Climate change is already having a severe impact on South Asia. The number of cold days and nights has decreased, and the number of warm days and nights has increased, as has the frequency of heatwaves. Extreme rainfall events are more common and sea levels are rising in the region. Between 2000 and 2008, it was Asian countries that suffered the most weather- and climate-related disasters globally, equating to almost 30% of the global economic losses attributed to these extreme events. On average, South Asian countries are predicted to lose between 1% and 5% of their gross domestic product by 2050 under a business as usual scenario.
Almost every sector of development is being adversely affected by climate change. For example, human health has been impacted as extreme rainfall and flooding has exposed populations to disease and toxic compounds. Rising temperatures increase the incidences of many diseases and have contributed to outbreaks of dengue and Japanese encephalitis. These same changes may also lead to an estimated 30% decline in crop yields by 2050, which could exacerbate malnutrition and increase poverty across the region. Unless addressed, the changing climate will also have serious social consequences, including distress migration and conflict.
Action on Climate Today (ACT) operates across South Asia in four countries (Afghanistan, India, Nepal and Pakistan) and six Indian states (Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Maharashtra and Odisha) to support economic and social systems in adapting to the impacts of climate change so as to ensure sustainable, climate-resilient development. Even as activities are unfolding across ACT’s nine locations, ACT will add value at a regional level through the following areas of intervention.
1. Developing regional public goods
ACT is sharply focused on fulfilling a demand for regional learning products. Experience has shown that those making or influencing policy decisions respond positively to practical examples of interventions or methodologies that have delivered outcomes in new policy areas, particularly when they are drawn from contexts similar to their own. It is vital that the public goods, which contain the tools, approaches and methodologies for achieving climate-resilient growth in South Asia, draw on regional initiatives and translate globally developed innovations to a local context. Therefore, ACT collates approaches for climate change adaptation across sectors by producing knowledge products that draw from global experiences, but are customised for the South Asian context. Products on topics such as climate finance, climate-resilient water management, and climate-smart agriculture are already in circulation and more are planned for the duration of the programme.
2. Harnessing economies of scale
A key strength of ACT is that it is a consolidated programme unfolding across nine individual locations in four countries. This structure enables ACT to harness economies of scale across the region, transplanting lessons and learnings between locations through a structured programme of knowledge exchange. This includes organising regional ‘share fairs’ and ‘learning dialogues’ where representatives from government, civil society, academia and international organisations share practical and replicable insights on methods of ensuring climate-resilient growth in South Asia. ACT has also found that those making and influencing policies learn effectively from counterparts operating within a similar remit and context. Therefore, a structured regional programme of peer-to-peer learning has been initiated to ensure that tools, models and approaches that have proven effective in one location are scaled up and applied in other locations within South Asia. An early example of this is peers in India, Nepal and Pakistan sharing experiences of securing funding for adaptation from the Green Climate Fund; more examples will emerge over the duration of the programme.
3. Coordinating across geographies
Climate change impacts cut across political boundaries and ACT is uniquely positioned to support coordinated action. While being fully cognizant of the political sensitivities of transboundary actions, ACT has started to identify areas where coordination is feasible. ACT teams in neighbouring regions, such as Odisha and Chhattisgarh in India or Bihar and Nepal, are meeting with a diverse array of partners to ascertain the appetite for coordinated action across geographies to influence common agendas. This could include joint approaches toward water management issues or supporting initiatives to improve the flow of information on hazards between countries/states. ACT teams will work together to influence carefully selected policy processes that support climate-resilient growth in South Asia.
These three overlapping domains of intervention will aim to build capacity, institutional mechanisms and improved policies and programmes that will significantly reduce the number of people vulnerable to climate change, as well as the cost of climate change impacts, and enhance the adaptive capacity of government systems. On the ground, it will result in skills and system enhancement, knowledge and network development and greater access to climate finance. Put together, these measures will contribute to climate-resilient growth and development in the region.
These actions are being undertaken in collaboration with a diverse range of organisations. Partnerships with regional research institutes and academic organisations are essential for developing regional knowledge products. Engagement with a variety of salient multilateral, bilateral, international and civil society organisations working on adaptation is key to learning and coordinating across geographies. The most important partners for ACT are the governments in the nine locations where the programme operates.
Dr. Aditya V.Bahadur
Regional Programme Development Manager
 ACT Working Paper, forthcoming