Declan Conway's research cuts across water, climate and society, with a strong focus on adaptation and international development. Originally a geographer, Conway draws on insights from different disciplines to pursue problem focused research. He has over 20 years experience working in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia (particularly China). In this interview he talks about experiences of UK-China cooperation with climate change impacts and adaptation in China.
ACDI: Can you tell us about yourself and your research?
I’m based at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and Environment at the London School of Economics. I’m out in South Africa visiting the University of Cape Town, primarily for attending a workshop for a research program called Future Climate For Africa (FCFA). I have a research project within that called UMFULA and we have some collaborators UCT. I have expertise in climate and environmental change, particularly focusing on water resources and the environment in developing countries.
ACDI: What challenges does China face in terms of climate change mitigation and adaptation?
China historically has experienced many climate disasters related to floods, food security and famine, so it’s highly sensitised and aware of some of the problems that climate variability and extreme events represent for it. China still has roughly 400 million people who are agriculturally based and thus strongly exposed to the sorts of events that climate variability and future climate could bring them. There is a lot of new infrastructure being constructed in China which is going to be exposed to new types of hazards, or more intense hazards, so the country needs to be thinking very carefully about what it can do to try and reduce some of the risks related to changes in climate.
ACDI: How has the focus of China’s climate change response plans changed over the years?
I don’t know when exactly climate change appeared in the five year plans, but it’s definitely the case that it has generated much more attention in more recent plans, and particularly the 12th five year plan, the most recent one for 2011-2015, have considerable attention both on mitigation but also on adaptation, recognising the threat that climate change represents to the country and the need for a national level, but also a provincial level, plan to begin to undertake processes to try to consider some of the risks that climate change will represent.