Mountains matter

  • 2019•05•06     Bonn

    © Byelikova Oksana


    Mountains are vital for human survival. Mountains are the “water towers” of the world, and mountain ecosystem services, such as water purification and climate regulation, extend far beyond their geographical boundaries, affecting all continental main lands.

    Mountains are also considered the most sensitive regions with regard to global warming and the worldwide observed intensifying climate variability. It is very likely that climate change has particularly fast and direct consequences on the frequency and intensity of natural hazards occurring in these regions. This becomes an important issue specifically when we understand that almost half of the global population directly depend on mountain resources, primarily water.

    Despite their global importance, it was only at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 that mountain regions were explicitly mentioned within an internationally ratified action plan for the very first time in history. The inclusion of Chapter 13 on Sustainable Mountain Development within “Agenda 21” was the result of tireless decades of research and international lobbying in the 1970s and 1980s, including activities of UNU who initiated the “Highland-Lowland Interactive Systems” project.

    The recently implemented Global Mountain Safeguard Research Programme (GLOMOS) is a newly established scientific coalition between UNU-EHS and the interdisciplinary mountain competence center Eurac Research, based in Bolzano, Italy. GLOMOS is envisioning the enhancement of disaster risk reduction (DRR), climate change adaptation (CCA) and emergency response preparedness (ERP) in global mountain regions in close coordination with already existing mountain-related entities and international mechanisms. Ultimately, GLOMOS seeks to continue what UNU started some 40 years ago, supporting mountain communities to better resist natural and man-made hazards, protecting their wealth of biological and cultural diversity, and facilitating the sustainable development of their highly sensitive social-ecological systems.

    One of the first activities GLOMOS participated in was the 6th global NAP Expo. The NAP Expo is an annual outreach event organized by the Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG) under the UNFCCC, in collaboration with various bodies and organizations, to promote exchange of experiences and foster partnerships between a wide range of actors and stakeholders on how to advance National Adaptation Plans (NAPs).

    Together with the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), a regional intergovernmental learning and knowledge sharing centre serving the eight regional member countries of the Hindu Kush Himalaya, GLOMOS organized a thematic session which highlighted the specific challenges of formulating appropriate national adaptation plans in the global mountain context, such as shortage of adequate data/information or the lack of accessibility and outreach.

    Based on case examples from Asia, Africa and South America the session fostered an interactive forum on NAPs for mountain countries to share experience, best practices and lessons learned, including discussions on how to advance the acceleration of progress towards successful formulation of NAPs, and their effective implementation within mountain countries.

    As part of the event, Dr. Maxime Souvignet, project manager at the Munich Climate Insurance Initiative (MCII), contributed with a keynote presentation on innovative Climate Risk Insurance in Morocco featuring outputs from the ACRI+ project. Dr. Barron Orr, lead scientist at UNCCD, further enriched the panel discussion with a contribution on how to simultaneously achieve the co-benefits of climate change adaptation and Land Degradation Neutrality.

    “There was a broad agreement among participants regarding the value of local knowledge and the necessity for participatory mechanisms interlinking the municipal, regional and national level. The session also underlined the need for a consolidated ‘mountain voice’ at global fora for global commitments to ensure the 1.5°C target, and to advocate for unlocking climate finance for mountain regions,” concluded Dr. Szarzynski, Scientific Coordinator of GLOMOS at UNU-EHS, who moderated the NAP Expo session on “Adaptation in Mountain Systems – Challenges and Opportunities.”