Adaptation, Mitigation, Climate Finance and Technology
Adaptation is one of key approaches to climate change. While it is necessary for countries to address the challenge of mitigation, as without mitigation of greenhouse gases and other climate forces, climate change cannot be addressed, adaptation at first was considered as a local problem. In the context of international negotiations, the issues of adaptation to climate change are key for least developed countries and small island states, as well as to those countries that are at the frontline of climate change impacts emerging today. Already today, the adverse effects of climate change are keenly felt by the predominantly poor population of many African and Asian countries, while very existence of some islands is threatened by the rising sea levels. The UNFCCC adopted a programme of work on adaptation in 2001 for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) which were encouraged to plan for the future, and to prepare their national adaptation programs of action (NAPAs). These documents were to identify priority activities responding to countries urgent needs to adapt to climate change – those for which further delay would increase vulnerability and/or costs at a later stage. Parties debated on the guidelines for such documents prepared at national levels. A NAPA project database in need of finance was set up by the UNFCCC Secretariat. Adaptation work was further developed under the Nairobi Work Programme, adapted in 2006 and still ongoing, addressing the issues of vulnerability to climate change, its impacts and adaptation.
In Cancun, parties to the UNFCCC recognized the need for a long term global goal which is to keep the rise of global temperature below 2 degree C by 2100. Parties also agreed on the Cancun Adaptation Framework, setting up the institutional backbone of adaptation work of which the key institution is the Adaptation Committee. Parties were invited to prepare their national adaptation plans (NAPs), to address the issues of support, institutions, loss and damage and other questions, such as stakeholder engagement. Parties set up the Adaptation Fund under the Kyoto Protocol (which was to be financed by the proceeds from the flexible mechanisms JI and CDM). Since 2010, the Adaptation Fund has committed USD 331 million in 54 countries to climate adaptation and resilience activities. Negotiations on loss and damage have resulted in the COP.19 in Warsaw adopting the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage. In the run up to the Paris COP, which adopted global climate agreement in December 2015, the issue of adaptation grew in prominence. Many vulnerable countries advocated the adoption of a global adaptation goal, following the example of the global mitigation goal. Adaptation actions were incorporated by many countries into their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), submitted to the UNFCCC Secretariat in the course of 2015 as their input into the global fight against climate change. In the Paris Agreement, adaptation was given equal weight to mitigation. Article 7 of the Paris Agreement established the global goal on adaptation of enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change, with a view to contributing to sustainable development and ensuring an adequate adaptation response in the context of the long term goal of the Agreement. Adaptation was recognized as a key component of response to climate change. Existing frameworks, such as the Cancun Adaptation Framework and Adaptation Committee would provide support in strengthening cooperation on enhancing action on adaptation. Each party shall engage in adaptation planning processes and in the implementation of actions on adaptation which may be communicated periodically in an adaptation communication.
Common perception links GHG emissions to the economic growth: economic development must inexorably lead to the increase in GHG emissions. However, this does not have to be the case. It is possible for countries to generate economic growth decoupled from the growth of emissions. Reducing emissions does not have to lead to pain and sacrifice, and to lower economic prospects of countries.
On the contrary, energy efficiency and energy conservation bring net economic benefits, while deployment of renewable energy leads to innovation and development of new technologies. Since climate change is a global problem, mitigation undertaken by all countries, in line with their capabilities and responsibilities, will make adaptation to changing climate less costly for all. There is a significant reservoir of technical and economic measures that could be deployed globally to reduce emissions below current levels.
This task is urgent: systematic scientific observations confirm that the impacts of climate change are accelerating in a dramatic way and the number of devastating climate change related events is increasing. This is correlated with the increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which in May 2013 has passed the level of 400 parts per million (ppm).
