The bulk of climate change policies broadly fall into two categories: climate change mitigation policies and climate change adaptation policies. Mitigation policies seek to slow climate change by reducing carbon emissions. Adaptation policies, on the other hand, are designed to deal with the impacts that climate change creates and will continue to create in the coming decades.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change defines ‘adaptation’ as ‘the process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effect.’ As such, adaptation ‘seeks to moderate or avoid harm or exploit beneficial opportunities.’ In short, countries should integrate risks and opportunities related to climate change into national planning, and address the needs of vulnerable groups (women, indigenous people) that are most affected by climate change.
Parliaments & climate change adaptation
Adaptation is increasingly being integrated in national planning and policies. Extreme weather events such as typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, floods in Australia and Pakistan, increasingly frequent heat waves in Russia, the United States and Europe, and prolonging droughts in China are spurring governments into action. Longer term trends such as rising sea-levels, increasing mean temperatures and changing rainfall patterns too are making their way on to more political agendas. Effective policy-making on adaptation is a difficult task, however, and much remains to be done to strengthen adaptation capacities.
Decision-making in a changing climate: adaptation challenges and choices
The ways in which governments anticipate and respond to the short- and long-term risks posed by climate change can have lasting consequences for the future of their countries. Even though many adaptation activities are led and implemented by local governments and communities, national-level decisions play key roles in enabling local and private-sector adaptation efforts, especially concerning the provision of information and guidance.
This joint publication developed by UNDP, UNEP, WB and WRI, targets the role of decision-makers with regards to Climate Change Adaptation. It focuses on how national governments, particularly those of developing countries, can make effective decisions concerning the changing climate.
The publication explores five key elements - public engagement, decision-relevant information, institutional design, tools for planning and policymaking, and resources - that will significantly strengthen the ability of national governments to make effective adaptation decisions.
To read the full text, click here.
Parliaments can make substantial contributions to adaptation policy and planning. Through their legislative function, parliaments can ensure that the legal and policy framework on adaptation is sufficiently strong, and that adaptation efforts are streamlined across all relevant policy fields and sectors. Legislative proposals that fail to meet adaptation requirements should be amended as needed, and budgets should be secured to implement the necessary activities.
With regard to representation, parliamentarians are uniquely positioned to channel citizens’ concerns and to solicit citizens’ input on what actions are most urgent. They are also an important focal point for civil society organizations and experts looking to share their findings, and play a key role in ensuring that decision-making processes on adaptation are as inclusive and participatory as possible.
Finally, through its oversight powers parliament can ensure that the legislation and initiatives it approves are implemented correctly. To do so parliamentarians can work through the Budget or Public Accounts Committee, organise committee hearings and field visits or submit parliamentary questions, among others.
Adaptation & sustainable development
Effective adaptation builds resilience. Some countries are more vulnerable than others to climate change impacts, either because of their geography of because of their weak institutional and adaptational capacities. Small Islands States face more immediate threats than most other states, whereas floods, typhoons and droughts cause more damage in developing countries than they do in the United States or Europe, for example.
As the IPPC report below indicates, responding to climate-related risks involves decision-making in a changing world, with continuing uncertainty about the severity and timing of climate-change impact and with limits to the effectiveness of adaptation. Integrating adaptation in wider development strategies will allow developing countries and emerging economies to strengthen their resilience and reduce, if perhaps not eliminate, the risks they will be exposed to. Parliaments play a pivotal role in the decision-making processes that will guide these developments, and should employ their powers and privileges to strengthen adaptation efforts where possible.
IPCC Report - Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability (Summary for Policy-Makers)
The assessment of impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability in the Working Group II contribution to the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (WGII AR5) evaluates how patterns of risks and potential benefits are shifting due to climate change. It considers how impacts and risks related to climate change can be reduced and managed through adaptation and mitigation. The report assesses needs, options, oppor-tunities, constraints, resilience, limits, and other aspects associated with adaptation.
Climate change involves complex interactions and changing likelihoods of diverse impacts. A focus on risk, which is new in this report, supports decision-making in the context of climate change, and complements other elements of the report. People and societies may perceive or rank risks and potential benefits differently, given diverse values and goals.
Section A of this summary characterizes observed impacts, vulnerability and exposure, and adaptive responses to date. Section B examines future risks and potential benefits. Section C considers principles for effective adaptation and the broader interactions among adaptation, mitigation, and sustainable development.
To read the report, please click here.
Adaptation and international development actors
Given the urgent need for increased adaptation capacity, many international development actors are integrating climate change adaptation into their development activities. Actors such as UNDP and WBI assist parliaments in developing sound policies on climate change adaptation.
Africa Adaptation Programme
The Africa Adaptation Programme was launched in 2008 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) with $92.1 million support from the Government of Japan.
The AAP’s goal was to enhance the adaptive capacity of vulnerable countries, promote early adaptation action and lay the foundations for long-term investment to increase resilience to climate change across the African continent. The overall objective of the Programme was to see 20 countries in the African continent adjust their national development processes to incorporate climate change risks and opportunities.
The AAP’s report details that countries made significant advances in enhancing their institutional frameworks and strengthening leadership capacities, conducted pilot programmes that have the potential to inform a wide range of policy agendas, and received formal training on climate financing options, and made enormous progress on knowledge sharing and management.
To read the full report, please click here.
Funding climate change adaptation
Effective adaptation does not come cheap. Significant budgets will be required to meet growing needs, and a mix of private and public funds will be indispensible. For more information on budgeting and climate finance instruments, please click here.