Towards a Third Decade of Connecting Science and Policy in the Asia-Pacific Region

In a few weeks time, the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research (APN) will celebrate its 20th anniversary of operations, carrying on its mission of connecting scientists in the global change community, enhancing scientific capacity of member country researchers, and strengthening science-policy interactions across the region.

In its present Strategic Phase (2010-2015) alone, over a hundred regional research and capacity building projects have been conducted, directly engaging more than 6,500 people in the science and policy communities, producing over 160 peer-reviewed research papers, and yielding over 800 tangible outputs that have been disseminated widely among stakeholders in our 22 member countries across Asia and the Pacific.

Science-policy linkage: at the heart of APN’s institutional design

Countries need effective science-policy interaction to make effective and practical policies that address the global change and sustainability challenges we are facing. With this in mind, the APN promotes and facilitates direct engagement of scientists, decision makers and practitioners from the grassroots level to the regional level at different stages. This is deeply rooted in the heart of APN’s institutional design, which is equally true in the activities under Climate Change and Climate Variability, a key thematic area under APN’s science agenda.

As a unique network of scientists and policy makers in the region, the APN has been exploring ways to foster more effective linkages between these two communities since its inception. Part of this effort resulted in the Science-Policy Dialogue series, with the first Dialogue held in Bangkok, Thailand, in July 2012, where 98 scientists and mid-level policy makers from Southeast Asia met for open and frank discussion on issues related to climate change adaptation, including the current state of the knowledge base, the barriers for knowledge transfer, and the development and improvement of effective science-policy interfaces. A policy brief was published as a result of the dialogue and is available on APN’s E-Library.

Preparations are underway for our second Science-Policy Dialogue (South Asia), to be held in January 2015 in Bhutan. We are excited that, in addition to other dignitaries and leading scientists in South Asia countries, Rajendra K. Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), will engage in the dialogue as a key participant.

Global change and sustainability research for regional and national needs

Another recent example of our work on facilitating solution-oriented research is APN’s Climate Adaptation Framework (see publication) established in April 2013, which aims to enhance action and develop the capacity of APN developing country members on adaptation. Under the framework, leading scientists in the region work together to look at integrated approaches to assess and reduce climate change risks across sectors and timescales, existing and potential tools for assessing economic and non-economic loss and damage, as well as measures to integrate climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction (DRR), and loss and damage into the policy development agenda.

On the mitigation front, a set of projects are well underway within APN’s Low Carbon Initiatives Framework to investigate the diverse options across different sectors that could be an integral part of national and local mitigation strategies. It is evident from our proponents across the region that the most appropriate pathways towards low carbon development vary greatly from one country to another. Therefore, customized solutions are needed and should bring together ranges of stakeholders across disciplines and sectors. As our projects progress, a policy brief is being developed collectively by scientists working under this framework that will provide insights for decision makers in this unique region.

The activities featured above are only a small portion of APN’s climate-related endeavours. In 2011, we published a synthesis report to take stock of APN’s climate-related work and highlight major findings. Building on this work, a book titled ‘Climate in Asia and the Pacific: Security, Society and Sustainability‘ was published, offering a detailed survey of the status of climate change and climate variability in the region, an assessment of climate and security and recommendations on the best paths for climate research in the future. These publications have been shared widely in the region and in major international forums, including at sessions of the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP) and its Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA).

Looking forward

As APN moves into its fourth Strategic Phase (2015-2020), it has become clearer than ever that science-based policy making is key to addressing future global change and sustainability challenges.

Guided by our fourth Strategic Plan to be released in spring 2015, we will continue to work closely with partners, engaging all stakeholders including champions and young researchers who are passionate and ambitious in joining global efforts in addressing these challenges.

With their support, I hope that the APN will be able to carry on with its increasingly important role in transforming global change and sustainability science into solution-oriented knowledge that informs decision- and policy-making.

Xiaojun Deng, Linda Anne Stevenson and Dyota Condrorini, of APN Secretariat, also contributed to this article.

First Published on 18 December 2014, in Climate Change Policy & Practice: http://climate-l.iisd.org/guest-articles/towards-a-third-decade-of-connecting-science-and-policy-in-the-asia-pacific-region/