Knowledge Sharing for Climate Change Adaption

International climate negotiations

International climate negotiations

Although climate change mitigation and related mechanisms and instruments still dominate the international agenda and the pool of information available online, adaptation has been receiving growing attention since the IPCC Third Assessment in 2001. A range of working papers from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change illustrate the appearance of adaptation on the international climate change and the broader development agenda. At the 13th Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC in Bali, in 2007, one of four ‘Building Blocks’ of the Bali Action Plan [] was entirely dedicated to adaptation; two further Building Blocks of further action are directly related to it (IDDRI provides a brief summary in French).

However, the voices of the climate change community remain critical, claiming that progress in adaptation research and action has been limited. A 2008 issue of the journal Global Environmental Change concluded that large gaps in coverage of geographical regions and of languages other than English prevail, and that adaptation resources to date have remained largely inconsistent and incomparable. A range of other sources have argued that the international community lacks consensus on the importance, scope, cost, and – in particular – the responsibility to finance climate change adaptation, limiting the opportunities for concerted efforts in this field. In the run-up to Bali 2007, Oxfam International [] called for immediate action, comparing to date funding for adaptation with annual Canadian expenditure on hair conditioner [Oxfam_bali_adaptation; Oxfam_bali_adaptation_fr].

Financing Adaptation: Who’s Responsibility?

Questions of costs and funding of adaptation are at the centre of much international debate but there is a general consensus that adaptation urgently needs more funding. IDDRI [] outlines the current state of negotiations regarding the Adaptation Fund as discussed in Bali and Poznan, and explains how a climate of misunderstandings and disagreement has inhibited action in two briefing papers [Paper #1, Paper #2]IDDRI briefing papers.  Apart from listing some financing options, international governmental organizations such as the OECD and the World Bank [] provide little insight into their positions on who should be paying for adaptation, whereas research institutions and NGOs have much clearer ideas about it and explore different options (see articles by Klein [klein_adaptation], Muller [muller_adaptation] and Hyder [GEC_18_3_carbontax] for an up to date review). Another interesting proposal [Oxfam_financing_adaptation] from Oxfam International suggests the use of an ‘Adaptation Financing Index’, according to which the US, EU, and Japan are responsible for covering 40, 30 and 10 percent of adaptation costs respectively.

What is Adaptation?

In the context of international negotiations and legal frameworks, the OECD and IEA have published a list and synthesis of terms around adaptation , providing some insight into the minor and major differences of definitions as used by UNFCCC, IPCC, UNISDR and the broader climate change community. A further definition to be looked at is the distinction between proactive and reactive adaptation: The World Bank considers the latter, along with mitigation, the more useful option in relation to proactive adaptation which has to cope with uncertainties about the real impacts of climate variability and change. The IUCN, in a policy brief, utilizes the term ‘ecosystem approach to adaptation’, describing the ecosystem as providing essential services to human beings, which need to be maintained [IUCN_pp].

Africa: Mainstreaming and Linking Adaptation

Apart from debates around the definition and costs of adaptation, the international community has been discussing the need for linking climate change adaptation with mitigation and with disaster risk reduction. Even though it has repeatedly been stressed that Sub-Saharan Africa is particularly vulnerable to climate change, sources specifically reflecting the African context are scarce and largely limited to very specific studies at national policy making level (such as the NAPAs). Resources in French can be found at country-specific or global level, but there is a wide gap in between. One article connecting the national with a broader, global setting is a case study on Uganda which explains diverging national and international interests and explores ways of overcoming them. A poverty-reduction oriented approach highlighting the importance of local knowledge can be found in a 2002 conference paper [CICERO_africaadapt_production_strategy] by CICERO Oslo, which gives recommendations for adaptation policy in five countries in eastern Africa.