National forum calls for local action to combat climate change

06 Dec 2013

A National Forum on coping with climate change was held today to help raise awareness, shape local policy actions and mobilize local potential for addressing the challenges related to climate change.

The Forum, entitled ‘Assessment of Local Action for Coping with Climate Change’, was held in Skopje before an audience of key stakeholders from the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning, the Ministry of Local Self-Government and the Association of Local Self-Government Units (ZELS).

The participants were unanimous in urging local governments to join the battle against climate change as soon as possible.

The Forum included a presentation of the key findings of an in-depth expert assessment recently conducted of the effects of climate change on viticulture in the Vardar Planning Region. Prepared with the support of UNDP and the Oslo Governance Centre, the assessment included an economic analysis of the impact of climate change on wine production in the Region.

The country faces particularly high risks from climate change. According to the World Bank, it is among the five most vulnerable nations in Europe. This is because the landscape and the main crops—including its famous grapes, tomatoes and apples—are highly susceptible to changing weather patterns.

These changing patterns are already evident in the form of extreme precipitation in spring followed by extreme drought in summer. Experts predict a possible rise in summer temperatures of as much as 4–5 degrees centigrade over the next forty years. Such an increase in temperatures would result in a 45 per cent decline in apple production and a 32 per cent reduction in grape production.

To help the country to address these threats, UNDP has been working with institutions and stakeholders at national local level since 2000, supporting efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change.  

At central policy level, the Government has demonstrated its commitment to combating climate change by ratifying the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Since signing the Convention, the country has prepared and developed two national progress reports. UNDP has helped in the preparation of these reports and has recently supported the third national communication to the UNFCCC.

UNDP Resident Representative Louisa Vinton reminded the Forum participants that “Local authorities are key actors in the fight against climate change because they are closest to the people and understand best the specific risks that face local communities, particularly in poorer rural areas.” She went on to explain that “The news is not all bad. There is a lot that can be done at local level. Local authorities can adopt measures both to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change and to prepare local communities in a timely fashion for the likely impacts of climate change.”

Amongst the measures recommended to local governments by the participants at the Forum was the adaptation of spatial and urban planning to cope with increased risks of flooding.

The need to raise public awareness of the damage caused by uncontrolled burning of waste was also emphasised. And the forum further recommended taking efforts to help local farmers shift to ‘climate-smart’ agriculture.

“Local authorities no doubt face a daunting task,” Louisa Vinton acknowledged, “but we are confident they can rise to the challenge. UNDP is here to help, both at central policy level and in direct partnership with local communities, to ensure that together we do all we can to protect lives and livelihoods.”