The science has to determine what constitutes a dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system (Article 2 of the UNFCC Convention). The impacts of global temperature rise will become increasingly severe with time. It is assumed that the global temperature should stay below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. In 2010, the Parties to the UNFCCC agreed that keeping the rise of temperature below this level should be recognised as the long term global goal. In order to stabilise the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, GHG emissions need to peak and decline thereafter. In order to achieve the 2 °C objective, this should happen by 2020. In order to jointly achieve this goal, countries must reduce emissions, enhance sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases. This can be done through a range of policies, encouraging behavioural changes, creating appropriate incentives and stimulating development of low carbon technologies. The urgency of this collective task is increasing. Parties to the UNFCCC are not on a collective emissions pathway to keep the rise of global temperature below 2°C. At approximately 50 GtCO2e, current global annual emissions are already 14% higher than the median estimate (44 GtCO2e) of the emission levels in 2020 considered as the utmost threshold for meeting the 2°C target. Spurred by the urgency of the task and the challenge ahead, parties to the UNFCCC adopted in December 2015 at COP. 21 in Paris a global agreement on climate change.
The Paris Agreement is the first multilateral agreement on climate change setting out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change. The Agreement recognized that a global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions should happen as soon as possible, with climate neutrality achieved in the second half of this century. It sets out a long term goal of limiting the rise of global temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C; The aspirational goal of 1.5°C was agreed to drive greater ambition, and to highlight the concerns of the most vulnerable countries that are already experiencing the impacts of climate change. It is a dynamic agreement: starting from 2023, Parties will come together every five years to take a “global stocktake” which will enable them to see what progress in reducing emissions was achieved, what adaptation actions were taken and what kind of support was provided and received by countries in view of the long-term goals of the Agreement. The Agreement sends a clear signal to all stakeholders, not just to governments, that the world is moving in direction of fossil-free future. Countries subscribing to the Agreement are taking legally binding action on national level to implement their Nationally Determined Contributions submitted to the UNFCCC as a declaration of their domestic mitigation efforts the progress of which will be monitored through enhanced transparency and accountability framework. The Agreement provides also an enhanced support framework to developing countries in order to enable them to implement their NDCs.
Climate finance is one of the forms of support provided by developed countries to developing countries. Together with technology transfer and capacity building, finance is one of the Means of Implementation (MOI). Developing countries participation in mitigation efforts is contingent on MOI. The obligation to provide climate finance under the Convention is limited to parties listed in Annex II to the Convention. Other Annex I parties are not under obligation to provide financial support to developing countries.
In the Paris Agreement, finance forms an important part of the global deal. Developed countries will continue to provide and mobilize finance to support both, mitigation and adaptation in developing countries. Financial flows have to be consistent with a pathway towards low Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and climate-resilient development. Developed countries reaffirmed their resolve to provide urgent and adequate finance (and other means of implementation) to developing countries to enhance the level of pre-2020 ambition and were urged to scale up the level of financial support with a concrete roadmap to achieve the goal of jointly providing USD 100 billion annually by 2020 for both mitigation and adaptation (para. 115 of the decision). On top of that, developed countries intend to continue this existing collective mobilization goal of USD 100 billion annually through 2025. From 2026 this amount is intended to increase from the floor of USD 100 billion per year. The new collective quantified goal should be set by the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement by the end of 2025.
The Convention urges developed country Parties and Annex II Parties to promote, facilitate and finance the transfer of environmentally sound technologies and know-how to other Parties, particularly to developing countries, to enable them to implement the provisions of the Convention.
To facilitate technology transfer, parties to the UNFCCC established at the COP.16 in 2010 the Technology Mechanism consisting of two complementary bodies: the Technology Executive Committee (TEC) and the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN). Together, these two bodies support the efforts of developing countries to address technology development and transfer policy and its implementation. The TEC works closely with the UNFCCC, tis subsidiary bodies and other stakeholders to provide policy recommendations and support action on climate technology transfer and development.
The CTCN, hosted by the UNIDO, is the operational arm of the Technology Mechanism. It facilitates a network of national, regional, sectoral and international technology centres, networks, organizations and private sector entities. It provides free technical assistance and provides information on climate technologies to developing countries.
More information can be found on the dedicated UNFCCC webpage.