Five key questions for making the Global Goal on Adaptation work for local people and places

Emilie Beauchamp discusses how parties to the Paris Agreement could agree on a roadmap towards a Global Goal on Adaptation that will work for the whole of society.

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23 July 2021

Emilie Beauchamp is a senior researcher in IIED's Strategy and Learning Group 

Woman carries a solar panel and walks through a forest

Woman carrying a solar panel near Yangambi, Democratic Republic of Congo. A Global Goal on Adaptation needs to focus on localised adaptation (Photo: Axel Fassio/CIFOR via FlickrCC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The 2015 Paris Agreement set out that a Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) would be established, presenting an adaptation equivalent to the global goal on mitigation of limiting global temperatures to 1.5°C.

The GGA aims to provide a system for tracking and assessing countries’ progress on adaptation actions, and for catalysing adaptation funding. Countries’ progress will be assessed through the global stocktake, with the first phase of data collection starting this December.

While the Paris Agreement sets clear milestones for driving collective action on adaptation, parties still need to address several thorny issues.

Unlike mitigation, there is no single universal metric that can capture adaptation across all countries, contexts and populations. So, can we really set a global goal on adaptation?

And if so, how can we inform its design, and how can we achieve it collectively?

Over the last two years, the UNFCCC’s Adaptation Committee has highlighted areas of general agreement between parties and technical experts on how to design the GGA.

This is captured in their latest technical paper and was explored at a GGA workshop in May. Further informal workshops in June and July during the Regional Climate Weeks explored best practices for measuring adaptation, and principles for designing the GGA.

Agreeing a roadmap

Discussions on how to advance the design and development of the GGA are gaining momentum. In reality, all issues surrounding the GGA won't be resolved at COP26 − but with only 100 days to go, how much progress can we expect? Parties can move forward by agreeing on issues to be unpacked and discussed to make the GGA work for all of society.    

The GGA must be based on an understanding of what resilience means for individual countries. So parties must think according to their local realities: how will the GGA inform and direct actions and funding to make people and places in their countries more resilient?

Five key questions 

Addressing these five areas could help parties move towards concrete and equitable solutions for the GGA. A structured workplan should discuss:  

What does adaptation look like in your country? 

Many conceptual frameworks and related indicators provide framing to measure resilience. But adaptation is highly localised and contextual: no single universal indicator, or even set of indicators, can capture how adaptation happens across all countries. Parties should ask themselves – how can we build community resilience in our country? 

This is the starting point to determine national and local adaptation metrics that are meaningful and can inform the most effective action. 

How can local information and perspectives be captured by our national systems? This can shed light on how to use, strengthen and build strong monitoring and evaluation systems to define and measure adaptation – and for countries to apply what they learn.  

What instruments will you use to report on progress?

Several instruments are already available for countries to report and communicate adaptation information as part of the enhanced transparency framework

Which ones do your country already use for international reporting exercises? How can information be carried up to the international level in the smoothest way possible?

What capabilities does your country want to build to progress adaptation?

What capabilities do your country, ministries and national teams want to build through the GGA? The key here is to focus on aspirations as part of national priorities, rather than on needs set by international requirements.

Capacities might include quantitative evaluations, but countries must also think about collaborations and structures that would build collective capacity to collect data and enhance learning.

How should the GGA influence funding?

Since adaptation needs to be localised, locally-led adaptation needs the right funding and support. How could your existing national financial and administrative systems help money to flow to the local level? Having robust systems that get money to where it matters will help increase the amount of finance for adaptation, including through direct access.

This question is especially salient given the recent dispute around the Green Climate Fund’s (GCF) technical criteria for adaptation finance – when at the last GCF board meeting, two out of three adaptation projects were rejected on the grounds that the projects did not have enough historical climate data.

This begs the question: to what extent can global metrics inform where to direct funding for local adaptation? 

How does national data become global?

National data will need to be amalgamated at global level and local, national and international actors will each have a role in collecting, compiling and analysing data. There are also responsibilities for disseminating that information back for learning. What will these roles look like? Who would fulfil these roles in your country?

While some of these areas are methodological, others are political. Unpacking them for discussion can help separate these two realms and bring concrete solutions.

The types and number of dimensions, indicators and categories the GGA will comprise still has to be decided. While they will likely be adjusted over the years, they must always draw on evidence of action that improves the resilience of real people and real places.

Above all, the architecture of the GGA must reflect features of adaptation itself: it must be flexible and must promote adaptive learning.

About the author

Emilie Beauchamp (emilie.beauchamp@iied.org) is a senior researcher (evaluation, climate and environment) in IIED's Strategy and Learning Group 

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