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Road to Dubai: What is at Stake on Global Goal on Adaptation at COP28?


Nfamara Dampha

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Subsidiary Bodies 58 (SB58) conference in Bonn, Germany, ended June 15, 2023, with fundamental disagreement between developed and developing countries on several elements and modalities for establishing a framework to attain the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA). Nfamara K. Dampha, IonE research scientist in natural capital and ecosystem services was in Germany for the negotiations. He shares a look back on the Global Goal on Adaptation – which centered on the need to establish the GGA framework and agree on its elements and modalities – key outstanding issues that will be at stake at COP28 in Dubai, November-December 2023. 


Last informal consultation on Global Goal for Adaptation at SB58 in Bonn, Germany.

To mitigate climate change impacts, the Paris Climate Agreement set a clear and measurable goal –  “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above preindustrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels” (Article 2.1a). 

To build adaptation to climate change impacts, the same Paris Agreement established the so-called Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) under Article 7.1. Unlike the mitigation goal, the adaptation goal remains ambiguous to both parties and non-party stakeholders to the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement (CMA). 

The objective of the GGA is to enhance adaptive capacity, strengthen resilience, and reduce vulnerability to climate change, locally, nationally, and globally, in the context of the 1.5/2°C goal. For developing countries, this requires maximizing access to various means of implementation including funding, capacity building, and technology transfer. 

Unlike mitigation, adaptation is localized in context. Setting a global adaptation goal with measurable targets, metrics, and indicators that can be regularly assessed and reported by stakeholders remains a daunting challenge faced by negotiators in Bonn at SB58. Where the mitigation goal of emissions reduction to keep the temperature below 2 degrees is measurable, the adaptation goal is more complex due to its context-specificity, implementation challenges, and difficulty in aggregating measures globally (Zoysa et al., 2022)

Increasing global mitigation and adaptation ambitions will accelerate climate risk impacts and maximize the demand for loss and damage, especially from developing countries. To avert, minimize, and address loss and damage, the GGA must be urgently defined and must be informed by local and national climate adaptation plans with innovative solutions and addressing challenges related to limits to adaptation (read more on loss and damage Dampha, 2023). 


Glasgow-Sharm el-Sheikh (GlaSS) Work Program on the Global Goal on Adaptation

During COP26 in 2021, parties established a two-year Glasgow-Sharm el-Sheikh (GlaSS) Work Program on the Global Goal on Adaptation (2022-2023). The objective is to develop a common understanding, establish a framework, and agree on its key elements including the methodologies, metrics, indicators, and data sources to assess and monitor the progress towards achieving a global adaptation goal.

The primary purpose of the proposed framework is to guide the achievement of the GGA and contribute to sustainable development, poverty eradication, and also recognize the challenges associated with accessing adequate, appropriate, and sufficient means of implementation for adaptation action. 


Slow progress registered on the GGA at the GlaSS workshop in the Maldives

Earlier this year, the Maldives hosted the fifth workshop on the GlaSS work program on the GGA. The Maldives workshop focused on what transformational adaptation means, what makes it distinct and concept-specific, what measures might it constitute, and how it could be assessed, as well as its attributes while recognizing that it involves long-term changes in societal worldview, mindsets, and power structures, as well as considerations of equity and impacts to marginalized communities (UNFCCC, GlaSS, 2023). 

Some parties raised concerns about achieving the mandate of the GlaSS work program on the GGA on time. For instance, the least developed countries (LDC) group acknowledged the importance of consultation space through workshops but raised concerns about the level of progress registered so far, especially around a common understanding of concepts like “transformative adaptation” and agreeing to the elements and substances of the proposed framework (referring to targets and indicators) for the operationalization of the GGA at COP28 in November 2023. 


Fundamental disagreements on the GGA framework at the 6th GlaSS session in Bonn

At the UNFCCC SB58 conference in Bonn earlier this month, several negotiating groups and countries debated the purpose, key elements, and the structure of the proposed framework, as well as the request for including adaptation finance, budgetary provisions, reporting instruments, and guidance for Global Stocktake (GST) reviews into the draft decision text and the SB58 concluding text on the GGA informal consultations.

The largest negotiating Group of 77 (G-77) and China strongly buttressed the inclusion of target-setting as part of the GGA framework. The group proposed setting a concise overarching target to operationalize the GGA and sub-targets based on dimensions and themes including action and support. While in line with G-77 and China’s proposal, the LDC group drafted an overarching target that reads “Decides By 20XX, to reduce vulnerability and enhance long-term resilience and adaptive capacity reaching and benefiting XX billion people and their livelihoods, conserving XX% of land, freshwater, and ocean ecosystems in line with the 1.5-degree target while increasing action and support in line with increasing demand from increasing global warming.’’ The LDC group wishes to further engage parties on this proposed overarching target in Dubai. 

