ECCA: demonstrating knowledge advancement in support of climate action

Roger Street

Roger Street

Associate Research Fellow, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford

25 March, 2019

Roger has an MSc in Physics from the University of Toronto and joined ECI in January 2006 after working for over 30 years with the Canadian federal government. Much of his work focused on climate, climate impacts and adaptation. These included working within the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change beginning with its first assessment report, leadership of the Canada Country Study, and involvement with the US National Assessment on climate change impacts.

ECCA 2019 is the fourth in the biennial series of European adaptation conferences. I suggest that it is time to reflect on the contributions of this series and the roles they have played in advancing climate change adaptation.

There are many perspectives to the reflections. I believe that the ECCA series has had some commendable successes, but there remain a number of challenges in understanding these successes. One such challenge relates to the conferences’ roles in advancing theoretical and practical knowledge in support of climate action. To what extent have they demonstrated but also contributed to advancing knowledge in support of climate action?

My personal reflection is that the series has provided participants with snapshots of the state of climate change adaptation, and resilience science and practice. I am less clear on understanding how the series has demonstrated, defined or directly contributed to the debate on the needs for advancing knowledge and practice of climate change adaptation and resilience.

Following each ECCA there has been some level of reporting shared with participants – for example, ECCA 2015. In addition, following ECCA 2017 reports were prepared by the Conference Partners and by the Impressions Project. The ECCA 2017 reporting included reference to input received from participants in response to the evaluation survey, and links to a number of blogs and associated media activities. However, for both ECCA 2015 and ECCA 2017 the available reporting primarily focuses on procedural aspects rather than external impacts related to their intended vision or focus.

An important feature of this series, has been the strong connections at the organisational level between conferences that have provided an opportunity for each conference to build on and learn from the previous event. It is not clear, however, to what extent this exchange and their considerations have included or should include the impacts of the conference in demonstrating and providing insights into the developments and progression of science and practice in climate adaptation and climate action, and in contributing to debates on such needs for advancement.

Is this, or should this be a role for ECCA? I suggest that for many participating, both researchers and practitioners, these aspects and their demonstrated consideration at ECCA would be of particular interest.

I recognise through my own participation at three ECCA conferences that there has been some consideration, however from my perspective it has been on a session-by-session basis. Pulling these considerations together across similar sessions within a specific conference has been limited. Doing so from one conference within the series to the next appears to be similarly missing.

I suggest that there is a need for purposeful attention to these aspects within sessions, but also across similarly-themed sessions. In addition, I suggest that a post-event assessment should demonstrate these contributions across similarly-focused sessions (e.g. themes), as well as across the conference.

To continue the success of the ECCA series, I recommend an assessment of the contributions of the series to date, and a targeted assessment for each subsequent conference. The scope of, and responsibility for delivering such an assessment and for the resulting reporting need further consideration.

My purpose in presenting this blog is to encourage others to share their views on the suggested role for ECCA and the ECCA series – demonstrating progress and identifying the need for further progress in adaptation-related research and innovation. I also encourage others to express their opinions on the need for a reflective and foresight assessment on the series and following each ECCA conference.