The world’s premier climate change adaptation conference made its way to Africa for the first time this year. Adaptation Futures 2018, held in Cape Town, South Africa brought together over 1300 delegates from around the world under the theme, Dialogues for Solutions, and highlighted adaptation research, practices, and solutions, all against the backdrop of the city’s ongoing water crisis. Government policymakers, businesspeople, non-governmental organisations, researchers, practitioners all made their way to conference, which was co-hosted by the African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI) at UCT. It was fruitful to see adaptation being given such attention in the global arena.
The conference began with learning journeys which introduced participants to pro-environmental and sustainable projects occurring at local sites but linked to relevant global issues, and ended with a master class aimed at helping early researchers and young professionals to navigate the growing world of adaptation. The conference consisted of plenary sessions, that included all delegates, as well as smaller parallel sessions which promoted dialogues amongst the diverse spectrum of delegates. Over 160 participatory sessions were held, and they covered issues mainly related to adaptation research and practice taking place in Africa and other developing countries. Presentations were done in two folds: PowerPoint presentations were done at the sessions, and poster presentations were exhibited for delegates over tea and lunch breaks. At the end of the conference, three posters were chosen to receive the best posters awards.
The opening plenary session set the scene for climate adaptation and development; the second plenary focused on resourcing adaptation and the closing plenary synthesized key issues emerging from the conference to feed into the agenda for the next Adaptation Futures in 2020.
Among the richness of the plenaries and special sessions, what struck me most at the conference was a speech made by a local Ugandan farmer during a plenary discussion. He called for adaptation finance to be made far more accessible to small-holder farmers, as they are often marginalized when it comes to receiving funding.
“They are always telling us that money is being made available…but they are just hanging up there. We don’t get to see it. It is only the big farmers that benefit from this.”
He stressed the need to have two different financing schemes: one for large-scale commercial farmers and another for small-holder farmers. The farmer was applauded for his speech, and it is hoped that in subsequent conferences, a representative like the local farmer will form part of the panel for discussion.
Aside from the dialogues that were held, there were also other extra fun activities. On Tuesday evening, the cheese and wine reception exposed delegates and participants to an evening of networking, informal dialoguing, and a wind down from the day’s work.
On the Wednesday evening, the conference dinner was held at the prestigious Gold Restaurant in Green Point. From a warm reception at the entrance from staff fully attired in African outfits, to the wide variety of delicious African dishes served, and the outstanding dance performances, the night was total bliss, and no doubt rejuvenated delegates for the rest of the conference.
In terms of practicing what is being preached, Adaptation Futures 2018 offered delegates and participants the option to offset their carbon footprint from travel to and from the event. The carbon offsetting was done through a South African carbon registry, and participants could choose to pay for their carbon footprint. Additionally, the transport service used at the conference was offered by Green cabs service, an environmentally friendly transport service. Lastly, all meals served at the conference were vegetarian, to help counteract the enormous carbon emissions from meat production. All in all, delegates expressed satisfaction with the experience, and a renewed sense of purpose to succeed in the coming years.