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CLIMATE RESILIENCE

COP27 presidency launches ambitious adaptation agenda but implementation remains likely stumbling block

COP27 presidency launches ambitious adaptation agenda but implementation remains likely stumbling block
A police personnel maintains vigil on a flooded street to warn people of hazards on November 10, 2021 in Chennai, India. As the world was discussing the effects of unseasonal rain and distress to coastal communities amongst a host of ecological issues at COP26 in Glasgow, the southern Indian city of Chennai is being battered by rain leading to massive flooding and loss of life and property. The rain and floods are reminiscent of another devastating flood Chennai witnessed in 2015 that killed over 500 people and resulted in property damage of over $3billion. (Photo: Abhishek Chinnappa/Getty Images)

At this year’s COP27 in Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt, experts see the agenda as well-meaning but have raised concerns about how it will come to fruition, flagging indigenous knowledge and communities’ inclusion, as well as absent financing support and outlines as concerns.

Extreme rainfall and temperatures, increased flooding frequency and intensity, regular forest fires and gripping droughts have been a growing reality for many around the globe with the global south being disproportionately affected by this. These extreme weather events are consequences of the climate crisis and a reality the world is faced with. 

In an effort to address living with these consequences and being prepared in the form of adaptation, the COP27 presidency launched the Adaptation Agenda to help bolster climate resilience for 4 billion people around the globe by 2030. 

The pledge came at the global climate conference talks COP27 which took place in Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt. The agenda is launched in partnership with the High-Level Champions and the Marrakech Partnership which are focused on enhancing climate ambition and action. 

Put simply, adaptation is, according to the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, the process of adjustment to existing or anticipated climate and its consequences and working towards avoiding or reducing the effects of the climate crisis. In natural systems, this comes in the form of human intervention facilitating the expected changes.  

The Sharm-El-Sheik Adaptation Agenda aims to address and provide solutions to climate vulnerability that can be incorporated into local contexts and protect communities against increasing climate crisis events. 

Dr Mahmoud Mohieldin, UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for COP27 said in a statement that the outcome targets of the agenda would be refined and expanded with contributions from state and non-state actors. 

“At the core of the outcomes is the recognition that adaptation is often locally-driven and globally relevant, while simultaneously needing to address equity, diversity and justice,” said Mohieldin. “Of particular concern and focus is Africa, where the private finance share in the total financing of climate adaptation efforts is not more than 3% ($11.4-billion). Seven times that amount will be needed annually until 2030.”

Adaptation Agenda outcome targets 

Systems that are targets in the agenda’s outcomes include; food security and agriculture, water and nature, human settlements, ocean and coastal, infrastructure, cross-cutting planning and finance. 

Adaptation in food and agriculture can result in significant changes as practising climate-smart and resilient agriculture can increase yields by 17% and reduce emissions by 21%. As far as addressing water and nature systems, the agenda hopes to protect and restore land of local and indigenous communities using nature-based solutions. 

Alfred Ralifo, Senior Policy Government Affairs Manager at WWF-Pacific who was at COP27 told Daily Maverick that adaptation was still being negotiated under the agenda items on the Adaptation work programme. 

“Local and indigenous knowledge should be recognised and included as part of the implementation of Climate Adaptation — but this means there should be conditions attached to this.

“Rights based approach — legal recognition and protection of the rights of Indigenous People and Local Communities (IPLC) in accordance with the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People, free prior and informed consent on the use of IPLC knowledge and practises, and equity and inclusiveness of IPLCs throughout the process,” said Ralifo. 


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As far as addressing human settlements systems, the agenda hopes to see 1 billion people have better design, construction and access to finance to live in homes that shield them from consequences of climate, as well as designing smart and early warning systems that reach 3 billion people. 

$4-billion is expected to be secured for the future of 15 million hectares of mangroves globally by halting loss and restoring mangroves. The agenda also hopes to diversify and increase electricity access under infrastructure systems and spur countries and cities to plan ahead towards adaptation and increase public finance under cross-cutting planning and finance. 

“The Adaptation Agenda outlines multiple actions and combines the commitments of governments and non-party stakeholders into a joint vision and a joint plan. We need all stakeholders on board to deal with current and future impacts of climate change, and this is a prime example of how that can happen,” said Simon Stiell, UNFCCC executive secretary in a statement. 

The Agenda’s Africa spotlight

The climate crisis is exactly that; a crisis that humanity and all living beings alike have to live with — consequences that disproportionately affect the global south, particularly the African continent that does not have the financial means to shield itself from such devastation. 

To assist in addressing this shortfall, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced over the weekend that the country would triple adaptation funding from £500-million in 2019 to £1.5-billion by 2025 to the African Development Bank, with preference given to adaptation. 

The agenda places significant importance on the African continent; a continent responsible for under 4% of the globe’s emissions but most vulnerable to the consequences of the climate crisis. 

By 2030, the agenda hopes to have closed the $40- to 200-billion-a-year funding gap on the continent in the form of blended finance by increasing private sector investment towards climate resilience, sustainable food and agriculture. 

Food security and agricultural systems have been prioritised in the agenda with funding expected to double to $8-billion (from COP26 pledge) towards this target, with the goal of building sustainable agriculture and food value chains. 

In addition to food systems and agriculture being a key focus, the plan hopes to accelerate transformative action to address the critical challenges of health, nutrition and climate change. 

Concerns and criticisms

Sandeep Chamling Rai, WWF Senior Adviser on Adaptation, told Daily Maverick that while the document was a good one there were concerns about how the plans would be implemented and how the money would flow, as well as where the funds would come from. 

The advisor said that the announcements for financing were said to be doubled but the delivery of this funding was lacking. He added that it was unclear as to what form this financing would come in, saying that grants should be prioritised as opposed to the loan agreements given by developed nations. 

Said Rai: “The document is really good and lays out the high-level adaptation targets focusing on Africa; but how will that translate into action — that is key. Those translations also need to be around the true mobilisation of finance and those elements are missing at the moment.” DM/OBP

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.

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