COP27 - Cascading impacts: how can we adapt and reduce risk in the mountains and downstream?

Submitted by Kate Williamson | published 14th Dec 2022 | last updated 3rd Jan 2023
Recording of 'Cascading impacts: how can we adapt and reduce risk in the mountains and downstream?' event
Tuesday, 8 November, 2022 - 13:00 to 14:30 (Africa/Cairo)


This article provides a summary of the side event hosted by Adaptation at Altitude (A@A) at the COP27 Cryosphere Pavilion, as part of the HKH Focus Days organized by ICIMOD. The Cryosphere Pavilion hosted a full programme of events exploring climate-related challenges in the vulnerable frozen regions of the Earth, including the high northern latitudes and high mountain areas.

The side event focused on the impacts and risks from upstream-downstream hazards in mountains, which have cascading and compounding detrimental effects on both local and downstream ecosystems and billions of people worldwide. It provided introductory inputs on the latest IPCC assessment, shared measures implemented in different regions, and experiences in responding to natural hazards, followed by a panel discussion on engaging scientific insights and practical knowledge with policy action in mountains. The panel was followed by a Q&A with the audience.  

The event was moderated by Alex Mackey from Zoi Environment Network, and included the following panelists:

  • Carolina Adler (Executive Director of the Mountain Research Initiative)
  • Arun B Shrestha (Regional Programme Manager, Cryosphere and River basins Representative, ICIMOD)
  • Christine Kaaya Nakimwero (Member of Parliament, Uganda)
  • Helmut Hojesky (Director, Austrian Federal Ministry for Climate Action). 


Key Messages

Some of the key takeaway messages from the session are:  

  • Natural hazards and instances previously found in high mountain areas are also occurring in new areas that have never previously faced them, indicating that these risks are becoming more widespread.

  • The HKH region has many examples of compounding and cascading hazards, with events such as the Melamchi Flood in 2021 causing detrimental impacts across borders.

  • Different mountain countries have different priorities for their adaptation; in countries like Uganda the first necessity is ensuring the food supply, then other priorities can be considered.

  • Austria is investing in Mountains Adapt to support activities in the South Caucasus and East Africa in regional collaboration and addressing adaptation challenges. 

  • Understanding the science behind climate change in mountains is key for informed decision-making and should be a priority moving forward.

  • There is a need for a multi-hazard, inter-sectoral approach to tackle these types of risks in an effective manner, and understanding how best practices are currently being implemented would be a useful tool for countries who are attempting to do so.

  • Harnessing technology is important for responding to these new types of hazards, which could include new early warning systems that utilize inter-related data or citizen science initiatives.

  • Monitoring and early warning systems are key, and we must also focus on the monetary toll of these risks and disasters to explain to governments and donors why disaster mitigation and response efforts are necessary.

  • Sharing knowledge should be a priority, between or across regions, in order to build resilience and harness best practices.

  • It is of utmost importance that we preserve our mountains to be liveable, as they are an important home to many people and they are a source of water, food, and livelihood as well.

  • Reducing emissions in conjunction with adaptation is vital to avoid worst case scenarios and completely lose access to the world’s mountains.