Climate Change Adaptation at COP16

Brandon M. Breen

Writer Andy Pearson (front row, second from left) attended the COP16 conference with an academic delegation from the University of Minnesota. He is a U of M senior pursuing an individualized major.

Last fall’s COP16 international climate change conference in Cancun, Mexico, disappointed some by not producing binding greenhouse gas emissions reduction standards. However, it did give rise to one of the most significant developments in international climate change adaptation, with special relevance to the least-developed countries: adoption of the Cancun Adaptation Framework, or CAF.

The CAF is intended to support climate change adaptation efforts of least-developed countries through international cooperation. It does so in three main ways.

First, the CAF provides for increased technical and financial support from developed countries and begins creating a process least-developed countries can use to formulate and implement national adaptation plans. The intent of this process, according to the official text, is “identifying medium- and long-term adaptation needs and developing and implementing strategies and programmes to address those needs.” This represents a significant recognition by the international community of the importance of adaptation as part of a balanced package of strategies for coping with climate change. The specifics of the adaptation planning process are currently being developed and are expected to be adopted at COP17 in Durban, South Africa, at the end of this year.

Second, the CAF establishes an adaptation committee to provide support for adaptation action. It further establishes a work program to consider ways to address loss and damage associated with climate change in particularly vulnerable least-developed countries. Various countries have submitted their views on what elements should be included in this program, including resilience-building and the beginnings of a facility for climate risk insurance. A report synthesizing these views will be debated in early June in Bonn, Germany by an implementation-focused permanent expert group which supports the UN’s international climate work.

Finally, specific additional resources that the developed world has agreed to provide to the least-developed countries (worth up to USD $30 billion) are earmarked in the Cancun Agreements for “balanced allocation between adaptation and mitigation,” with funding for adaptation prioritized for the least-developed countries, small island developing nations and African nations.

With all these factors considered, the COP16 conference can be considered a significant step forward in regard to climate change adaptation for developing countries.

ANDY PEARSON attended the COP16 conference with an academic delegation from the University of Minnesota. He is a U of M senior pursuing an individualized major that combines sustainability studies; communication studies; and environmental sciences, policy, and management.

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