Parties seek to define progress against Global Goal on Adaptation

This week, the UNFCCC is convening an important workshop under the Glasgow Sharm El-Sheikh Work Programme on the Global Goal on Adaptation. Participants aim to unpack the indicators and metrics for measuring progress on adaptation by communities and countries, the world over. The ultimate purpose of the workshop? To establish if countries can get behind a common vision and method for assessing progress against the Global Goal on Adaptation of the Paris Agreement. And to begin to answer the questions: What information can and should be aggregated as part of the periodic Global Stocktake? How will we know when countries, collectively, are adapting to climate change effectively? Mairi Dupar of CASA and ODI reports.

The Global Goal on Adaptation itself, Article 7 of the Paris Agreement, is a commitment of Parties to:

“establish the global goal on adaptation of enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change, with a view to contributing to sustainable development and ensuring an adequate adaptation response in the context of the temperature goal referred to in Article 2” [the temperature goal is: well below 2°C and as close as possible to 1.5°C].

This week’s workshop takes place against the backdrop of both the Global Stocktake (2023) and the reporting framework of the Paris Agreement, which comes into force by 2024 – see the original CASA infographic showing the reporting timelines here.

How climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction frameworks and actions are converging

What is notable about the first day of discussions is how conversations about climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction are coming together.

There are compelling, real-world reasons why that should be:

  • Climate change adaptation is, by definition, about adapting to the impacts of climate change and especially about avoiding its negative effects. The IPCC’s latest report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability to Climate Change makes it clear that climate-related losses and damages are mounting dangerously, over time.
  • Not all of these losses and damages are inevitable.
  • It’s true that some damages cannot be avoided (think about a category 5 hurricane bearing down on an island, for instance; it won’t emerge completely unscathed). However, climate change adaptation could be more rapid, more effective, ultimately more transformational, and so avoid as much loss and damage as possible. (Think again of the hurricane example: how lives could be saved through effective evacuations, how property could be secured to limit damages, how levies could be built to manage floodwaters).
  • As the IPCC concludes, there is considerable scope to improve adaptation, reduce climate-related risk and pursue more climate-resilient development.

So, in real life, in literature, and now in policy debates, we see that the frameworks for climate change ambition and effective disaster risk reduction are increasingly discussed in the same sentence.

While the Paris Agreement calls for enhancing adaptive capacity and strengthening resilience to climate change, the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-30) focuses on outcomes we need to see: fewer deaths from disasters, fewer injuries and illnesses, fewer economic losses, less damage to critical infrastructure.

Numerous expert presenters at the workshop this week have noted these complementary aspects of the Paris and Sendai frameworks. 

Could common metrics help?

Countries are not only under pressure from the negative impacts of climate change. They are also under fiscal pressure and they lack human resource capacity – especially in least developed countries and small island states. These challenges affect not only countries’ abilities to adapt and become more climate-resilient. These challenges also affect countries’ abilities to gather and analyse data on climate risk and adaptation action.

This has a knock-on effect on international reporting and ability to raise international funds for climate resilience. As a consequence, least developed countries and small island states have an intense interest in reducing their reporting burdens, while still gathering the critical data their countries need, and contributing to the Global Stocktake of the Paris Agreement.

““There are few officers, with multiple obligations,” said one Environment Officer from a small island developing state.  “If we had more people, it would make reporting better and easier. There is also a lack of technical capacity when it comes to undertaking specific aspects of reporting. We lack ICT to analyse data; and also capacity to follow up reporting and implement some of the measures we highlight due to lack of resources.”

As for the Sendai Framework, the UNDRR reports that few countries are yet reporting fully against the Sendai targets.

But could more resources, capacity and focus on Sendai framework reporting help countries and the UNFCCC to shed light on the effectiveness of climate risk management? And ultimately, deepen understanding of adaptation progress, and drive a virtuous cycle of increasing ambition, more, better support for climate-affected countries, and positive outcomes?

Those are some of the questions on the table at this week’s workshop.

Another question is how climate change impacts affect countries’ achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and whether countries’ reporting on SDGs might be relevant to the Global Stocktake of the Paris Agreement. 

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said it is gathering evidence on how climate change impacts are undermining progress towards the SDGs (see the presentation: Extreme events and the SDGs).  

In fact, climate resilience is already explicitly stated in many of the SDGs and their targets and indicators.  

However, even where climate change adaptation and resilience is not an explicit goal or target, it will still be vital to achieving many SDGs.

Take the case of agriculture – as presented in detail by the Food and Agriculture Organization at the workshop. Climate change is causing less predictable rainfall patterns, heatwaves, droughts, land degradation (including salination of farmlands) and more. This is negatively impacting the productivity of crops and livestock, and raising serious challenges for the attainment of SDG 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

Analysis by the IPCC of climate change impacts on the water and sanitation sectors, on biodiversity and ecosystems and many other aspects of the SDGs indicates a similarly pressing need for adaptation, if numerous development targets are to be met.  

Seen through this lens, it begins to look as though climate change adaptation may hold part of the key for achieving Agenda 2030.

Measuring the new and additional adaptation effort

So, does this mean that reporting progress against the SDGs will – in effect – be a way of demonstrating countries’ progress on climate change adaptation? It may not be that simple.

Parties continue to explore the blurred line between ‘adaptation action’ and ‘development’: including how to measure and monitor the new and additional efforts countries are making to ensure that development is not just ‘standard’ but ‘adaptive’ and ‘resilient’ to climate change.

The results frameworks for funding entities under the Paris Agreement provide some rationale for how to approach this: the Adaptation Fund has an agreed approach to establishing the adaptation reasoning for programmes (including transformational adaptation) and the Green Climate Fund requires applicants to provide an adaptation rationale.

Funding the effort

However, all things said, delivering effective adaptation and measuring it must be within reach of the capabilities of the most climate-affected countries. That means hitching the talks on adaptation progress to the larger conversations within the UNFCCC about increasing appropriate support for adaptation funding to developing countries – and boosting support for them to monitor, evaluate and learn from their experiences, too.

The commitment is all there, in SDG 17: Partnership for the goals, and Sendai Framework Target F: Significantly enhance international cooperation to developing countries, if only the international community would rise to the challenge.

Image: flood response, Peru, credit Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre.

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