1. How does the Cancun Agreement position the Adaptation Committee in terms of its ability to implement and control its recommendations on adaptation issues?
2. Would the ‘implementation’ power of the Adaptation Committee change according to its alignment with SBSTA (an advisory body under the UNFCCC) and/or SBI (an implementation body under the UNFCCC)? If so, how is the Adaptation Committee currently aligned?
3. Please discuss examples of other committees whose modalities and procedures define its implementing power (as opposed to its pure advisory power). In particular, have there been committees established who’s initial objective was to act as an implementing body, but who have in effect played only an advisory role (and has this been because of weaknesses in the committee’s modalities and procedures)?
4. Parties have been invited to submit recommendations or proposals for the modalities and procedures of the Adaptation Committee. Could you suggest language to be inserted into an LDC submission, which outlines the changes required to ensure its implementation power is maximised?
Summary: The Adaptation Committee is an advisory body which does not have a mandate to “implement” but rather to promote the implementation of adaptation actions by Parties. The modalities and procedures cannot extend the mandate of the Adaptation Committee beyond that which has been granted by the Cancun Agreements.
1. Position of the Adaptation Committee as to implementation
1.1 The Cancun Agreement does not position the Adaptation Committee to “implement and control its recommendations”. Rather, the Adaptation Committee has a mandate to enhance the implementation actions of the Parties by providing the Parties with technical support and guidance and through such actions as strengthening the sharing of information, knowledge, experience and good practices between Parties at local, national, regional and international levels.
1.2 The role of the Adaptation Committee with respect to implementation is stated at Art 20 of the Cancun Agreements to be to “promote the implementation of enhanced action on adaptation” (emphasis added) through various functions including, relevantly:
(a) promoting synergy and strengthening engagement with national, regional and international organizations, centres and networks to enhance the implementation of adaptation actions…;
(b) providing information and recommendations…for consideration by the Conference of the Parties when providing guidance on means to incentivize the implementation of adaptation actions…including to operating entities of the financial mechanism of the Convention, as appropriate; and
(c) considering information communicated by Parties on their monitoring and review of adaptation actions…with a view to recommending what further actions may be required, as appropriate.
1.3 Ultimately, it is the Parties, and not the Adaptation Committee, who will undertake the actual implementation of adaptation action. Whilst the Adaptation Committee is to ‘promote’ the implantation of adaptation action, the Parties invited under Art 14 of the Cancun Agreement to, amongst other things, undertake:
(a) to plan, prioritize and implement adaptation actions (emphasis added);
(b) impact, vulnerability and adaptation assessments;
(c) to build resilience of socio-economic and ecological systems;
(d) to improve climate-related research and systemic observation for climate data collection, archiving analysis and modelling to provide decision makers at national and regional levels with improved climate-related data and information.
1.4 If the Parties had intended that the Adaptation Committee would undertake direct implementation action (rather than guidance, information and recommendations), then language empowering the Adaptation Committee would have been required within the Cancun Agreements. Furthermore, the modalities and procedures for the Adaptation Committee cannot extend the function of the Adaptation Committee beyond that which is provided for in the Cancun Agreements.
1.5 In particular, we note that the Adaptation Committee has not been granted an oversight or compliance mandate, but merely a mandate to “consider information communicated by Parties” and offer recommendations with respect to any identified “gaps” in Parties’ implementation action.
2. Alignment with SBI or SBSTA
2.1 For the reasons provided in paragraph 1.4, the “implementation power” of the Adaptation Committee will not be affected by its alignment with other bodies such as the SBI or the SBSTA because any such alignment is subsidiary to, and limited by, the mandate granted to the Adaptation Committee under the Cancun Agreements.
2.2 We note, however, that the roles of the SBSTA and SBI have evolved over time so that it is generally accepted that the SBSTA’s role is as a “policy-oriented negotiating forum dealing with scientific and technical issues” whilst the SBI is seen as a political body. Therefore, given the scope of the functions of the Adaptation Committee, it may well need to interact with both the SBI (e.g. with respect to ‘considering information communicated by Parties as to adaptation action’) and the SBSTA (e.g. with respect to technical support) in order to fulfil its mandate to “promote the implementation of enhanced action on adaptation in a coherent manner”.
2.3 In addition, we note Yamin and Depledge’s commentary in relation to the SBSTA and SBI in which they observed that:
The SBI has the specific task of assisting the COP ‘in the preparation and implementation of its decisions’…Despite the ‘implementation’ focus of its title, the SBI’s mandate to examine the implementation of individual Parties is curtailed by the limitation that it ‘assess the overall aggregated effect of the steps taken by the Parties’. This limitation was included in response to sovereignty concerns expressed during negotiations on the Convention. Parties did not want the SBI to evolve into a similar animal to the (highly effective) Implementation Committee under the Montreal Protocol, which considers, and adopts recommendations on, cases of potential and actual non-compliance with the Montreal Protocol’s ODS phase-out schedule.
2.4 Nevertheless, the effectiveness of the Adaptation Committee would undoubtedly be influenced by its ability to leverage the existing relationships and spheres of influence which have been established by the SBI and SBSTA in their relevant areas of specialty.
3. Modalities and Procedures
3.1 As noted in paragraph 1.4, the modalities and procedures of the Adaptation Committee cannot extend the scope of power or function of the subsidiary body beyond that which is mandated in the enabling UNFCCC decision. As the enabling decision does not include an “implementing” power, the modalities and procedures cannot define such a power. The Adaptation Committee’s mandate is as an advisory body which will assist Parties to implement adaptation actions.
4.1 Whilst the Adaptation Committee is limited in some respects by its mandate, it still has a critical function to play in improving the connection between Parties and between organisations which are outside of the UNFCCC but are nevertheless involved in actions which will enhance adaptation outcomes.
4.2 One of the key procedures which will impact on the effectiveness of the Adaptation Committee to fulfil its mandate is the voting procedure. We note that, unlike the UNFCCC Rules of Procedure in which no agreement was reached as to voting procedure, the Rules of Procedure for the Adaptation Fund Board (AFB) under the Kyoto Protocol include an agreed position on voting such that decisions of the Board are to be by consensus “but if all efforts to reach a consensus have been exhausted and no agreement has been reached, decision shall be taken by a two-thirds majority of the members present at the meeting on the basis of one member, one vote” (Rule 44 and 45 ). Clearly, ensuring that efforts of the Adaptation Committee can be converted into recommendations for consideration by the COP (or other bodies as appropriate) is critical to its effectiveness. A voting procedure like the one adopted by the AFB would provide a level of certainty in this respect.
4.3 The ability to approve intersessional decisions would also be useful to ensure that decisions can be made in a timely manner without having to wait until the next meeting. The AFB Rules of Procedure include such a provision at Rules 56 – 59.
4.4 With respect to links between the Adaptation Committee and institutional arrangements and organisations outside of the UNFCCC, we think that it is important that the Adaptation Committee is given full discretion to explore possible linkages. Whilst Party recommendations may useful, the Adaptation Committee should not be limited to a prescriptive list of organisations set out in the modalities and procedures.