In the context of the UNFCCC, the debate on vulnerability and adaptation centres on how to address the concerns of developing countries regarding the adverse impacts of climate change. Discussions have focused on actions to address impacts and the funding for such actions. Parties have debated the activities that constitute adaptation measures and the adverse impacts of response measures to mitigate climate change, an issue that has been strongly driven by the oil exporting states. The main question has been how to support or compensate countries affected by response measures and whether such support should be voluntary or binding.
The UNFCCC does not provide an explicit definition of adaptation, but rather considers it from the perspective of climate change and/or the adverse effects of climate change. In the Convention's objective (UNFCCC Article 2), it notes the need to "...achieve [stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations] within a time frame to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner." This provides a basis for the definition of adaptation.
A precautionary approach for action is advocated to anticipate, prevent or minimize the causes of climate change (FCCC Article 3.3). Under Article 4, the Convention elaborates actions to be taken by all Parties to provide information on measures to facilitate adaptation, prepare elaborate and appropriate plans for adaptation and integrate preparations for adaptation in social, economic and environmental policies. The special situation of developing countries, especially those most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, is recognized and categories of vulnerable countries are outlined (FCCC Articles 4.8 and 4.9.) It calls on developed country Parties to assist developing country Parties that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change in meeting costs of adaptation.
In Article 3.14, the Kyoto Protocol requires Annex I Parties to strive to implement their emission targets so as to minimize adverse social, environmental and economic impacts on developing countries, particularly those identified in Convention Article 4.8 and 4.9. It further elaborates on adaptation measures (Protocol Article 10(b)). It also calls on COP/MOP-1 to consider what actions are necessary to minimize these kinds of adverse impacts.
The discussion on adaptation under the Convention started in the context of the negotiations toward the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. Discussion culminated in a draft decision at COP-6 Part II in 2001, which was formally adopted at COP-7 later that same year. Delegates agreed that the implementation of identified activities in response to adverse effects of climate change be supported through:
- the Global Environment Facility (GEF) operating as the financial mechanism of the Convention;
- the proposed special climate change fund; and
- other bilateral and multilateral sources.
They also agreed to consider at COP-8 the implementation of insurance-related actions to meet the specific needs and concerns of developing country Parties arising from the adverse effects of climate change, based on the outcome of workshops on insurance. On the impact of response measures, delegates agreed to support the implementation of identified activities through the GEF, the special climate change fund and other bilateral and multilateral sources. On matters relating to Protocol Article 3.14, Parties recognized that minimizing the impact of emissions reductions is a development concern affecting both developed and developing countries. They recommended that the COP/MOP request Annex I Parties to provide supplementary information on how they are implementing their commitments to minimize adverse social, environmental and economic impacts on developing country Parties.
The decision on Articles 4.8 and 4.9 states that the GEF should support activities on information and methodologies, and on vulnerability and adaptation. The COP also decided that the special climate change fund and/or the adaptation fund and other bilateral and multilateral sources should fund activities on adaptation, improving the monitoring of diseases and vectors, and capacity building. It further decides to establish a work program on least developed countries (LDCs) to:
- strengthen existing and establish national climate change secretariats;
- provide training in negotiating skills and language; and
- support the preparation of national adaptation programmes of action and for the establishment of an LDC fund.
Under the decision on Protocol Article 3.14, Parties will develop guidelines to help determine if industrialized countries are striving to minimize adverse effects, and agreed that donor countries should give priority to assisting developing countries highly dependent on the export of fossil fuels in diversifying their economies.
The Marrakesh Accords of COP-7 also established a work program for LDCs. This work program focuses on the preparation of national adaptation programs of action (NAPAs), which provide a way for LDCs to inform donors of their immediate adaptation needs. Many LDCs lack the capacity to prepare full national communications detailing those urgent needs in the near future. The preparation of NAPAs will be funded by the newly-created least developed countries fund. To support LDCs in their preparation and implementation of NAPAs, the Marrakesh Accords launched a Least Developed Country Expert Group with a mandate to provide technical guidance and advice to LDCs and to facilitate information exchange and promote synergies with other multilateral environmental treaties.
At COP-7 Ministers recognized, in their Marrakech Ministerial Statement, that the problems of poverty, land degradation, access to water and food, and human health remain at the centre of global attention. Subsequently they agreed that synergies were needed between the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, particularly Africa. This conclusion followed discussions on this topic at SBSTA 14. At this meeting, the SBSTA endorsed the establishment of a Joint Liaison Group (JLG) between the three conventions (UNFCCC, CBD and CCD) and agreed that the mandate of the JLG should be to enhance coordination among the three conventions, including exchange of relevant information. It further invited the JLG to explore options for further cooperation between the three conventions, including the possibility of a
joint work plan and/or a workshop. SBSTA asked the Secretariat of the UNFCCC to invite representatives of other relevant instruments (conventions) and bodies, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to participate in meetings of the JLG.
At SB-16, governments considered the issue and adopted draft conclusions. The conclusions invite Parties to submit views for the upcoming workshops on Article 4.8 and 4.9 and other issues. On LDCs, draft conclusions were adopted that invite the Chair of the Expert Group on LDCs to update delegates on progress in the implementation of the LDC program of work. The report from a workshop on the status of modelling activities to assess the adverse effects of climate change and the impact of response measures will be presented for consideration at COP-8, along with reports from workshops on insurance and risk assessment.
At COP-8, Parties agreed that there was a need for enhanced cooperation among the three conventions with the aim of ensuring the environmental integrity of the conventions and promoting synergies under the common objective of sustainable development, in order to avoid duplication of efforts, strengthen joint efforts and use available resources more efficiently. The COP urged the Joint Liaison Group to continue its efforts to enhance coordination among the three conventions. It also noted the need for the Joint Liaison Group to invite the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands to share information and participate in the meetings of the JLG, as appropriate.
The COP also asked the SBSTA to continue and enhance cooperation with the similar bodies associated with the other convention and urged the JLG to enhance coordination among the three conventions.
IMPLEMENTATION OF UNFCCC ARTICLE 4.8 AND 4.9 – Progress on the Implementation of Activities under Decision 5/CP.7:
Discussions relating to adverse impacts of climate change focused mainly on the progress in the implementation of activities under Decision 5/CP.7 and matters relating to least developed countries. Among the main issues considered were those on implementation modalities, the outcomes of a workshop on modelling held in Bonn in May 2002, and the terms of reference for workshops on insurance and risk assessment. In its conclusions, the SBI agreed to make arrangements for a meeting on the implementation of Decision 5/CP.7, to be held back-to-back with a workshop on cooperation with international organizations proposed by the SBSTA. In addition, it requested the Secretariat to organize workshops on insurance, with a view to making an input to COP-9. At SBI 19, Parties will consider the need for regional workshops on the modalities for assisting developing country Parties in the implementation of Decision 5/CP.7.
COP-8 adopted a draft decision on matters relating to least developed countries, following SBI consideration of the report by the LDC expert group. In this decision, the COP postponed the revision of the National Adaptation Programs of Action (NAPA) guidelines to COP-9.
For more information and links to official documents, see the UNFCCC Secretariat’s Issue Brief on Implementation of Article 4.8 and 4.9 of the Convention (decision 3/CP.3 Articles 2.3 and 3.14 of the Kyoto Protocol): adverse effects of climate change and impact of the implementation of response measures.