Agriculture field in Bali

The Global Stocktake Needs to Send a Strong Message on Adaptation

Concluding at COP 28, the inaugural global stocktake sheds light on our collective progress toward reaching the Paris Agreement’s goals. What signals should it send to countries to strengthen adaptation and resilience in the next 5 years?

By Jeffrey Qi on November 21, 2023

Extreme events exacerbated by climate change have become more frequent and intense around the world; yet, according to the technical dialogues of the global stocktake, our current level of adaptation falls significantly short.

At the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference (COP 28) in Dubai, the conclusion of the first-ever global stocktake will present the opportunity to emphasize the pressing need for strengthening resilience and accelerating global adaptation efforts.

After 2 years of intense discussions and negotiations, the inaugural stocktake will provide the final assessment of the current state of global climate action in reducing emissions, strengthening resilience, and mobilizing the necessary resources to tackle the climate crisis to determine whether countries are making progress in reaching the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement. It will tell the stories of both ambition and reality: the successes and gaps of our collective efforts, as well as how to recalibrate and confront challenges to set the course for the next 5 years of global climate action.

This is happening at a pivotal moment, as countries are preparing to update and enhance their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and other domestic climate policies, such as their national adaptation plans (NAPs) and strategies.

The political messages marking the end of the global stocktake will be critical. They will offer a crucial signal to countries to ramp up ambition on adaptation to achieve the Global Goal on Adaptation, which aims to protect communities and ecosystems in the face of escalating climate impact.

Delegates gather for a technical dialogue for the Global Stocktake, focusing on mitigation, including response measures
Delegates at the third Technical Dialogue for the Global Stocktake at the 2023 Bonn Climate Change Conference (Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth).

Countries Are Making Progress on Adaptation, But Not Fast Enough

In September 2023, the co-facilitators of the global stocktake’s technical dialogues released their synthesis report, capturing over 252 hours of meetings and discussions and approximately 170,000 pages of information submitted from countries and civil society organizations. Among the 17 key findings from the technical dialogues, nine focused on adaptation and loss and damage.

The technical dialogues concluded that (especially developing) countries are demonstrating increasing ambition in their adaptation plans and policies. More than 140 developing countries have a NAP process underway, enabling them to identify and address their medium- and long-term priorities for adapting to climate change. To date, 47 countries have already developed and communicated their NAP documents.

While countries are making modest strides in implementation, most observed adaptation efforts were characterized as “fragmented, incremental, sector-specific and unequally distributed across regions.” Against the backdrop of cascading climate risks and the rising losses and damages associated with climate change impacts, the report notes that adaptation is the responsibility of all levels of governance, and countries need to scale up their adaptation efforts.

The window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all is rapidly closing… When adaptation is informed and driven by local contexts, populations and priorities, both the adequacy and the effectiveness of adaptation action and support are enhanced, and this can also promote transformative adaptation.

Farhan Akhtar and Harald Winkler, co-facilitators of the technical dialogues

Much more is needed to fulfill the Global Goal on Adaptation, including enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience, and reducing vulnerability. Governments must urgently move from planning to implementation. For developing countries, however, this is not an easy task. The synthesis report emphasizes the pressing need to significantly scale up financial resources, technology, and capacity building from rich countries through expanded and innovative sources, including the private sector.

The synthesis report also points to good practices and lessons learned to support countries in the aftermath of this first global stocktake. First, it highlights that climate risks must be integrated into all aspects of development planning and mainstreamed in government decision-making. This more holistic approach will build resilience across sectors and promote coherence and synergistic actions.

Second, the synthesis report underscores the importance of inclusive and participatory adaptation planning processes that are informed by local contexts, populations, and realities. Adaptation is the responsibility of stakeholders at all levels and should be planned and implemented, taking into account the knowledge, priorities, and needs of local communities. Furthermore, access to early warning systems and downscaled climate services and data are crucial for sub-national governments to assess, plan, implement, monitor, and evaluate adaptation actions.

Finally, the report emphasizes the importance of systematically measuring progress in effective adaptation. This accentuates the crucial role of monitoring, evaluation, and learning systems for adaptation and the need for downscaled, accessible climate information and climate services at the sub-national levels.

Flag with COP 28 floating under blue sky

What Do We Need From the Global Stocktake’s Conclusion on Adaptation?

In Dubai, countries will negotiate and adopt a final decision on the global stocktake, offering a way forward. It is an opportunity for countries to signal to the world their collective will to address one of the most pressing challenges of our time and ramp up ambition, action, and support for adaptation.

The global stocktake’s final decision needs to send a message on the urgency of adaptation, balancing its focus on emissions reductions and adapting to climate change impacts, and include elements that will inform the update and enhancement of NDCs and NAPs. It should follow the recommendations from the synthesis report and the technical dialogues and shine a spotlight on the importance of adaptation mainstreaming across planning and decision-making processes; a whole-of-society approach to building resilience; iterative and well-designed monitoring, evaluation, and learning systems for adaptation; and locally led adaptation. It should also highlight the need for the sufficient provision of grant-based, predictable, accessible adaptation finance and the centrality of the NAP process for developing countries to address climate risks, reduce vulnerabilities, and increase resilience.

Effective adaptation requires community-led approaches that give the most vulnerable people a voice. People have a right to participate in the decisions that affect their lives. We also need to change the narrative—women are not just vulnerable; they are powerful actors in driving adaptation action.

Angie Dazé, Director, Gender Equality and Social Inclusion for Resilience

Equally important is the consideration of gender equality and human rights. Addressing gender equality and employing a rights-based approach could lead to more effective processes and sustainable outcomes, ensuring an inclusive and participatory planning process and the equitable distribution of adaptation benefits for people of all genders and social groups.

COP 28 is happening at a critical moment in global climate governance. Our climate is changing. Disasters exacerbated by climate change are occurring at an alarming scale and frequency. Communities and ecosystems need to adapt to this new reality.

The assessments of the first global stocktake is a clarion call underscoring the imperative to bolster resilience, reduce vulnerability, and protect people and nature. As the world watches closely, negotiators and ministers need to understand that their final decision is not just another procedural conclusion for this 2-year process. It needs to send a signal of hope—a collective commitment from countries to increase ambitions, actions, and support on both mitigation and adaptation—for this and the generations to come.