20 Sep 2014
Tackling Climate Change and Urban Resilience in the Asia Pacific Region

Cities Programme supports high-level workshop on environment change and urbanisation in Asia Pacific

The high-level event – ‘Environment Change and Urbanisation in the South East Asia region’  – recently held in Vietnam, attracted 50 leading organisations from across the region.

These included Vietnamese, Thai and Indonesian government ministries and departments, the Rockefeller Foundation, UN-Habitat and ISET International, private consultancies, as well as a number of universities and research institutes from across the Asia Pacific region.

The two-day UGEC international workshop aimed to improve the resilience of the region’s cities to climate events and was held over the 17th and 18th of September at RMIT’s Saigon South campus in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam.

Lead organiser, Professor Darryn McEvoy, Head of Climate Change Adaptation at RMIT and a member of the UGEC International Scientific Steering Committee was very pleased with the attendance. He saw the workshop “as a catalyst for building deeper relationships and shared understandings of the threats to the region’s rapidly growing urban population”.

“This event was highly successful in bringing together key experts in the region, to showcase state-of-the art activity, and to promote new country to country dialogue on preparing cities for future climate change“.

In her opening address Gael McDonald, President of RMIT Vietnam, said that the group of participants represented the “who’s who” of climate change expertise in the region, and that the issue was “very topical and at the forefront of global concern”.

Day one was dedicated to the Vietnam experience.

Day two opened the discussions to the wider Asia Pacific context, ranging from flood management in Bangkok, Thailand, to the recent experiences of Manila in the Philippines.

Elizabeth Ryan, Deputy Director Global Compact Cities Programme, said that being part of the discussions with climate change and urban resilience experts was both highly informative and inspiring.

She added: “climate change and urbanization present a myriad of critical issues in the Asia Pacific region; this workshop was an excellent starting point for the Cities Programme to build strong and purposeful relationships across the region”.

“Viet Nam was an important site for this event. There is much to be learned from the critical challenges that face Vietnam and the approach being taken by both government and the international agencies working here”.

Addressing Climate Change is a top priority for Viet Nam reflected in the high level attendance from across the country and the significant Vietnamese media interest in the event.

The country is in the top ten in the world in terms of exposure to climate change, most of the poorer population live in areas vulnerable to flooding. Its rapidly urbanising.

Nguyen Quang, Director of UN Habitat Viet Nam said that marginalised groups in urban areas, such as the poor, women, children and the elderly were particularly sensitive to the stress of climate change.

“Climate-related difficulties will compound the difficulties that migrants face in urban areas in Viet Nam”.

Nguyen Quang told the Viet Nam News that “beside the economic cost, climate change also had a direct affect on key urban infrastructure such as transportation, water supply and energy and exacerbates urbanisation problems”.

This Asia Pacific workshop held at Saigon South is one of a series of five which are being conducted by the IHDP Urbanization and Global Environmental Change (UGEC)initiative across Africa, East Asia, the Asia-Pacific, Latin America and Eastern Europe. Findings will form the basis of synthesis activities to be presented at the UGEC Annual Conference in Taipei this November as well as forming part of the output at the end of the 10-year project in 2015.

Presentation slides are available and a full report from the workshop is in development. For further information contact event coordinator, Alexei Trundle: alexei.trundle@rmit.edu.au .

While in Viet Nam, Elizabeth Ryan and Helen Scott from the Cities Programme also met with Nguyen Trung Viet, Director of the Ho Chi Minh City Climate Change Bureau (pictured centre below) and his team. HCMC is taking a proactive integrated approach to climate change, working across the urban spectrum: mobility; waste management; food; health; water.

Photography: Helen Scott 2014, Cities Programme Visual Archives