The impacts of climate change pose an unprecedented and increasing global threat to life, livelihoods, and life-supporting systems. There is an urgent need for immediate and adequate actions to adapt to current climate change before its impacts become unmanageable. Equally important is the need to prepare for potential future impacts and more long-term consequences of a changing climate.
While numerous initiatives and programmes exist to collect data, monitor and analyse climate change there has been little coordination of the work of the scientific community on climate change vulnerability, impacts and adaptation research.
At the end of 2010, governments attending the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancún agreed to a process to design a Green Climate Fund and a new Adaptation Framework to allow better planning and implementation of adaptation projects. The financial target of the ‘Green Climate Fund’ is to raise “…a total of US$30 billion in fast start finance up to 2010 and the intention to raise US$100 billion in long-term funds by 2020” [for adaptation and mitigation].
As governments, communities and civil society gear up to adapt to climate change, they are often confronted with a lack of adequate knowledge about both the threats of climate change and how to respond. There is major uncertainty about the kind of impacts to be expected, about the vulnerability of nature and society to these impacts, and about the effectiveness of different response measures required to adapt to changing conditions.
The good news is that the scientific community and other stakeholder groups are generating much knowledge in this area, through a huge assortment of different research and pilot activities. The bad news is that the community concerned with vulnerability, impacts and adaptation (VIA) research lacks structure and is not as organized as it could be.
This basic lack of coordination is impeding both the advancement of knowledge and its communication to the people that need it most. This is not surprising since climate change VIA research is still a relatively young field that covers a vast array of sectors and topics that are linked in a variety of ways, some of which remain scarcely understood.
The establishment of the Programme of Research on Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation (PROVIA) responds to the urgent call by the scientific community to remedy a serious shortcoming in the current support architecture for VIA research: The lack of international direction towards addressing gaps in the growing VIA knowledge-base, and especially those gaps that are important to fill to achieve major policy objectives, such as those of the UNFCCC.
Together with its collaborative partners, knowledge networks such as the UNEP-led Global Adaptation Network, and the larger VIA community, PROVIA will strive to promote a greater science-policy dialogue while advancing efforts towards identifying research gaps and meeting policy needs in climate change vulnerability, impact and adaptation research.