IUCN seeks to link adaptation to climate change with disaster risk reduction and the conservation of ecosystems in Chile.

06 January 2014 | News story

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in partnership with the Ministry of the Environment of the Republic of Chile, has organized a workshop in order to present the project “Ecosystems Protecting Infrastructure and Communities” (EPIC).

The workshop was attended by 24 representatives of various non-governmental organizations, research institutions as well as representatives of the ministries of the interior, public works and the environment, among others. One of the main objectives of the workshop was to facilitate the exchange of information, reflection and learning among relevant actors dealing with policy proposals in the field of risk management and climate change adaptation in Chile, in order to promote the translation of the project results into the development of public policies.

In the morning, an introductory session was held on the policy framework for climate change adaptation in Chile. Besides, the IUCN and the EPIC project were introduced.

Daniel Álvarez, of the Ministry of the Environment, presented the National Plan for Adaptation to Climate Change, which is currently in the process of public consultation. He highlighted the goals of the plan for the biodiversity sector and its importance in the implementation of ecosystem-based solutions, the core element of the EPIC project.

Doris Cordero, Forests and Climate Change program officer of IUCN, presented the structure of the IUCN and its main areas of action on a global level and specifically in South America. She also introduced the concept of ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change and the initiatives undertaken by IUCN in the region for its implementation. Radhika Murti, Disaster Risk Reduction program coordinator of IUCN, presented the EPIC project with its objectives, scope and global components as well as the specificities of the Chilean case.

Aspects of the work with local communities in the Las Trancas Valley in the biosphere reserve Nevados de Chillán - Laguna del Laja in the Biobío region (which has been selected as a pilot project site) were also presented. The previous activities included a workshop which had been realized to establish the priorities of the community with regard to risks and vulnerabilities, counting with the participation of the community, the local government as well as external actors.

Alejandro Casteller, of the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF, Switzerland, offered insights into the ecosystem services provided by mountain forests in the event of avalanches and described in detail the research undertaken within the framework of the project and the level of progress.

The afternoon was dedicated to a technical session, explaining the underlying principles of the EPIC project. Different experiences related to climate change adaptation in Chile were also presented.

Radhika Murti, described in further detail the key principles that sustain the EPIC project, highlighting the links between disaster risk reduction, ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change and the conservation of ecosystems. Ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction includes the management and conservation of ecosystem services which leads to a minimization of the impacts of natural hazards.

Paulina Aldunce, of the Centre for Climate and Resilience Research of the University of Chile, focused on the challenges to achieving what she called a "real adaptation" to climate change in the particular case of Chile.

Sebastián Bonelli shared with the attendees an experience of the Centre for Global Change of the Catholic University of Chile which dealt with the development of an adaptation plan regarding climate variability and climate change in the Maipo river valley, based on the analysis of the vulnerabilities of the different types of users of water.

Sandra Alfonso, of the University of Cologne, Germany, presented a case study that she is currently developing in the Dunes of Ritoque. Located in the Valparaiso region, the dunes are recognized as an important ecosystem because of their biodiversity and the protection they provide against tsunamis. The speaker underlined the great pressure emanating from real estate development in the coastal area.

Towards the end of the technical session, the participants analyzed and commented on the EPIC project and discussed possible next steps to strengthen the project, seeking areas of support as well as mechanisms for the approach of reducing risks through the conservation of ecosystems.

This session allowed participants to identify opportunities to incorporate the results of EPIC in policies related to risk management and adaptation to climate change. Among the main conclusions and contributions, one proposal aimed at introducing a system of criteria or instructions for project holders into the Environmental Impact Assessment System (SEIA in Spanish), and therefore incorporating this approach and addressing prevention measures to reduce the risks of the projects.

In the Maipo river basin, a GEF project is currently underway which focuses on mountain ecosystems that are sensitive to climate change, and since the project includes roundtables with multiple stakeholders, it was noted that the EPIC approach could be incorporated in these discussions.

Furthermore, the utility of tools such as the Strategic Environmental Assessment (EAE in Spanish) for the design of government policies has been noted, as the incorporation of environmental considerations related to the reduction of risks and adaptation to climate change would be facilitated in a more effective way. In addition, it has been expressed that the conservation of relevant ecosystems should be included by the Ministry of the Environment into the design of instruments of spatial planning, such as regional land use plans (PROT in Spanish).

More infomation:
Ministerio de Ambiente Chile
EPIC - Chile
doris.cordero@iucn.org