The upcoming COP27 in Egypt is a highly anticipated event for the international community. It will focus on four core topics, which we are outlining in a series of articles. In this instalment, we introduce another core topic of COP27: adaptation.
Article 7 of the Paris Agreement established a global goal of “enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change.” COP27 represents an excellent opportunity for all nations to collaborate and take significant steps towards achieving this Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA).
What is adaptation?
In the context of climate change, adaptation refers to reducing climate risks and vulnerability, mostly via adjustments of existing systems. Alongside mitigation, it is one of the two primary strategies for addressing climate change. Whereas mitigation seeks to limit global warming and its effects, adaptation seeks to adjust to the changes already taking place and minimise risk. The impacts and risks of climate change are wide-ranging and affect all sectors of society. Thus, adaptation takes many forms and needs to be considered by governments, businesses, and individuals alike.
Adaptation can generally be classified into three categories: physical, social, and institutional. For example, physical adjustments to infrastructure such as bridges and seawalls build resilience to stronger storms and more frequent flooding, reducing the risk of disaster. Furthermore, changes to social behaviour, such as introducing vegan options in a corporate cafeteria, also reduce the stress on agricultural systems created by climate change. Finally, on an institutional level, investment in technology that better monitors and forecasts climate data enables a more effective response to environmental crises. While the strategies for implementing adaptation are numerous, the global community must stand united in its efforts towards achieving the GGA.
Why is adaptation important at COP27?
At COP26, delegates adopted the Glasgow–Sharm el-Sheikh work programme on the global goal on adaptation (GlaSS) to drive progress towards the GGA. This is an ongoing process, covering topics such as developing metrics and indicators, establishing methodologies for monitoring and evaluation, and communicating priorities. At COP27, delegates will assess the progress shown so far and solidify plans for moving forward with GlaSS.
Despite this collective effort, the issue of adaptation demonstrates considerable geographic disparity. Specifically, the effects and risks from climate change are not distributed equally across the world. Instead, the Global South bears a disproportionate share of the burden, despite being responsible for a much smaller percentage of global emissions. To truly achieve the aims of the GGA, the international community needs to work to overcome this geographical divide.
Countries from the Global South are in urgent need of financial assistance. The cost of adaptation measures is projected to be around US$300 billion annually by 2030. At COP26, countries from the Global North agreed to double their funding for adaptation measures in the Global South. Clearly, the issue of finance is fundamental at COP27 and moving forward.
COP27 and advancing adaptation
Adaptation is a core topic at COP27 for good reason. By adjusting physical, social, and institutional systems to the realities of climate change, resiliency is enhanced. This is particularly pressing in the Global South, which is even more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. At COP27, the Global North can also build on its promises of funding for adaptation measures worldwide. Climate change is already here; how we will adapt remains unclear.