The African Group of Negotiators (AGN) also agreed with G-77 and China and demanded that the emphasis should be on setting targets, metrics, and indicators for the framework as per the decision at COP27, which they added should be the basis upon with parties can adopt an ambitious, but measurable framework in Dubai, while building on the progress of the GlaSS workshops. Additionally, while reflecting on the outcome of the fifth GlaSS workshop, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) also agreed with G-77 and China that the proposed GGA framework needs high-level targets to enhance monitoring and reporting on the global adaptation action and support.

Developed country parties, like the United States, support a GGA framework that will focus on “common and shared global adaptation priorities and modalities that national and subnational governments can choose to adopt to guide their adaptation planning, implementation, and reporting via nationally-determined indicators, and to increase international cooperation in support of the framework.” And Australia seeks discussions that focus on the framework structure at a high level, instead of discussing and “listing targets and indicators, as their context and purpose will not be clear.” 

The developing country parties agreed with Australia to keep the specific set of indicators outside of the negotiations, but still want to see overarching GGA targets at COP28. To accelerate target-setting, developing country groups called on their developed counterparts to establish an ad-hoc working group, or mandate the IPCC, to develop a set of GGA indicators. They underscored that such a set of indicators must be in line with the targets that would be identified by parties at COP28, as part of the overall GGA framework to support assessing progress on adaptation from local to global scale. The ad-hoc working group’s recommendations on indicators linked to targets should be tabulated for further discussion at SB60 and prepared for adoption at COP29 in 2024 in Australia. 


Establishing the GGA framework in Dubai with “equity priorities” or “shared adaptation priorities”

As parties prepare for further consultations on the proposed GGA framework and its key elements, developing country negotiating groups like the AGN strongly opined that the “framework should be guided by the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDRRC) as outlined in the convention, and should be based on and guided by the best available science.” 

On the other hand, developed country parties “do not see the principles of equity, common but differentiated responsibilities being included in GGA” according to Nicolas Zambrano, adaptation expert and negotiator from Ecuador. This would exclude developed countries and prioritize adaptation goals and target-setting primarily in developing countries.

In responding to the purpose of the GGA, the United States emphasized the need for the “GGA framework to catalyze accelerated and effective adaptation action, reduce maladaptation, send a clear signal about adaptation priorities, provide flexibility that facilitates country-driven and locally led adaptation and improves coordination within the UNFCCC and Paris Agreement and with external organizations.”

For the United Kingdom (UK), the GGA framework should seriously take the “enabling conditions” into account. They allotted that good policy only succeeds if the “enablers” are in place and barriers addressed. According to the UK’s position, “enablers vary for each sector, but include elements such as data, finance, capacity building, technology transfer, inclusive governance, research, and engagement, and education.”


Unaddressed issues moving to Dubai for further negotiations 

Due to several outstanding disagreements among parties, the entire GGA draft text was bracketed with various options for further engagement, coordination, and negotiation in Dubai. The co-facilitators intervened with a draft proposal on the last day of the conference which the Parties agreed to as the draft text from SB58 for further consultations at COP28. Both developed and developing country parties agreed to establish a GGA framework in Dubai. However, fundamental disagreements remain on the elements and modalities of the proposed framework, which include: 

  • sub-sections to include such as purpose, dimensions, themes, cross-cutting issues, enabling conditions or means of implementation, and reporting instrument; 
  • whether to have “overarching targets and specific metrics and indicators” based on equity and CBDRRC in line with G-77 and China or to develop “shared adaptation priorities” under the framework for the GGA per the US position; 
  • whether to include a section on adaptation finance, which is strongly supported by developing countries but not by developed country parties; 
  • whether the GGA should be short term (five years) in keeping with the GST process,  mid-term (up to 2040), or long-term (up to 2050) in keeping with the net zero targets;
  • how to develop quantitative and qualitative targets and indicators that are adaptive to future climate change impacts; 
  • how to capture international cooperation and clearly outline various stakeholders’ roles; 
  • how to link the GGA framework to the GST reviews; and 
  • how to agree on a common understanding of terms such as “transformative adaptation,”  artificial intelligence (AI) applications in adaptation practice, and how locally-led adaptation is embedded, monitored, and evaluated within the GGA framework.

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