Adaptation in Decision 1/CP.16

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Date produced: 20/12/2010

What is the scope of “adaptation” under the new LCA text? In particular, how does it differ from the scope of adaptation under the Bali Action Plan? 

Summary: There is no formal definition of ‘adaptation’ in the UNFCCC, KP or AWG-LCA. The broad understanding of adaptation under the UNFCCC excludes the consideration of response measures. In the Cancun Decision, adaptation goes further than the Bali Action Plan in relation to considering loss and damage and climate induced displacement as part of the Adaptation Framework.

For the purposes of this response, we have assumed the ‘new LCA text’ to refer to Decision 1/CP.16 (the “Cancun Decision”).

1. Definition of adaptation under the UNFCCC

There is no formal definition of ‘adaptation’ in the UNFCCC, KP or AWG-LCA text, nor are there related definitions of terms such as ‘adaptive capacity’ or ‘vulnerability’. The definition that is accepted by parties is the definition from the IPCC, being: “adjustments in practices, processes, or structures [which] can moderate or offset the potential for damage or take advantage of opportunities created by a given change in climate”.

Adaptation is usually referred to in the context of adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change. Article 1 of the UNFCCC contains a definition of the “adverse effects of climate change” being: “changes in the physical environment or biota resulting from climate change which have significant deleterious effects on the composition, resilience or productivity of natural and managed ecosystems or on the operation of socioeconomic systems or on human health or welfare.” It is important to note that this definition intentionally excludes consideration of response measures.

2. Adaptation under the Cancun Decision

Adaptation arises primarily in two Chapters of the Cancun Decision. First, in relation to the shared vision in Chapter 1, where para 2(b) states that “adaptation must be addressed with the same priority as mitigation and requires appropriate institutional arrangements to enhance adaptation action and support.” Paras 2(c) and (d) then reiterate that enhanced technology transfer and the mobilisation of financial resources is to be for both adaptation and mitigation.

Second, Chapter II on enhanced action on adaptation outlines the scope of matters that need to be addressed when scaling up action. Para 14 provides a list of matters relevant to adaptation as follows:

“Invites all Parties to enhance action on adaptation under the Cancun Adaptation Framework, taking into account their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, and specific national and regional development priorities, objectives and circumstances, by undertaking, inter alia, the following:
(a) Planning, prioritizing and implementing adaptation actions, including projects and programmes, and actions identified in national and subnational adaptation plans and strategies, national adaptation programmes of action of the least developed countries, national communications, technology needs assessments and other relevant national planning documents;
(b) Impact, vulnerability and adaptation assessments, including assessments of financial needs as well as economic, social and environmental evaluation of adaptation options;
(c) Strengthening institutional capacities and enabling environments for adaptation, including for climate-resilient development and vulnerability reduction;
(d) Building resilience of socio-economic and ecological systems, including through economic diversification and sustainable management of natural resources;
(e) Enhancing climate change related disaster risk reduction strategies, taking into consideration the Hyogo Framework for Action where appropriate; early warning systems; risk assessment and management; and sharing and transfer mechanisms such as insurance, at local, national, subregional and regional levels, as appropriate;
(f) Measures to enhance understanding, coordination and cooperation with regard to climate change induced displacement, migration and planned relocation, where appropriate, at national, regional and international levels;
(g) Research, development, demonstration, diffusion, deployment and transfer of technologies, practices and processes; and capacity-building for adaptation, with a view to promoting access to technologies, in particular in developing country Parties;
(h) Strengthening data, information and knowledge systems, education and public awareness;
(i) Improving climate-related research and systematic observation for climate data collection, archiving, analysis and modelling in order to provide decision makers at national and regional levels with improved climate-related data and information; “

In addition to these matters, para 25 “[r]ecognizes the need to strengthen international cooperation and expertise to understand and reduce loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including impacts related to extreme weather events and slow onset events.” Para 26 then establishes a work programme to consider loss and damage and a process to invite submission on this issue, including the possible use of insurance related facilities.

3. Adaptation under the Bali Action Plan

The list of adaptation related issues included in Chapter II of the Cancun Decision are broadly consistent with the adaptation issues identified in para 1(c)(i)-(v) of Decision 1/CP.13 (the Bali Action Plan). That Decision provides:
(c) Enhanced action on adaptation, including, inter alia, consideration of:
(i) International cooperation to support urgent implementation of adaptation actions, including through vulnerability assessments, prioritization of actions, financial needs assessments, capacity-building and response strategies, integration of adaptation actions into sectoral and national planning, specific projects and programmes, means to incentivize the implementation of adaptation actions, and other ways to enable climate-resilient development and reduce vulnerability of all Parties, taking into account the urgent and immediate needs of developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, especially the least developed countries and small island developing States, and further taking into account the needs of countries in Africa affected by drought, desertification and floods;
(ii) Risk management and risk reduction strategies, including risk sharing and transfer mechanisms such as insurance;
(iii) Disaster reduction strategies and means to address loss and damage associated with climate change impacts in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change;
(iv) Economic diversification to build resilience;
(v) Ways to strengthen the catalytic role of the Convention in encouraging multilateral bodies, the public and private sectors and civil society, building on synergies among activities and processes, as a means to support adaptation in a coherent and integrated manner;
The areas where the Cancun Decision goes further than the Bali Action Plan are in relation to considering loss and damage and climate induced displacement as part of the Adaptation Framework.

4. Vulnerability

In terms of the specific references to vulnerability of particular developing countries, Para 1(c)(i) of the Bali Action plan includes specific reference to “developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, especially LDCs, SIDS and countries in Africa.” Although the Cancun Decision recalls the Bali Action Plan, the references to vulnerable countries are less explicit; instead in para 11 it uses the language “taking into account the urgent and immediate needs of those developing countries that are particularly vulnerable.” This change in language reflects increasing calls from other groups to highlight their vulnerability, which we understand Parties were unable to agree to.

5. Relationship with response measures

With regard to the relationship between adaptation and response measures, these are not directly linked in either the Bali Action Plan or the Cancun Decision. Response measures are addressed as a sub-set (Part E) of Chapter III on Enhanced action on Mitigation in the Cancun Decision.
This is consistent with where the issue is raised in the Bali Action Plan (para 1(b)(vi)). The language on response measures agreed to in the Cancun Decision is significantly less prescriptive compared to options included in earlier drafts of the Cancun Decision text.