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Cop28: we need more accountability in adaptation

By Susannah Fisher, on 8 December 2023

photo of cop28 conference panel from audience perspective
Dr Susannah Fisher is in Dubai following the COP28 adaptation negotiations and sends us her account.

After early progress on the loss and damage fund and announcements on energy and health from COP 28 in Dubai, attention in the corridors in week 2 is turning to adapting to the impacts of climate change. One of the major topics of negotiation is the global goal on adaptation. Members of the Accountable Adaptation team at IRDR are following these discussions to understand the politics behind measuring adaptation.

What is the global goal on adaptation?

The global goal on adaptation was established in the Paris Agreement in 2015 and seeks to create a global political commitment to action on adaptation on par with mitigation. The goal seeks to “enhance adaptive capacity, strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change in the context of the temperature goal of the Agreement”. Progress has been slow since 2015, but work started in earnest after the Glasgow COP in 2021.

Since Glasgow negotiators and observers have been meeting every few months in a series of workshops to push the idea forward and consider what it means to create a global goal for adaptation. These workshops have covered issues such as transformational adaptation, indigenous knowledge and links with other global frameworks but only in recent months have steps forward been made on a concrete framework for the goal.

Why do we need a goal?

Progress on adaptation action has been very slow and largely incremental. This means governments, communities and the private sector have been making small changes and tweaks to existing activities, policies and programmes to adapt. For example growing a new crop, building an irrigation system or putting sandbags around a house close to water. As the impacts of climate change are becoming clearer, in many cases we know this will not be enough. We will need to make more systemic, more transformative choices to adapt and live well with the scale of the climate impacts anticipated.

Adaptation has not received the same political attention as mitigation, and if we are to make progress on these challenges, this needs to change. There also hasn’t been enough money invested in adaptation and the international community has not fulfilled its promise to deliver $40-50 billion a year for adaptation. The latest UNEP Adaptation Gap report shows that only $21 billion was delivered in 2021, and the needs for adaptation are 10-18 times higher than the amount of public finance available.

Why is it so hard?

There are many challenges to measuring adaptation – outcomes and priorities depend on local contexts and it touches all sectors. Data is limited. In many cases we don’t really know what effective adaptation looks like. This could be different in a 1.5 degree world, 2 or the 3 we are heading for without more ambitious action. To design a global framework has therefore been full of political and technical challenges.

What has happened in the negotiations in Dubai?

Negotiations have been going on all week on the global goal on adaptation but little progress has been made. According to the Earth Negotiations Bulletin one observer called them “dire: and negotiators fear what will happen if the goal “crashes and burns”.

In the negotiating room, governments have been debating what role finance should play in the text on the global goal, what thematic areas should be included, what indicators are relevant, and if work should continue beyond this COP. There has been no agreement so far.

Does any of this really matter?

The global goal matters as it will set the level of ambition and the framing for what adaptation success looks like. It is a key tool for accountability allowing the COP to check if the international community is on track with planning, implementation, and finance to address the impacts of climate change, and to change course if it is not.

As part of our research at IRDR, we are analysing how governments and others understand the role of measurement and how adaptation measurement shapes action. These conversations on the global goal can often get lost in finding the best way to measure this complexity, but metrics embody a set of values and an understanding of success. Measurement can be used to raise ambition, build inclusion, and frame what solutions look like. It is inherently a social and political process.

As the doors to Expo City open today, we wait to see how the goal will move forward.


Dr Susannah Fisher is UKRI Future Leaders Principal Research Fellow. She works across research, policy and practice on adapting to climate change with an interest in ensuring climate finance supports effective and equitable adaptation, and that adaptation is at the scale and ambition we need for the escalating impacts of climate change.

Why the Gender and Climate Day at COP 28 is Important

By Peter Sammonds, on 7 December 2023

The first ever Gender and Climate Day was held at COP28 on Monday 4/12/23 and joined by a UCL IRDR GRRIPP team. But why is this important?


Photo of four members of the GRRIPP team stood in an auditorium
GRRIPP team at COP28: Dr Zahra Khan (GRRIPP Research and Outreach), Ella Bedford (BSc Theoretical Physics), Miriam Zallocco (BSc Global Humanitarian Studies), Peter Sammonds. We were part of the WOMENVAI delegation as Observers to COP28.

