2015 Global Landscapes Forum: Thelma Krug – Keynote

Vice-Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Thelma Krug, speaks at the high-level plenary session from the second day of the Global Landscapes Forum 2015, in Paris, France alongside COP21.

The session builds a bridge between the research and policy communities, focusing on the role landscapes play in achieving SDGs and new climate goals. The session explores how useful the landscape approach is for achieving the new climate and development goals, provides concrete suggestions for policy and practice, asks how climate action in landscapes work, how we analyze changes over time, and how policymakers and their institutions acquire “environmental intelligence”.

Thelma Krug speaks about climate-resilient pathways and stresses the need for more research to support the integration of climate change mitigation, adaptation and sustainable development policies.

Sunday, 6 December 2015
Global Landscapes Forum, Paris, France
#GLFCOP21 #ThinkLandscape


Those of you who know me know that I’m very undisciplined in terms of time.

And now I’m wearing a different hat, which is putting an additional burden on me in a good sense. Because I am IPCC vice-chair, so I have a very little degree of freedom to talk about too many other things. And this is why my presentation is a little bit different from the previous ones. I was very happy to see that both of them addressed Brazil, and I wouldn’t have done as well as they did, as a Brazilian.

What I’m going to present is, as a matter of fact, difficult for me because I’m going to have to read through, is a compilation of 15 kilograms of literature that was produced by the IPCC in its last assessment report, which was carried out in 2013 and 2014. I tried to pull out of this 15 kilograms, this pile, elements that I thought I could bring here in a more general way.

The title provided was Local Knowledge for Climate and Development Goals, but obviously I think I’m going to go through different ways of introducing this as well. Since my hat here, as I say, is IPCC, I will limit my considerations here to the findings of the IPCC. One of the high confidence messages from the mitigation working group of the IPCC – the IPCC works with three working groups in its structure.

There is the physical science basis of climate change as Group One. And then Group Two works with vulnerabilities, adaptation and impacts. And finally Group Three works with mitigation. So I try to pull, as I said, from these three my presentation here, which is limited to seven minutes and on the background Jeff gave me one minute more so I’ll try to do that.

One of the high confidence – again, let me stop here. IPCC doesn’t carry out research. It pulls together the up-to-date scientific knowledge, normally from peer-reviewed literature. It tries to put together different views as well, and also assigns as much as it can probabilities or uncertainty – qualitative assessments. So when it says high confidence, that’s one measure of the uncertainty linked, which in this case is very low.

It says one of the high confidence messages from the mitigation working group is that the effects of climate change added to other stressors, such as poverty, inequality or diseases, will make sustainable development objectives (such as food and livelihoods security, poverty reduction, health, and access to clean water) more difficult to achieve for many locations, systems and effected populations.

In terms of what to do to address climate change and threats to development now and in the future, transformation changes are likely to be required for climate resilient pathways. That is, development trajectories that combine adaptation and mitigation with effective institutions to realize the goal of sustainable development.

The IPCC in the last assessment described four different pathways of emissions – including one that is representative of a scenario that aims to keep global warming below two degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels until the end of this century. A level that was agreed by the negotiators and is normally referred to as the long term target.

So, moving to this pathway will require substantial reductions in emissions in all sectors, as well as adaptation to avoid or minimize the risks of climate change. Scenarios from integrated models suggest the possibility of very different landscapes relative to today, mitigation inducing greater land cover conversion than in the baseline scenarios. So implementation of policies and measures aligned to development and climate objectives can deliver substantial co-benefits and help avoid climate risks in developing countries.

Moderating the impacts of climate change will require a strong foundation in science and technology. But the deployment of science and relevant technologies needs effective institutional arrangements to bolster both adaptation and mitigation demands, and to combine tech knowledge with local knowledge. The role of adaptation, in addition to mitigation, is a crucial one since the maximum two degrees rise in temperature poses risks for people, assets, economies, and ecosystems caused by heat stress, extreme precipitation, inland and coastal flooding, landslides, air pollution, drought, and water scarcity.

The indigenous, local and traditional knowledge systems and practices have not been used consistently in existing adaptation efforts, but could increase the effectiveness of adaptation. IPCC also acknowledges that the salience of indigenous, local and traditional knowledge will be challenged by climate change impacts. Projected changes beyond historical conditions could reduce the reliance on indigenous knowledge, affecting the adaptive capacity of a number of peoples globally.

There are several examples of local knowledge applied to climate change adaptation. Normally, local knowledge based adaptation is focused primarily on the use of traditional knowledge to increase adaptive capacity at the community level. A specific example that I could provide here is for Fiji, where adaptive ecological knowledge was applied when developing the adaptive action related to water supply in addition to enhancing community awareness.

One of the major determinants of popular support for climate policy is whether people have an underlying belief that climate change is dangerous. This concern can be influenced by both cultural factors and the methods of communication. Where a combination of top-down and bottom-up activities have been undertaken, the links between adaptation planning and implementation have been strengthened.

So, in addition to adaptation measures, limiting warming to the two degrees centigrade will require substantial emission reductions, as I said, over the next few decades. Which mitigation activities are available or incentivized has important implications on land conversion. For instance, the payment upon results for REDD+ may stimulate the implementation of several forest-related mitigation activities. And there are studies about their effect on livelihoods and poverty and food and energy security, but experience so far is inadequate to permit generalizations in these regards.

In the majority of low concentrations in areas, the share of low carbon electricity supply comprising renewable energy, nuclear, carbon capture and storage including bioenergy with CO2 carbon in storage, increases from the current share of approximately 30 per cent to more than 80 per cent by 2050.

Assessment of energy technology options will need to include impacts on landscapes, ecological, and social dimensions on accounting for multiple values and on energy distribution and access. The scenarios also suggest a possibly essential role for land. The key sources associated with mitigation being related to the demand for bioenergy, the demand to store carbon in land by reducing deforestation, encouraging afforestation and soil management practices. And also reductions from known CO2 greenhouse gas emissions by changing management practices. All of this may imply significant changes in landscapes.

Because integrating climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation, and sustainable development is a relatively new challenge, research should be a very high priority to inform the strategies and actions. The most salient research need is to improve the understanding of how climate change mitigation and adaptation can be combined with resilient sustainable development pathways in a wide variety of regional and sectoral contexts. As important is research to improve the understanding of how to build social inclusiveness into climate change responses and social values, climate justice, participation, and how to interact with deployment of mitigation, adaptation interventions, and sustainable development policies in different regions and social and political contexts.

I hope I have brought, as I said, a general vision of the importance of local knowledge, indigenous knowledge as well. And with this I complete my presentation. Thank you so much.