Adaptation Futures 2020: building resilience through long-term strategies

Written by Rohini Kohli and Melanie Pisano 

The Adaptation Futures 2020 conference in Delhi has been postponed due to the alarming rise in COVID-19 cases worldwide. However, in preparation for the international conference – now scheduled for 2021 – a 3-day pre-conference webinar series took place in July with the intention of feeding into the current global discussion around long-term adaptation strategies. The National Adaptation Plan Global Support Programme (NAP-GSP), a joint-UNDP-UNEP programme funded by the GEF, participated in the pre-conference session focused on the issues of climate action, India-EU experiences on adaptation and moving towards a long-term climate resilient pathways. After the session, the NAP GSP team took a step back to reflect on some of the key issues.

Long-Term Strategies: what, why, who and how?

Under Article 4, paragraph 19, of the Paris Agreement, all Parties should strive to formulate and communicate long-term low GHG development strategies by 2020. This is in accordance with Parties agreeing to limit the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius. Long-Term Strategies (LTS) are vital since current national climate plans are only sufficient enough to limit warming to 2.7-3.7 degrees Celsius. LTS are important because they present an opportunity to bring national action in line with needed ambition.

Many Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) include countries’ plans to reduce emissions, but also include descriptions of their adaptation goals, priorities, actions and needs. These include current activities and plans to build resilience in agriculture, health and water sectors, and many outline their needs for support in assessing and reducing their vulnerability to climate change. This points to the importance of long-term approaches to climate change and greater inclusion of adaptation plans in long-term strategies.

The UNDP and World Resources Institute have worked closely with UN Climate Change, to offer an array of resources to help policymakers integrate long-term climate strategies into national policy making. This work contributes to the 2050 Pathways Platform and is undertaken in collaboration with the NDC Partnership. Thus far, Benin, Canada, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, European Union, France, Fiji, Germany, Japan, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Portugal, Singapore, Slovakia, Ukraine, United Kingdom and the United States have communicated long-term strategies, according to the UNFCCC.

India’s Long-Term Strategy for Adaptation

For India, the discussion at the session outlined the importance of policies, plans and visions at the national level recognizing the economic, social, and environmental and health risks arising from climatic events. Despite the massive improvements India has made in its development, the dependence on climate sensitive sectors is still high, along with poverty and increasing inequalities. The importance of domestic development was highlighted as a key priority for the proposed LTS for adaptation. Integration between development policies and climate policy and planning will be central. Building the resilience of local communities in the long term would be an important objective.

Supporting countries on long-term strategies

UNDP is supporting countries on enhancement and implementation of their NDCs, National Adaptation Plans and on the development of LTS. The importance of alignment and sequencing of these climate planning instruments is required as they are complementary processes and can be sequenced by countries to govern their medium-to long-term adaptation planning objectives.

National Adaptation Plans (NAPs)

For adaptation planning, NAPs are key to scaling up investments in adaptation in the medium to long term. Under the NAPs, countries are developing stronger risk assessments, institutional coordination mechanisms, prioritization of adaptation options and adapting their planning, budgeting and monitoring systems to climate change. The NAPs process is national, but often organized by sector because ministries work in sectors and not across inter-sectoral systems.

UNDP supports NAPs in countries by assisting the alignment of adaptation planning processes with national development plans and other existing planning efforts, while ensuring whole-of-society, multi-stakeholders engagement among: (i) the key institutions in charge of climate change, finance, planning and vulnerable sectors; (ii) academia, civil society and NGOs; and (iii) private sector.  Among these countries are Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Guinea, Haiti, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Madagascar, Moldova Republic, Niger, Papua New Guinea, Serbia, Somalia, Thailand, Tajikistan, Uruguay, Uzbekistan and Viet Nam.

UNDP is also working with sister agencies, such as UNEP and FAO to support countries on NAPs in line with the relevant UNFCCC COP decisions.  The joint UNDP-FAO Integrating Agriculture into National Adaptation Plans (NAP-Ag) programme has supported 11 developing countries and LDCs over the past five years to integrate climate change adaptation concerns related to agriculture-based livelihoods into the existing national planning and budgeting processes. The NAP-Ag contributed to the reaching targets laid out in the partner countries’ first submission of their NDCs. As the NAP-Ag phases out in 2020, a new 5-year joint-programme called Scaling up Climate Ambition on Land Use and Agriculture through NDCs and NAPs (SCALA) was launched to build on NAP-Ag programme achievements and will support 12 developing countries build capacity and meet climate change adaptation targets set out in their NAP and NDCs.

Climate Promise and NDCs

2020 has been the first opportunity for countries to formally revisit and enhance their NDC pledges under the Paris Agreement. UNDP has formally agreed Climate Promise work plans with 110 countries (37 of which are LDCs, 28 SIDS and 14 high emitters) – making UNDP the world’s largest offer of support for the enhancement of countries’ climate pledges. This commitment was rooted in UNDP’s previous support to countries in designing and implementing the first generation of NDCs, through the NDC Support Programme. Through the Climate Promise work plans, UNDP programmes can strategically support countries reach their adaptation (and mitigation) targets over the next five-years. To ensure that adaptation is enhanced, UNDP is working with countries to ensure their National Adaptation Plans align with NDCs and identify synergies to achieve their overarching climate goals.

Long Term Strategies (LTS)

The slow on-set impacts of climate change, such as sea level rise, erosion and salinization, affect a variety of sectors and require early warning systems. UNDP has observed the risk perceptions around slow onset impacts already shifting in the countries that are working on long-term strategies for climate change adaptation. The adoption of LTS will be helpful for setting long term goals on adaptation and promoting institutional shifts that are required for building adaptive capacity.

UNDP and the NDC Support Programme are supporting countries develop their long-term strategies for eventual submission to the UNFCCC and have conducted activities in Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Lao PDR, Nepal and Paraguay related to building LTS.

COVID-19 exposes shortfalls in existing frameworks

Part of mainstreaming adaptation into the development processes for long-term strategies requires looking at our current world with a microscope. The COVID-19 pandemic has provided us with a unique ‘stocktaking’ on how well we can cope with global-scale emergencies. COVID-19 has exposed the existing vulnerabilities at different levels across each country. The true value of co-benefits of adaptation and mitigation action is essential for building climate resilient pathways. Integrated approaches should be leveraged to maximize efficiency and impacts, as resources are scarce. Maximizing opportunities to build local and community led adaptation initiatives will contribute to a green and inclusive recovery. To build a long-strategy at all levels, the macro, sub-national and the local level, this is where renewed efforts towards mainstreaming adaptation comes into play.