The Realities of a Changing Climate: Meeting the Challenge
Honolulu, Hawaii; Miami, Florida; Washington, DC
September 21-October 5, 2014
Fifteen Asia Pacific and US leaders and policymakers gathered in Honolulu for the 24th New Generation Seminar from September 21 to October 5, 2014. They spent two weeks exploring the "Realities of a Changing Climate: Meeting the Challenge" with travel to Miami, Florida and Washington, DC.
A key message of both the 2014 UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report and the United States’ National Climate Assessment released on May 6, 2014 is that we already are experiencing the impacts of climate variability and change. While mitigation remains critical, the 2014 reports also emphasized the need for enhanced international cooperation and local action to adapt to systemic changes already in motion. From sea-level rise to increasing risk from storms, flooding, wildfires, heat waves and drought, these changes affect the health, safety and prosperity of communities through impacts on freshwater supplies, agriculture, fisheries, energy production and distribution, built infrastructure, and transportation. Addressing these challenges will not be easy given political sensitivities, limited budgets, competing priorities, and difficult new legal, economic and social concerns. Nevertheless, local communities and policymakers in the United States and Asia Pacific have been taking actions to reduce risks through win-win adaptations that address both short and long-term environmental and economic sustainability.
The 2014 New Generation Seminar provided regional leaders and policymakers with an opportunity to deepen their understanding of these complex challenges; to see and share policy and planning strategies with experts and colleagues; and to enhance their ability to lead on this critical issue.
In Hawaii, participants updated their understanding of broad regional issues in areas such as security, international relations, and economics, as a backdrop for exploring climate change. In the face of many other critical and pressing public policy concerns, it often is difficult for policymakers to focus on climate change because it is, as one participant wrote, "not as dramatic or immediate as say a terrorist strike might be and therefore it lulls us into a state of inaction or low priority." But for the remainder of the Honolulu program, participants gained insight into the real near-term impacts of climate change for countries around the region--from severe droughts in California to the deaths of herd animals in Mongolia to the decreasing habitability of the Marshall Islands. Participants gained insight into the legal frameworks regarding climate change impacts, and the new ways that legal cases may be used to punish inaction or force action to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Miami provided an opportunity to see impacts that already are taking place and to explore how the community is striving to adapt. Highly developed areas of Miami are flooding during King Tides, and rising sea levels pose the threat of increased flooding incidents, salt water intrusion of fresh water supplies, and damage to other critical infrastructure such as sewage treatment facilities. Participants visited the Everglades, which have been declared a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site and a Wetland of International Importance, to learn about how preserving nature is also critical to maintaining fresh water supplies for the people of South Florida. Life-long climate change champion Harvey Ruvin shared the history of climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts in Miami. He emphasized how local action can make a difference and cities and local communities can lead on international challenges, citing the example of cities being the first to limit CFCs ahead of national and international efforts. Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales provided a measured and practical assessment of the threats to millions of dollars' worth of real estate in Miami Beach, and the investments the city is making to protect these assets. The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact provided an inspiring model of how communities have come together across county and city lines to address these challenges, and highlighted the complexity in managing issues that involve all levels of government-- municipal, county, state and federal.
Finally in Washington, DC, participants explored the role of national policy and action and the political, economic, and security complexities of tackling this local, national and global issue. They learned about the role of Congress in addressing climate change issues through visits with key committees in the Senate and House. Visits to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US Global Change Research Program highlighted the investments being made at the national level to gather good data and create tools and materials for building awareness and for making policy decisions on both mitigation and adaptation. A debate on the Obama Administration's Clean Power Plant rule to reduce carbon emissions from power plants with perspectives from industry, NGOs and business highlighted the complexities of finding the right balance of policies to maintain economic growth and livelihoods while also addressing the climate change challenge. State Department and USAID Officials, including David Turk, Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change, helped participants understand the US position in international negotiations and the ways that the US is working bilaterally and regionally to address climate change within development, innovation, business and diplomatic frameworks.
Dr. Victoria Keener, the co-investigator of the East-West Center’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-funded Pacific Island Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessment (RISA) project traveled with the group, providing deep knowledge and expertise throughout the program.
