serbia, but also the existing legislation.

In other words, for adaptation to be successful, activities, processes and plans should be developed and implemented taking into consideration the expected climate change. Thus, adaptation to climate change is a familiar term, but a new concept!

Adaptation implies changes in processes, practices and structures in a way which ensures reduction of potential damages or benefits from impacts of climate change. In other words, adaptation means identifying options and implementing actions which would ensure adequate response to the already present and the expected future climate changes.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement define adaptation as a global challenge, which requires integration of socio-economic and environmental policies. Moreover, the Paris Agreement for the first time equals the need for adaptation with the need to reduce greenhouse gasses emissions (mitigation). Thus, the Green Climate Fund, as an international fund aimed at achieving the objectives of the Paris Agreement, should ensure the same level of funding for adaptation and mitigation. One of the key steps in identifying adaptation needs is the development of the National Adaptation Plan/Programme.

The success of adaptation depends on the involvement of stakeholders and their active engagement in developing and implementing adaptation measures. The efficiency of adaptation, on the other hand, depends also on the quality and detail of vulnerability assessments which, in turn, requires available, high-quality and long sets of data, as well as capacities for vulnerability assessment now and in the future. In principle, delaying interventions contributing to adaptation make adaptation more costly and more difficult to achieve.

Vulnerability assessment implies the evaluation of the level and manner in which climate change exerts impact on: natural systems and economic sectors (ex. Reduced agricultural production and reduced food supply security, and consequences of changed water availability) and society (ex. Spreading of disease as consequence of rising temperatures).

So far in Serbia the vulnerability of certain economic sectors has been identifies through: reduction and annual fluctuations in yields, changed calendar of farming operations, changes in annual, monthly and daily river flows, drying up and forest fires, change in the spread and occurrence of pests and diseases. Damages caused by natural disasters exceed USD 7 billion over the past 20 years. Additionally, this is conservative minimum amount, due to lack and poor quality of data on damages and losses.

This amount could be many times lower if adaptation planning started in the 1990’s. presently, it is imperative to make adaptation planning coincide with implementing adaptation, in order to reduce future damages and losses.