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Adaptation Day at COP9



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Hannah Reid
Saleemul Huq

Hannah Reid and Saleemul Huq report on Adaptation Day, a major COP9 side event held in Milan, Italy, in December 2003.

Hannah Reid is a Research Associate at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). Saleemul Huq is the Climate Change Programme Director at IIED.

The ninth Conference of Parties (COP9) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was held in Milan, Italy, during December 2003. For the second year running, the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and the Regional and International Networking Group (ring) held ‘Adaptation Day at COP’. This was hosted by the Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM) and funded by Etc International. Well over 100 people attended.

The first session on the science of adaptation was chaired by Saleemul Huq (IIED, UK). Stephen Schneider (Stanford University, USA) opened by describing what changes in the global climate scientists anticipate that the world will have to adapt to and the debate over what level of change was considered ‘dangerous’. He placed particular emphasis on equity issues: equity between species (it is not the human species alone which will have to adapt to climate change); equity between poor and rich countries; and equity between generations.

Jouni Paavola (Centre for Social and Economic Research on the Global Environment – CSERGE, University of East Anglia, UK) developed this theme by describing a recent project investigating justice and equity issues relating to climate change. Equity needs consideration at multiple decision-making levels: the level of the international legal framework, national adaptation policies and actions and daily individual adaptation actions. Interactions between these levels must also been taken into account. Decision makers need to tackle issues ranging from historical responsibility for dealing with climate change, to local adaptive responses increasing the vulnerability of nearby poor communities.

Barry Smit (University of Guelph, Canada) explained that whilst a ‘top-down’ scenario-based approach could help answer the question ‘how dangerous is climate change?’, a ‘bottom-up’ systems approach is required to assess how communities adapt to climate change. These approaches do not necessarily lead to the same conclusions: for example, government policies can in fact lead to ‘maladaptation’ if they fail to address current and future local risks.

Richard Klein (Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research – PIK, Germany) then described PIK’s project on Environmental Vulnerability Assessment, which combines these two approaches. The project aims to evaluate the mechanisms and magnitude by which global change affects natural and human systems, and how systems respond and interact to reduce their exposure and enhance their adaptive capacity to this change.

Neil Leary (SysTem for Analysis Research and Training – START, Washington) described the Assessments of Impacts and Adaptations to Climate Change in Multiple Regions and Sectors (AIACC) project, which involves 24 regional studies in 46 countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Small Island States. The project aims to inform policy by understanding who is vulnerable and why, and what types of adaptation strategies are likely to be effective.

The second session on funding adaptation was chaired by Joel Smith (Stratus Consulting). Mary Jane Mace (Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development – FIELD, UK) began by providing an overview of current funding opportunities for adaptation under the UNFCCC. She emphasized that the text is often unclear, and the language used ‘slippery’. Definitions of adaptation and technology transfer remain contentious. Progress has been made with the Least Development Countries (LDC) fund, but how the Adaptation Fund and the Special Climate Change Fund will function remains debated. There are also problems with the Global Environment Facility (GEF) approach, which currently favours large projects and requires them to demonstrate the incremental global environmental benefits of funding. This is problematic in the context of adaptation benefits, most of which are accrued locally.

Boni Biagini (GEF) stated that GEF has recently allocated US$50 million specifically for adaptation activities, and is developing guidance on how funds should be distributed.

Richard Hosier (United Nations Development Programme – UNDP) elaborated further on GEF’s strategic approach to adaptation. He described the difficulties in coming up with sensible adaptation projects, and stressed that the first priority should be to ensure that funded projects do no harm. He also described the need to build on existing strengths, tools and activities, stressing the importance of meeting the immediate needs of the ldcs, as well as the long-term adaptation needs of all poor countries.

Frank Sperling (World Bank) discussed the need to link development planning with adaptation to climate change, focusing on capacity building. He described the difficulties encountered in separating adaptation costs from other costs (such as road building), and raised the key question of who should pay for adaptation and how much. For example, he questioned whether developing countries should have to pay at all. He stated that the World Bank has moved from a reactive approach to dealing with adaptation, to a preventative approach.

Avis Robinson (US Environmental Protection Agency) ended the session by stressing the importance of considering adaptation in conjunction with mitigation. She described the need to educate senior us officials in issues relating to adaptation, especially the Department of State. She also expressed the need for donors (as well as countries) to prioritize their activities with regards to adaptation, and said that the US Agency for International Development is currently assessing the extent to which its project activities account for adaptation, and also possibilities for making new resources available.

The fourth session on adaptation in action was chaired by Andrew Simms (New Economics Foundation, UK). Brett Orlando (The World Conservation Union – IUCN) began by describing three adaptation-related projects in which IUCN is involved. First, the Water and Climate Change Dialogue looks at climate variability and change as well as the instability of water systems, and human responses. Second, protected areas, which may end up being located in the ‘wrong’ places if climate change causes ecosystem boundaries to shift, are considered. Finally, IUCN is involved with the Task Force on Climate Change, Vulnerable Communities and Adaptation, which aims to strengthen the role of ecosystem management and restoration activities in reducing the vulnerability of communities to climate change and climate-related hazards.

Anne Hammill (International Institute for Sustainable Development – IISD, Canada) elaborated further on this Task Force: phase one ended in 2003, and phase two will facilitate the implementation of adaptation activities that use community-based approaches. A toolkit will be developed from pilot implementation activities, and outreach activities will continue. Adaptation screening tools, to allow people to assess their project portfolios in the context of adaptation, will also be developed.

