From November 30 to December 12, some 85,000 representatives from around the world gathered in Dubai for the 28th Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP28). The focus was on negotiations to step up ambitions and increase the pace of global climate action.
While the publication of the first global stocktake captured most of the attention in the discussions, the parties also signed a last-minute agreement to create a framework for the Global Goal on Adaptation. This agreement charts a path toward greater resilience to climate change in a changing climate.
The Global Goal on Adaptation
After two years of preliminary discussions and eight technical workshops dedicated to defining the Global Goal on Adaptation established by the Paris Agreement, the parties agreed on its objectives of strengthening adaptive capacity, increasing resilience, and reducing vulnerability to climate change on a global scale. Unlike mitigation, the progress of which can be tracked using the 1.5°C measure, adaptation requires a more complex approach, not least because of its local nature.
Despite differences of opinion, including on funding and the targets and objectives to guide multilateral efforts, the parties developed a first decision text, which is a first step in creating a system to enhance global resilience to climate change. Although imperfect, this text reflects a global consensus on adaptation goals, the need for financial and technological support, and capacity building.
By 2030, the Global Goal on Adaptation aims for countries to conduct up-to-date climate risk analyses, establish national adaptation plans and make progress in their implementation, and establish a monitoring, evaluation and learning system for their national adaptation efforts, among other things.
Adaptation initiatives: from the 2023 Adaptation Futures conference to COP28
Calls for greater support for climate change adaptation were the focal point of a series of events leading up to and during COP28, including the side event entitled Making Headway for Adaptation, co-led by Ouranos and the Danish organization DanChurchAid. During the event, the consortium’s Executive Director, Alain Bourque, shared lessons learned at the Adaptation Futures conference held in Montréal last October. In particular, he promoted collaboration and the integration of Indigenous and local knowledge into adaptation research, policies and solutions, while emphasizing the inclusion of marginalized voices from the Global South to promote climate justice, equity and diversity.
Alain Bourque also underscored the urgency of addressing adaptation funding and investments.
The underfunding of adaptation
Climate finance was an important part of the discussions at COP28. Several countries, particularly the most vulnerable, expressed concern about the global underfunding of climate change adaptation. This echoes the recent UNEP report indicating a 15% decline in multilateral and bilateral adaptation funding for developing countries in 2021, totalling $21 billion. This falls far short of the estimated need: $215 billion per year by 2030.
Although $188 million in funding pledges were made at COP28, many believe this amount is grossly insufficient in the face of the climate emergency. Several developing countries advocated for adaptation funding of at least $100 billion per year, highlighting the injustice of climate disruptions to which they have contributed very little.
It is crucial that international climate finance encompass mitigation, adaptation, and loss and damage to ensure an effective fight against climate change. Remember that for every $1 invested in prevention through adaptation measures, between $10 and $15 that would have been spent in response to a disaster is saved.
The Loss and Damage Fund: a major step forward, but not enough
The announcement of the creation and operationalization of a dedicated loss and damage fund at the opening of COP28 also raised concerns about a possible decrease in funding allocated to adaptation. While this initiative is a major first step by the international community in addressing loss and damage, the $700 million pledged so far by wealthy countries, which are primarily responsible for the climate emergency, represents less than 0.2% of the annual needs of vulnerable countries, estimated at between $100 billion and $580 billion. The government of Canada pledged $16 million to the fund, which has been criticized as insufficient, given its role as a major polluter.
Challenges and prospects
Although negotiations at the COP are making slow progress, it is encouraging to note that these conferences stimulate dialogue. Some obstacles remain, such as insufficient funding and differences of opinion among parties favouring their own interests, but these challenges should not discourage our engagement.
At COP28, a strong call was made for countries to translate their commitments into tangible actions and scale up their efforts, both in mitigation and adaptation. Although adaptation is relegated to the background, this COP has shown that discussions, even slow ones, can lead to concrete results. Collaboration is the key to moving forward and adapting our lifestyles to the impacts of climate change, which are already being felt.
COP29 and COP30, to be held in Azerbaijan and Brazil in 2024 and 2025, offer an opportunity for bold negotiations to set higher targets and take collectively action on the climate emergency. In the meantime, in Quebec, local actors from all sectors are actively engaged in implementing a variety of well-founded adaptation measures to prepare for the consequences of climate change. By working together, we can advance the cause proactively and constructively.