At the end of the program, participants had a half-day debriefing session in Washington, DC to share new perspectives and consider how they can apply their new knowledge, understanding and networks to their future work.
In Washington, DC, participants also had the opportunity to share climate change impacts for their countries and communities in an enlightening and richly informative public forum. Read a write up of perspectives and watch a video of the event.
The New Generation Seminar seeks to engage young leaders aged 25-40, from Asia Pacific and the United States who are in a position to influence policy, shape public opinion and lead action. An important selection consideration is demonstrated leadership in current and past positions, and the potential for future leadership.
The 2014 New Generation Seminar participants were:
- Otgonbat Barkhuu, Advisor to Minister, Ministry of Education and Science, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
- Prodyut Bora, National Executive Member, Bharatiya Janata Party, Delhi, India
- Karina Cervantez, Mayor, Watsonville, California, United States
- Suthikorn Kingkaew, Director of Research, Future Innovative Thailand Institute; Committee Member, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s Environmental Fund, Bangkok, Thailand
- Jenny Lyn Manibay, City Administrator, Office of the Mayor, Tacloban City, Leyte, Philippines
- Amanda McKenzie, CEO, Climate Council, Elizabeth Bay, NSW, Australia
- Blair Milo, Mayor, City of La Porte, La Porte, Indiana, United States
- Madison Nguyen, Vice Mayor, City of San Jose, San Jose, California, United States
- Pan Tao, Founder, Institute for Sustainable Environment and Energy (ISEE), Shanghai, China
- Jiyoun Park, Associate Research Fellow, Research Institute for North Korea Development, The Export-Import Bank of Korea, and Member of Provincial Assembly, National Unification Advisory Council, Seoul, Korea
- Oslan Purba, Head of National Secretariat, WALHI/FoE Indonesia, Jakarta, Indonesia
- Abhishek Shah, Constituent Assembly Member cum Legislative Parliament, Madheshi People’s Rights Forum, Patan, Kathmandu, Nepal
- Mark Stege, Councilman, Maloelap Atoll Local Council, Majuro, MH, Marshall Islands
- Noelle Takahashi, Fellow, Future Candidate School, Your Party, Tokyo, Japan
Nguyen Thi Tuyet, Researcher, Department for Sustainable Development and Climate Change Response, Development Strategy Institute, Ministry of Planning and Investment, Hanoi
For more information about the NGS program, please click here.
The New Generation Seminar provides rising leaders with an intensive learning experience through a unique combination of study, dialogue, leadership development and travel. The first week of the New Generation Seminar is held at the East-West Center in Honolulu and consists of briefings by EWC research staff on key regional developments such as security, international relations, economics, population, health and environment, as well as sessions directly related to the seminar theme. The Honolulu program also includes meetings with experienced leaders and policymakers, relevant field visits, and an opportunity for the participants to engage with each other in dialogue on issues of importance to their countries. Each participant is asked to come prepared to share a short presentation and lead a discussion with their colleagues in the program.
The second week of the program involves field travel to either the Asia Pacific region or the United States mainland to enhance participants’ knowledge of a specific theme. Field travel provides an opportunity for in-depth, first-hand perspectives of an issue through travel and meetings with policymakers, civil society and business leaders, students, analysts, experts, and others to gain strategic insights, best practices, and new understanding to apply to the challenges in their own countries and communities.
New Generation Seminar programs are distinctive in that they are infused with the rich expertise of the East-West Center research program. Relevant research staff share knowledge during the Honolulu, help develop thematic content, and travel with the group.
“I got real stories, comparative examples and positions/solutions that I can introduce to the Nevada system…I have been a part of several other exchange/travel study programs and would have to say that this EWC program is by FAR the MOST THOROUGH. I’m very, very impressed!” 2007 NGS participant.
“The program was phenomenal! It met and exceeded my expectations. I feel like I went to a summer course or training seminar since I learned so much, not just about the global economy, but also the individual sidebar conversations about history, culture, politics going on in the rest of the countries that were participating. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this wonderful opportunity!” 2008 NGS participant.
Ms. Ann Hartman, NGS Coordinator
New Generation Seminar, East-West Seminars
1601 East-West Road, Honolulu, Hawaii, 96848-1601, USA
FAX: (808) 944-7600