Q: Is Myanmar vulnerable to climate change?
A: Myanmar is highly vulnerable to climate change: the latest updates in the Global Risk Index confirm the country ranks in second place, globally, in terms of vulnerability from extreme weather events related to climate change, in the 1991-2013 period.
This is a serious threat to the sustainable development of the country. Myanmar is committed to reduce its vulnerability and to play its role in the global community to combat climate change.
Q: Why is Myanmar vulnerable?
A: Myanmar’s wealth, economy, and society are defined by and highly dependent on its environment, natural resources, climatic conditions and the health of its eco-system. Also, because of its geographic location and geo-morphology, Myanmar is regularly exposed to a series of natural events with potentially negative impacts. These events may be exacerbated by the changing climate, which can also have an effect on, for instance, seasons and rain patterns, and consequently on agriculture, the availability and quality of the water resources, the bio-diversity or the eco-system as a whole.
So not only life and assets are at risk of sudden, extreme events (remember Cyclone Nargis in 2008 was responsible for an estimated loss of 140,000 lives as well as the property of approximately 2.4 million people) but also the production and sources of livelihoods, the economy and the very well-being of the Myanmar’s people are threatened.
More specifically, Myanmar is exposed to a number of severe climatic events, including cyclones, floods, heavy rains, droughts, extreme temperatures), which are becoming more frequent and more severe with the changing climate;
Secondly, the population and assets are largely exposed to these events because of their location in coastal areas, in the delta areas or in the dry zone areas: most of the 51.2 million population, according to the 2014 Census live in climate change exposed areas. These areas include the Delta , which experiences tropical storms, cyclones and floods, storm surge, erosion and the Dry Zone area, which suffers from chronic droughts, but can also experience flooding);
Thirdly, because the capacities of its people, assets, institutions and policies to prevent or mitigate the effects of climate change are still limited and needs to be strengthened, considering the severity of the events.
Climate change is making the challenges more acute on the one hand, in the last 6 decades, we have observed more frequent and more severe events (for instance Cyclone Nargis in 2008, but also other disasters); the predictability of the rainy periods has diminished (Myanmar history, economy and traditions are related to its monsoon season, which are now changing, and so will have to change the agricultural seasons and practices). If the projections at global level, and at national level (PRECIS Model, NAPA 2012), are confirmed, we may experience an increase in temperature across the country; increase in clear sky days exacerbating drought periods; further change in the rainfall patterns and amount; increase in risk of floods resulting from a late onset and early withdrawal of monsoon events; and a further increase in the number and intensity of cyclones, strong winds, floods, storm surges, intense rains, extreme high temperatures, and sea-level rise.
On the other hand, these changes may also bring other consequences and effects, such sea-level rise, consequent threats to the coastal areas, salinization, snow-melt in the mountains, soil erosion and degradation, effects on bio-diversity and disruption of eco-systems. With more severe natural hazards, changes in climate with the consequences described above, and low capacities for adaptation, Myanmar is likely to be even more vulnerable in the future. Action must be taken.
Q: What are some examples of consequences of climate change?
A: The impacts and effects are numerous and interrelated. One apparently minor change in climate with a direct effect on a natural condition, may carry significant consequences in other sectors, with profound changes and impacts in the long term.
The problem is that sometimes these changes take place slowly or silently, and our immediate needs are prioritized over longer-term considerations. This is not a sustainable behaviour.
The following examples (which are not exhaustive) are taken from the National Adaptation Plan for Action (NAPA) for Myanmar, approved in 2012:
Human Settlements and Coastal Zones
Energy, Infrastructure and Industry
Q: Is there a single actor responsible to address Climate Change in Myanmar?
A: No, there is not. Because addressing climate change has an impact on so many sectors of our society, and because what we do in different sectors has an impact on environment and climate, addressing climate change requires the proactive engagement of all sectors and a great number of institutions in society.
The Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry (MoECAF) has taken the lead, along with the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development, in a number of activities related to climate change. MoECAF will continue to champion these issues and be a reference at the national and international level on these issues. Other ministries have taken action to address climate change in their respective areas. The Ministry of Agriculture, for instance, has made advances on practices and options to adapt agricultural models to a changing climate.
But an alliance is needed, or a partnership at national and international level, between and within the national and sub-national institutions and sectors, civil society, the private sector, the society and the support of the development partners.
Q: Does addressing climate change require an inclusive process?
A: Yes, this will require a process involving action in many areas, sustained by political and technical decisions. There are things which are under our control (for example the decisions we take on land-use, or on the energy model, or in the consumption behaviour of our society) and others (such as the emissions produced by larger countries) that are not under our control, but we can sit at the table of global negotiations and have our voice heard. Capacities will need to be improved, and finance will be required to this end.
At global level, according to the evidence reported in the preparation of the new Sustainable Development Goals: “achieving such a deep transformation of the energy, industrial, and agricultural systems over the next few decades will represent one of the greatest technical, organizational, and financing challenges that humanity has faced. A complex and interconnected set of policies will be needed to drive this transformation, including research and development of new technologies; support for technology transfer to developing countries; adequate market pricing of energy, including an end to fossil-fuel subsidies; and a social price on carbon (such as a carbon tax) that reflects the external damages caused by CO2 emissions”. (http://unsdsn.org/resources/goals-and-targets/goal-8-curb-human-induced-climate-change-and-ensure-sustainable-energy/)
But the work must be done, because too much is at stake, especially for a country like Myanmar, which owes so much to the quality of its environment and management of natural resources.
