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Adaptation Without Borders: A brief to participants in COP27

The insights emerging from Adaptation Without Borders challenge a narrative that has long been embraced in climate policy: that adaptation is a local challenge, while mitigation is a global concern.

Katy Harris, Magnus Benzie / Published on 23 December 2022

Harris, K., Benzie, M., and Anisimov, A. (2022). Adaptation Without Borders: A brief to participants in COP27. Adaptation Without Borders Brief, Stockholm Environment Institute.

Climate risk is a shared reality; adaptation must now become a shared responsibility. If we reframe adaptation as a global challenge, what new forms of inter-national cooperation and multilateral climate action await us?

The impacts of climate change have knock-on effects across national borders; even local climate impacts can have regional or global repercussions. We call these transboundary and cascading climate risks, and they are expected to increase as global warming accelerates. Despite their scale and danger, they represent a major ‘blind spot’ in climate adaptation.

A failure to understand transboundary climate risks means that we underestimate the scale and nature of the global efforts needed to adapt. But there is also an opportunity here. If we clearly identify and assess the shared benefits of systemic resilience, donors, banks and private actors are more likely to invest in reducing climate risk through adaptation as well as mitigation.

The window for action is closing as people and systems reach their limits to adaptation. Rising to the global adaptation challenge requires:

  • New narratives of how risk and resilience extend across borders
  • New initiatives that go beyond local-scale projects and domestic policies, putting international co-operation and climate diplomacy at the heart of adaptation efforts
  • New actors in finance, foreign affairs and trade ministries, working hand-in-hand with the environment ministries that often lead national adaptation planning
  • The transboundary nature of risk means that no country can achieve resilience to climate change by adapting on its own. We need, as matter of urgency, a new kind of global accountability and solidarity on adaptation.

SEI authors

Katy Harris
Katy Harris

Senior Policy Fellow

SEI Headquarters

Profile picture of Magnus Benzie
Magnus Benzie

Senior Research Fellow

SEI Oxford

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