Building political ambition for adaptation at COP28 and beyond

Reflecting on the 2023 Climate and Development Ministerial (C&DM) process, which focused on adaptation ambition, UnaMay Gordon outlines why strong outcomes inside and outside the official climate negotiations in this area will be crucial to the success of COP28

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UnaMay Gordon
UnaMay Gordon is a former lead climate negotiator of Jamaica’s delegation to the UNFCCC
01 December 2023
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UN climate change conference (COP28)
A series of pages related to IIED's activities at the 2023 UNFCCC climate change summit in Dubai
People posing in front of national flags.

World leaders at COP28, Dubai, UAE (Photo: COP28 Presidency)

The first Global Stocktake, which assesses countries’ collective progress towards the goals of the Paris climate change agreement, is set to conclude at COP28. This is a crucial moment for the world to acknowledge how much still needs to be done to realise the Paris Agreement goals and limit warming to 1.5°C.

Early indications suggest that the stocktake will highlight that progress has been painfully slow. On the mitigation side, the world has dragged its feet, locking in increasingly severe climate impacts. And on the adaptation side, there has been a dire lack of financial resources being channelled to those who need it the most.

For the 1.1 billion people in least developed countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) who are most affected by climate change, adaptation finance is urgently needed. Annual adaptation costs are estimated to reach US$160-340 billion by 2030. But less than $30 billion in adaptation finance was delivered in 2020.

It is well known that the goal for channelling $100 billion per year in climate finance to developing countries by 2020 is still not met and there have been severe problems in its delivery, including that 70% of the climate finance provided has been in loan form, which is not conducive to adaptation actions, and the very unbalanced flows favouring mitigation.

If countries can agree clear and ambitious global targets at COP28, a global goal on adaptation could be a key step in redressing some of these issues.

Tangibly working together to raise ambition 

Lifting the ambition of adaptation finance outside of the negotiation rooms is crucial to ensure a successful outcome at COP28 and beyond. One process that has been working well is the Climate and Development Ministerial process (C&DM), which seeks to highlight and advance links between climate resilience and development and raise the voices of the most climate-vulnerable when discussing challenges and priorities in these communities. 

At the third forum, co-hosted by Malawi, Vanuatu, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom this year, participants have been seeking to develop a shared vision for reforming the architecture of adaptation finance.

Earlier in the year, at the UN climate change conference in Bonn in June, the LDCs and SIDS invited the Champions Group on Adaptation Finance – a group of developed countries that are progressive on adaptation finance – to discuss how to champion and transform adaptation finance meaningfully. Key outcomes from these discussions outlined the need to amplify and appropriately replicate what is working and identify tangible actions for commitment.

Immediately after the Bonn meetings, the LDC, SIDS and Champions Group on Adaptation Finance undertook a joint evidence review, looking at good practice in adaptation financing from both their perspectives. Running parallel to the C&DM meetings since Bonn, this review has been feeding evidence into the processes, and capturing experiences disclosed through the C&DM processes. They will publish a report on their findings in 2024.

Advancing the process through ownership

In September, at technical workshops convened by the co-hosts on the sidelines of the Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi and the 78th UN General Assembly in New York, governments, finance institutions and civil society representatives came together to discuss challenges and gaps, identify tangible actions and raise ambitions for improving both the delivery adaptation finance to some of the world’s most climate-vulnerable countries, and these countries’ ability to access it. 

They then tabled the resulting set of short and medium-term goals and priority actions for discussion at the C&DM ministerial that took place at the pre-COP meeting in Abu Dhabi in October. 

The next C&DM meeting, at COP28 on 8 December will present the outcomes from the pre-COP ministerial. This will include an announcement from the countries that have stepped forward to co-champion and shepherd progress on specific goals across the international community, and report back at COP29 in 2024. We hope that taking ownership of goals in this way will help move forward some of the long-enduring challenges.

Three priorities for adaptation finance 

The participants of the C&DM process identified the following priorities for improving adaptation financing. 

  1. Enhancing country-owned programmatic financing: to deliver transformative adaptation action, funders and recipients must move away from project-based towards more streamlined, accessible programmatic financing. This approach will enable climate-vulnerable countries to mobilise the resources they need to deliver their own priorities as outlined in their adaptation plans through national platforms, with finance based on policy and delivery milestones.
     
  2. Easing access: to ease access to adaptation finance, slashing the time it takes to access finance, reducing transaction costs, simplifying compliance and reporting requirements, and enabling substantial flows to reach countries and communities through direct access are all vital.
     
  3. Scaling all adaptation financing sources: although the focus on public finance must remain, mobilising innovative finance, attracting private sector finance to stimulate domestic enterprise and exploring debt consideration will also help countries scale broader, accessible, delivery-focused adaptation financing.

Reforming the financing landscape 

A number of adaptation finance items on the COP28 negotiation agenda hold the potential to reform the financing landscape. I am hopeful that the ambitions on adaptation finance built through the C&DM process will reflect in countries’ positions when they get to the table.

With thanks to Sejal Patel for contributions to this blog.