COP28: Leaders in attendance must channel their inner Hatim Tai on Global Goal for Adaptation

World leaders need to agree with climate finance for adaptation not as a burden, but a force to uplift

In the early stages of comprehending climate change, the concepts of adaptation and mitigation got legitimacy as ‘twin pillars’ on which the overall solution of climate change rested.

Adaptation is the solutions to reduce and manage the adverse impact of climate change. Mitigation is the solutions to manage the cause of climate change by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.

But over the years, the mitigation pillar became more polished and clearer with specific and measurable action backed by global and national goals. This, even though overall action falls much short of limiting the global temperature up to 1.5°C.

On the other hand, the adaptation pillar receded into the background and looked faded and diffused. Though not leaving one for another, for namesake, they have been often called out together.

In reality, the whole focus and efforts for many years have been invested not to repeat the framework of the Kyoto Protocol, where the mitigation responsibilities got tied with Annex I Countries.

Subsequently, the complex game of burden-sharing for mitigation and binding all nations together played out for stabilising the temperature and not allowing the burden only on developed nations. This resulted in the Copenhagen pledges, followed by Nationally Determined Contribution submissions and the Paris Agreement.

Getting all nations together has been based on a clarion call, showing the impact of climate change, with a voice of urgency and doom backed with scientific data and rightly so. Unfortunately, in this intricate interplay, the adaptation agenda was taken for granted.

The agenda of adaptation has got a fresh impetus in the last two years as a follow-up to the agreed mandate of the Paris Agreement, under Articles 7 and 14, to frame a global goal on adaptation (GGA). A series of workshops were held under the Glasgow-Sharm el-Sheikh work programme.

Apart from the politics of urgency for specific areas, the second contributory factor to its laggardness has been the overlapping of approaching development, resilience and adaptation.

A good development agenda that encompasses access to basic services such as water, food, livelihoods, decent incomes, housing, education, etc. builds resilience and reduces inequality. This mixing up of good development trajectory as part of adaptation led to taking adaptation for granted anyway.

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The third reason for complacency in adaptation stems from a challenge in understanding the concept of adaptation itself and assuming it to be fluid and amoeboid and thus difficulty in achieving concrete, measurable outputs.

The fourth reason is that climate financing pursued the mitigation pillar more, compared to the adaptation pillar. The ambiguity and delayed focus on adaptation led to a certain level of inertia around adaptation for three decades.

In Dubai

The GGA is one of the key agendas in the ongoing 28th Conference of Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Consensus is required by the Parties to agree on a text holding answers to the riddles of adaptation and adopt a GGA.

Here are four cornerstones to pave the ground for adaptation on a firm footing:

1.Vulnerability Assessment

The beginning of the adaptation cycle from the lens of climate risks and impact marks the inception of the adaptation strategy. The additional layer of climate vulnerability added in the assessment of the target area cements the process of positive development in terms of the protection of livelihoods, economies, or the preservation of natural ecosystems.

The vulnerability assessment for adaptation in itself helps in operationalising equity in climate change. However, there is a need for a very robust examination and methodology with indicators that can identify disadvantaged and vulnerable groups with intersectionality of gender diversity, facing adverse impacts of climate change.

The result may vary depending upon the indicators and the weightage given. Hence, the development of indicators is not only required for monitoring and evaluation but also supporting the vulnerability assessments at the country level.

The pitfall in the global goal could be if the countries are classified as ‘vulnerable’ with a broader brush in some thematic areas and if, in turn, adaptation measures are not built around human and natural systems within countries by assessing vulnerabilities of local populations.

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The act of adaptation cannot be handled with broad brushes. It is an artful tapestry that requires weaving the intricate threads of equity and resilience at the micro level.

2. Climate Finance

A guardian of shared but differentiated responsibilities in the form of climate finance is the elusive piece to get the riddle sorted for adaptation. As finance is the emissary and the bearer of balancing the adaptation and mitigation pillars, it has to be placed in the agreement text with clear deliverables and specificities.

For the global goal on adaptation, the developed nations need to embrace their promise towards financing, by supporting adaptation finance with clearly defined targets. The urgency of mitigation targets and newly added loss and damage funds should not become a reason to further delay financing adaptation.

3. Unpack Transformative Approach

It is important to unpack the transformative approach clearly. Otherwise, incremental measures now and then will leave much to be accomplished. For unpacking a long-term transformative approach, tying the two ends of a spectrum at the country level is key.

One is at the level of policy change, for aligning all the national policies related to thematic areas relevant for adaptation such as water, sanitation and hygiene, education, housing, infrastructure, agriculture, food security, social protection with adaptation to climate change.

At the other end of the spectrum is the capacity gap assessment and capacity building of the communities on climate resilience and adaptation as part of a key adaptation strategy.

Communities and local institutions must develop skills and knowledge to understand climate change and resilience in their respective context and the processes, preparedness, and planning is owned by the community as a collective at the local governance level, is inclusive of gender and diversity and able to make use of government policies and programmes to build resilience to climate change.

Investments in these two processes and their monitoring and evaluation as part of the GGA can enable a transformative approach to adaptation and investments need to flow in these processes.

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4. Technology Transfer

The role of the private sector is immense in technology transfer and supports national governments for adaptation. For instance, the major technology companies could enable technology transfer on machine learning and support work with big numbers on a pro-bono basis for adaptation as part of their contribution to the agenda of sustainability.

Also, machine learning can enhance the accuracy of early warning systems, or can comprehensively help in vulnerability assessments at a larger scale. As part of the goal, one of the deliverables could be for the private sector and developed countries to identify and support suitable technologies and innovations for adaptation.

A clearly defined framework for the GGA at COP28 can act as a catalyst to augment the much-neglected agenda of adaptation, enhance the resilience of most vulnerable populations impacted by climate change and operationalise equity.

Metaphorically, if to borrow from the riddle-solving capacities of Hatim Tai, known as the most generous man in Arabic and Persian anecdotal tradition, the world leaders convening at COP28 could be urged to embody their inner Hatim Tai, to unravel the adaptation riddles with benevolence and bravery.

Calling the kindred spirit of Hatim Tai, world leaders need to agree with climate finance for adaptation as not a burden, but a force to uplift, with grants and public finance that weave pathways for a transformative approach for adaptation.

Vanita Suneja is an independent researcher and writer. She has worked with various institutions over a period of three decades on environment, gender, water & sanitation

Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those ofDown To Earth


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