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Too Little, Too Slow? Climate Adaptation at the United Nations Climate Change Negotiations Since the Adoption of the Paris Agreement


Timo Leiter

DOI https://doi.org/10.21552/cclr/2022/4/5

This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Licence Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

Adaptation to climate change has become a top priority of negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement. However, most of the literature on global climate governance focuses on mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. This article therefore proposes a framework for tracking negotiation outcomes on adaptation based on the four dimensions of the Adaptation Gap Report of the United Nations Environment Programme (planning, finance, implementation, and effectiveness) and on key governance functions outlined in the climate policy literature. By comparing the adaptation outcomes of the three most recent Conferences of the Parties (COP25 – COP27) with the baseline of adaptation provisions in the Paris Agreement and its rulebook, the extent and type of decisions on adaptation are assessed and the evolution of relevant agenda items is analysed. Decisions adopted since 2019 have concentrated on support and transparency while the Paris Agreement made greater use of signalling and rule-setting. The extent to which adaptation gaps identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change can be reduced through decisions at UN climate change negotiations is influenced by the potential and limits of governing a context-specific subject matter at the global level. Reflecting about how adaptation can be facilitated through multiple governance functions will be vital for the development of an effective framework for the global goal on adaptation.

Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), London, United Kingdom. I am grateful for the ongoing exchange and collaboration with Party delegates and observer organisations, especially the UNFCCC Secretariat, the Adaptation Committee, the LDC Expert Group, Germany’s International Development Agency (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH - GIZ), the National Adaptation Plan Global Network hosted by the International Institute for Sustainable Development, the United Nations Environment Programme, the International Institute for Environment and Development, and colleagues at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at LSE. Funding for this research was provided by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) under grant number ES/P000622/1, project reference 2098296. For Correspondence: <T.L.Leiter@lse.ac.uk>


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