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Climate adaptation must be reframed from a local issue to a global responsibility

The time is right to harness the momentum of the Paris Agreement and meet the global challenge of adaptation, according to a new brief.

Emily Yehle / Published on 18 April 2018

The time is right to harness the momentum of the Paris Agreement and meet the global challenge of adaptation, according to a new brief from SEI, the Overseas Development Institute, and the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations.

The brief comes ahead of the upcoming UNFCCC intersessional in Bonn, where international climate negotiators will continue work to turn the Paris Agreement’s goals into concrete action. But one of those global goals –adaptation – remains overlooked, despite the need to adapt to the increasing severity and frequency of climate change impacts.

Researchers from SEI, ODI and IDDRI argue that the international community should focus more on adaptation – and not just at the national level. National adaptation plans and finance efforts must tackle transboundary climate risk.

Climate risk is often borderless, with impacts in one country creating risks and opportunities in others. Yet it is still largely addressed through a national lens.

“The opportunity provided by the Paris Agreement to meet the global adaptation challenge is currently being missed,” said Magnus Benzie, an SEI research fellow who is the lead author of the brief. “If we continue down the current path – where adaptation is viewed as a local problem – climate risks could increase as impacts shift from one country to another.”

Climate impacts in one country will create risks and opportunities in another, due to cross-border connectivity. Above, a satellite image shows the Nile Delta, a rich agricultural region. Photo: Ars Electronica/Flickr

The brief provides several recommendations on how the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) could encourage better accounting of transboundary climate risk. Such steps could begin before this year’s Conference of the Parties (COP24) in Katowice, Poland.

Recommendations to the UNFCCC include:

  • Adaptation should be envisioned as a global challenge, and as a global opportunity to harness international cooperation to address cross-border risks through transboundary adaptation
  • Future adaptation communications should summarise the contribution by each party to global adaptation and highlight exposure to transboundary climate risk
  • The global stocktake should do more than aggregate national contributions; it should track additional metrics on transboundary climate impacts and global adaptation measures
  • The Adaptation Committee could initiate discussions on how to identify and address the range of transboundary risks
  • The Least Developed Countries Expert Group could include guidance on the transboundary dimensions of adaptation in its guidance for National Adaptation Plans
  • Support should be provided to ensure the ability to adapt to transboundary risks

The brief also provides recommendations for non-Party and non-state actors, donors, climate finance institutions, Parties, and stakeholders. For example, climate finance is often tied to national adaptation plans; the brief suggests this could be broadened so that regional adaptation actions can also draw on climate funding.

“Transboundary climate risks are already detectable around the globe, demonstrating a clear need for mechanisms to address them at the international level,” said Erin Roberts, a research associate at ODI who is an author of the brief. “The time is right to seize the momentum of the Paris Agreement to address adaptation as a global challenge and ensure that this occurs within the global climate regime.”

Related people

Profile picture of Magnus Benzie
Magnus Benzie

Senior Research Fellow

SEI Oxford

Åsa Persson
Åsa Persson

Research Director and Deputy Director

SEI Headquarters

Richard J.T. Klein
Richard J. T. Klein

Team Leader: International Climate Risk and Adaptation; Senior Research Fellow

SEI Headquarters

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