There is a need for a vision, concurring actions and plans in the public and private sector, and the support from the global community. For this reason, there is now a Myanmar Climate Change Committee at the ministerial level, which oversees actions on climate change. Also, under the Myanmar Climate Change Alliance Programme, a Technical Working Group has been formed comprising all relevant Ministries, NGOs, Cities , the Private Sector and the Universities. This Group is very active, and mobilizes technical actors in six different areas:
Q: In practice, can you highlight some areas for work?
A: Firstly, there is need for more awareness of the potential consequences of climate change, of the options available to mitigate climate change, and to adapt to present and future changes at all levels, from the decision-makers to the members of communities. There is need for a mobilization that involves all in their respective roles and responsibilities; the national government, policy-makers, decision- makers in the sectors, industry and private investors, consumers and civil society and communities. What are the options for adaptation? What is our role as institutions? What is our role as sectors? What is our role as members of the society? But also, and importantly: what is the risk of not acting? How can my sector be affected by climate change? What are the effects of it on my sources of livelihoods, on production, economy? What are the options to address climate change? NGOs, the UN, development partners and the government can develop awareness materials, campaigns, documentaries and materials to increase this awareness. More studies must be supported and findings shared.
Secondly, there is need for a coherent plan, guidance and coordination among sectors. Myanmar is implementing reforms and is building the necessary policy, strategic and legal instruments to support development, within a democratic environment. With the National Development Plan as the overall framework, there is a need to build all policy and normative instruments to govern climate change actions. And, importantly, we need to develop an overall national strategy and action plans in each key sector, so that we align objectives to promote development while addressing climate change. This involves many sectors, including: agriculture, energy, transport, industry, forestry, water resources, human settlements among others. This is why Myanmar has engaged in the formulation of the National Climate Change Strategy and Sectoral Action Plans. The Strategy should be ready in the first half of 2016. The Strategy will identify the main strengths and weaknesses in each sector and will provide a roadmap and action plan to improve capacities at the central and sectoral levels.
Thirdly, there is need to capitalize and continue testing technical solutions in sectors and programmes that contribute to mitigation and adaptation. Programmes like the REDD+, the Ozone projects, the MCCA Programme, the Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation Programmes conducted by the Government with agencies of the UN and the support from Development Partners are extremely important to Myanmar, which is creating a critical mass of experts and practitioners in these areas. Continuing to develop technical and technological cooperation will be extremely important.
Fourth, Myanmar’s townships, villages, communities, families and members of the communities must learn to adapt to climate change and engage in sustainable practices in agriculture, water management, construction, management of natural resources among others. In Myanmar there are a number of such practices that can be documented and capitalized upon.
Fifth, there is need to contribute to the global effort to combat climate change, both in terms of activities and climate diplomacy. On the one hand, even though Myanmar has contributed less to induce changes in climate through global warming, it has committed to play a positive role in the global community to curb climate change and global warming and to better adapt to the changes. On the other hand, sitting at the table of the negotiations is essential for Myanmar to present and defend its position, in alignment with other countries in similar conditions. Now, for instance, Myanmar is considered a “carbon sink” country because of its vast forest land-cover. Because of photosynthesis, forests remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which is one of the causes of global warming. This is why further increasing Myanmar’s capacity to effectively manage its natural resources, and working on a balanced land-use at the national level is important. The national plan aims to maintain 40 per cent of the country’s total area as forest land. This will be a direct contribution to the global effort. Also, the type of production and consumption behaviour that Myanmar will develop and adopt, will carry positive –or negative- consequences on the capacity to adapt to climate change and to participate to the global effort.
Myanmar’s contribution to the global and national interests are described in the Intended National Determined Contribution (INDC), which was submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and discussed at the Conference of Parties 21 (COP21) in Paris in December 2015. Myanmar is also preparing the Second National Communication to the UNFCCC, which will reflect the context of emissions in the Country.
Q: What is the Myanmar Climate Change Alliance?
A: Myanmar is receiving financial support under the Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) which was launched in 2007 to strengthen dialogue and cooperation on climate change between the European Union (EU) and developing countries most vulnerable to climate change, in particular the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and the Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which will be the hardest hit by the adverse effects of climate change. The objectives of the programme, foreseen activities and outputs developed are entirely consistent with the primary objective of the EU Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) which is to step up support to target countries to implement priority adaptation and mitigation measures and to integrate climate change issues into their development strategies.
The MCCA Programme was designed as a flagship programme of the Government of Myanmar to increase its institutional and technical capacities to address climate change by achieving three overall expected results:
The MCCA is jointly implemented by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and funded by the European Union. It is currently under full-fledged implementation, running 4 years from October 2013.
The main government partner is the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry (MoECAF), but its Technical Working Group and Programme Steering Committee comprise representatives from relevant ministries, development partners, the civil society and academia.