Women and men experience disasters differently. Women will disproportionately be impacted by climate change for instance from extreme heat. That is women working in the fields, factories and the informal economy. Pregnant women will be particularly affected. These were points made by Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton who was moderating an event on “Women Building a Climate-Resilient World”. This was a centre-piece panel discussion covering the transition to the blue/green economy, climate finance, women in STEM and gender-based violence (GBV). As she commented, it was remarkable to have an audience of hundreds discussing gender—and not just women!

In the transition to a green economy 50% of the population are being left behind and so it is essential to keep a gender lens. Food production and preparation is disproportionately done by women but they have little impact on food decisions and only own 15% of the land. 70% of jobs in the emerging green energy sectors are taken by men. Only 10% of women the skills for the future green economy. There is a massive digital skills gap and unequal access to technology. Only 0.01% of climate finance funding goes to women, but investing in women is investing in our common future. The starting point for action has to be understanding where we are and what are the issues. As the Head of UN Women argued: as a start that means sex and gender responsive data needs to be collected, but this needs to influence gender finance policies—that is not happening. Representatives from Amazon and Microsoft argued for removing barriers in STEM, and building enterprise incubators and accelerators for women who are more likely to innovate climate solutions.

Financing

The Gender and Climate Day started with a “Technical Dialogue on Financing for gender-responsive just transitions and climate action”. A key point of discussion was that women (and some men) in the Care Economy will be left out as industrial sectors transition because only the Production Economy is considered. This was a line of argument which was new to me and I found revealing. We can see this for ourselves in the UK with oil workers in Aberdeen being offered investment and training – but the Care Economy is excluded. And without gender justice there will be no social justice or climate justice.

The intersections with Indigenous women, women of African descent and women with disabilities were discussed. There needs to be a framework to support integration of gender and poverty issues in climate finance. There needs to be capacity building and integrated investment plans. Colombia argued for generating baseline data and prioritisation for women impacted in the transition to the green economy (e.g., re-qualification) and backed by specific actions of government, including changing the law, action on participation in management and action on GBV in employment. Zimbabwe argued that for a gender-responsive just transition it is necessary to look beyond just mitigation and the COP negotiations had to move on to become broader. There needs to be funding for implementation of the UNFCCC Gender Action Plan (GAP) initiated at the Lima COP. Some countries are not even able to develop their own national GAPs because of lack of financing. But as Colombia pointed out legal frameworks can be changed if there is a will so I agree that action cannot hold back just because of a lack of resources.

The UK Approach

The Gender and Climate Day concluded with a ministerial panel discussion session on “High Level Dialogue on Gender-Responsive Just Transitions and Climate Action Partnership”. This was attended by Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP, International Development Minister in the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). He committed to investment to advance gender equality as we are at a critical juncture and that no one should be left behind. He said that the UK is endorsing a gender-responsive just transition and there will be £40 million to support a just transition. The new UK government white paper sets out its approach to tackling world hunger, making the international system fairer and progress towards the UN sustainable global goals. The UK has also announced £1.5 billion for climate finance. There will be focussed efforts on women and girls and there will be direct support to women’s rights organisations. There were similar supportive comments from the Rwandan Environment Minister and Dutch Finance Minster for instance, with all ministers agreeing with the Partnership. But all agreed that implementation is the big issue with climate finance just not getting to women. Actually, I was surprised there was such an explicit commitment to gender equality from the UK government. So COP is more than just a talking shop.

Finally, the COP Parties are negotiating an updated Gender and Climate Change decision requiring a strengthening of national commitments. The UNFCCC Gender Action Plan is under review with final agreement due in July 2024. So there is still an opportunity to make inputs. And yes, in my mind there can be no climate justice without gender justice so it is not an issue that can be separated out. Having a Gender and Climate Change Day at COP is a recognition of this.

Members of the UCL GRRIPP team presented at the Cop 28 event: Opportunity over urgency.

Peter Sammonds is Professor of Geophysics, UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction, and GRRIP Gender and Intersectionality Ambassador.

The UKRI Collective Fund award ‘Gender Responsive Resilience and Intersectionality in Policy and Practice (GRRIPP) – Networking Plus Partnering for Resilience’ is funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund. It is a 4-year global collaboration and knowledge-exchange project, implemented by a collective of universities. It aims to bring together theory, policy and practice to promote a gender-responsive approach to disaster management and development.