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Technical Report: Current Trends in Climate Change Adaptation in Agriculture in Southeast Asia

The growing interest in adaptation engagements reflects policy development that calls for multilevel climate change adaptation. In Southeast Asia, several initiatives have been made particularly under the leadership of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). These include declarations to the 2007 Bali and 2009 Copenhagen UN Conferences on Climate Change and the ASEAN Declaration on Environmental Sustainability that calls for an ASEAN Climate Change Initiative. Southeast Asian countries are signatories to numerous policy instruments such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol with its Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment reports, the Bali Road Map, and the Cancun Agreements, among many others. 

The onset of perplexing climate change significantly challenges the conscious intent to harness agriculture to its fullest potential. With a growing population projected to reach as high as 600 million in 2015, the observed increasing mean temperature in Southeast Asia, which has been associated with the increased frequency and variability of other climate hazards and risks, would result in substantially reduced productivity of major agricultural commodities, especially rice and corn. This is indeed critical since climate change strongly affects highly vulnerable Southeast Asia, with wide-ranging repercussions now and in the future. Given that majority of Southeast Asian countries are agriculture-based, it is necessary to strengthen the region’s adaptive capacity to climate change.

Agriculture remains a major engine of growth in Southeast Asia, where it has the potential to reduce poverty and foster food security. To sustain and fully maximise the socioeconomic importance of agriculture in the region, the agenda of making it climate-smart is much warranted as environmental and climatic conditions have direct consequences on agricultural production. Better management of agricultural systems is urgently needed to mitigate the onset of rising frequency and intensity of weather extremes, which has led to various agricultural risks. Enhancing the Southeast Asian agriculture sector’s resilience to climate change largely depends on the optimal and strategic combination of technical, socioeconomic, and financial mechanisms.

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