Jan Verhagen (Wageningen University, The Netherlands) described the Development and Climate project, which aims to identify development pathways that are sustainable and facilitate the delivery of positive climate change outcomes. The project started by looking at current development priorities in Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Senegal and South Africa. It then assessed which of these increased vulnerability to climate change and which led to low greenhouse gas emissions. Case studies covered the water, food and energy sectors.

Madeleen Helmer (Red Cross/Red Crescent Centre on Climate Change and Disaster Preparedness) addressed issues relating to climate change and disaster preparedness. Weather-related disasters have increased over the past ten years, affecting an increasing number of people. The Red Cross responds to disasters, but also aims to reduce risk through adaptation, disaster preparedness, disaster mitigation and development. She described seven steps to improve risk reduction:

  • preliminary climate risk assessment;
  • assess priorities and plan follow up;
  • raise awareness;
  • establish and enhance partnerships;
  • highlight climate-related vulnerability with other actors;
  • document and share experiences and information; and,
  • advocacy and shaping the global response to climate change.

Youba Sokona (Environmental Development Action in the Third World – ENDA, Senegal) stated that rather than theorizing, the key issue was to learn from the considerable body of existing knowledge that communities currently have and use on adapting to climate change. He also stressed the links between adaptation and poverty, stating that socially, people can cope with climate change, but economically, they can’t. Funding is, therefore, needed at the local level and to help scale up existing community adaptation activities to regional and national levels.

Suruchi Bhadwal (The Energy and Resources Institute – TERI, India) described the project, Coping with Global Change; Vulnerability and Adaptation in Indian Agriculture. The project chose various indicators (such as literacy rates, irrigation and infrastructure development) to represent adaptation capacity, and combined these with ecosystem vulnerability to produce a sensitivity map for India.

She stressed that globalization can alter vulnerability patterns, for example, by changing relationships between corporate organizations and small farmers, and described how case studies were chosen based on their sensitivity to both climate change and globalization. Household surveys at each case study site revealed how local coping mechanisms (such as migration) were short-term and temporary. There is, therefore, a need to develop longer-term coping solutions such as seed banks and insurance. Finally, the need to increase local awareness, but also strengthen institutions, was stressed.

Shardul Agarwala (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – OECD) concluded the third session by describing an OECD project examining synergies and conflicts in mainstreaming responses to climate change within development planning and assistance. Case studies included Bangladesh, Egypt, Fiji, Nepal, Tanzania and Uruguay. The project identified the importance of policy coherence (within climate policies, between climate and other environmental policies, and between climate and development policies) in preventing ‘maladaptation’ and finding ‘no-regrets’ solutions. He added that climate change impacts can be positive as well as negative: for example, coffee production is expected to increase in Tanzania.

The final session on the politics and negotiations relating to adaptation was chaired by Jan Pronk (Chairman IIED, UK). Discussants included Phil O’Keefe (etc International), Farhana Yamin (Institute of Development Studies – IDS, UK), Bakari Kante (UNEP), Joke Waller-Hunter (UNFCCC) and Sabihuddin Ahmad (leader of the Bangladesh delegation). Issues discussed included the increasing international commitment to adaptation, but the lack of associated funding, and the lack of linkages with relevant work on poverty.

How to reach the poorest communities remains problematic, and stakeholders must realise that working with the poor is expensive and adaptation projects are difficult to deliver in practice. Various institutions and processes within civil society can help prevent stalemates by diffusing/deflecting problems, and also provide ways to take adaptation issues forward outside the UNFCCC negotiations.

Adaptation has less ‘backup’ from the research/methodological community than mitigation, and has only seriously been on the agenda for two years. Links between adaptation and mitigation are, however, being developed, and this needs to be built on rather than discouraged. Choosing between adaptation and mitigation, or excluding adaptation from the UNFCCC process, is, therefore, not an option.

Implementation of UNFCCC commitments has, however, been weak to date, and Jan Pronk suggested that poor countries should demand operationalisation of the many existing instruments (for example, National Adaptation Plans of Action, Millennium Development targets, Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers) before proceeding with negotiations to develop new instruments. Collaboration with other multilateral environmental agreements is important, as is mainstreaming adaptation into existing development actions – as long as additional funding is provided for this. Finally, capacity building is needed, in both the North and the South.

Despite the growing interest in adaptation, the issue still needs greater attention from negotiators and policy makers. Many of those attending Adaptation Day were already adaptation advocates, and the need to reach out to a broader community and bring in those not usually associated with adaptation issues was apparent. Another key group of stakeholders, which had little presence at Adaptation Day, and indeed the whole Conference of the Parties, was the non-governmental organization (NGO) community from the development sector.

People are increasingly asking questions such as: What is adaptation? How do we implement adaptation on the ground? And how best can we fund adaptation? The development community, including key NGOs such as ActionAid, Oxfam and Christian Aid, which has long experience with such issues in the broader arena of sustainable development, now needs to join the process and help provide answers to these pressing questions.


Further information
Hannah Reid and Saleemul Huq, IIED, 3 Endsleigh Street, London WC1H 0DD, UK. Fax +44 (0)20 7388 2826. Email hannah.reid@iied.org and saleemul.huq@iied.org.Web: www.iied.org.

On the Web
The full report on Adaptation Day is available in electronic and printed format. For an account of how the climate negotiations are handling the issue of adaptation see the Climate Compendium.

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Tiempo Climate Newswatch
Updated: April 12th 2013