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How To Accelerate Adaptation to a Changing Climate? Invest in Science and Technology – #Atoms4Climate Event at COP27

Senior representatives of international organizations took part in an IAEA event at COP27 today at the #Atoms4Climate pavilion, to discuss ways of accelerating adaptation to climate change. (Photo: IAEA)

Extreme weather events have plagued all parts of the world – from more intense hurricanes and torrential floods to record-breaking temperatures and persisting droughts that all threaten food security. But here comes the good news: Nuclear science and technology help countries accelerate their response to a climate that has already changed, senior representatives of several international organizations emphasized at an IAEA event held today at the 27th UN Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27).

“This is the first COP we’re having a dedicated nuclear pavilion,” said IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, “because we are putting nuclear science to the service to create solutions. We are showing and explaining how we use science and technology for climate adaptation, which too often goes unnoticed.”

Mr Grossi was joined by top executives from the United Nations, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Speakers emphasized the need for international organizations and other bodies to join efforts in supporting cutting-edge science, research and technologies to adapt agri-food systems and management of water resources, marine ecosystems, urban and industrial infrastructure to new realities.

“Science has told us we’re heading towards disaster,” said Peter Thomson, UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean. “We’re on a highway to hell if we don’t make big transformations.”

“We, at the frontline battling climate change, cannot fight our fight unless we have the integrity of good science,” he added. “That’s why I’m so proud of the work that the IAEA does through its Marine Environment Laboratories, including on ocean acidification and tackling microplastics in the ocean.”

FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo reminded that 850 billion people go to bed hungry today, and three billion people are not having nutritious food. “We need to feed 10 billion people by 2030, and our natural resources are not sufficient if we continue business as usual,” she said. She highlighted that success stories of the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre for Nuclear Technologies in Food and Agriculture range from a new type of cassava bred in Nigeria with 50 per cent more yield while saving 70 per cent of water use to the recent sending to space of seeds in search for crops able to adapt to climate change on earth.

Speakers also weighed in on the fact that mitigation and adaptation efforts must go hand in hand.

“Without nuclear energy we will have difficulties in meeting the Paris commitments,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas, reminding that so far this year the world has already exceeded the emission levels of 2019. “Adaptation is of course very important,” he added, with heatwaves, tropical storms, melting of glaciers and sea level rise to continue for the next 100 years. “It’s important that we use limited resources in a wise manner, and meteorological services play an important role in this.”

On water resources management, the IAEA works with several partners, including UNESCO, in delivering concrete projects in countries.

Anil Mishra, Chief of UNESCO’s Section on Hydrological Systems, Climate Change and Adaptation, highlighted that "We need more emphasis on science and technology to tackle the challenge of managing water." Isotopic Hydrology is central to providing the technology to support solution-oriented activities that address the impact of climate change on water resources, such as melting glaciers. These activities feed into the 2022 International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development and are a focus of ongoing collaboration between the IAEA and UNESCO.

The event at the IAEA-led #Atoms4Climate pavilion also featured financing climate-smart policies.

“We must accelerate research, invest in science, enable scientists to do their work,” said Juergen Voegele, Vice President for Sustainable Development at the World Bank. “Everything the governments do has to be climate-smart. This is only now penetrating into the politicians’ heads.” He added that the World Bank had decided to divide its $32 billion climate funding in equal shares: 50 per cent for mitigation and 50 per cent for adaptation projects, such as transforming food systems. “We need to do more of it and do it differently,” he added. “We need to collaborate, find ways to scale up our efforts.”

The IAEA released a report yesterday showcasing concrete projects and results in ocean, food and water projects.

More than 35 000 people are expected to attend COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, including more than 100 heads of state. The IAEA and its partners will host over 40 events at the IAEA #Atoms4Climate pavilion on topics as diverse as energy, gender, stakeholder involvement, ocean, food security and water resources.

All events at the #Atoms4Climate pavilion will be livestreamed.

Follow the IAEA and #Atoms4Climate on FacebookTwitterInstagram and LinkedIn for updates throughout the week.

See the full list of IAEA events at COP27, and learn more about nuclear solutions for climate change

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