5 May 2016
Adaptation and Loss and Damage Update: Urban Resilience, DRR Enter the Limelight; Potentially Irreversible Harm Exposed
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The first target under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13 (Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts) is to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries.

Much of the news on adaptation and loss and damage coming out of the month of April contributed to the implementation of this target, including projects promoting climate resilience in urban and rural settings, and resilience in the field of agriculture.

adaptation_loss_damage 4 May 2016: The first target under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13 (Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts) is to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries. Much of the news on adaptation and loss and damage coming out of the month of April contributed to the implementation of this target, including projects promoting climate resilience in urban and rural settings, and resilience in the field of agriculture.

Activities under the Nairobi work programme (NWP) on impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change, further work undertaken by the Executive Committee (ExCom) of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts (WIM) on the implementation of its initial two-year workplan, as well as various initiatives on disaster risk management (DRM) and disaster risk reduction (DRR) also aided the implementation of target 13.3 (Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning).

The role of indigenous and traditional knowledge and gender-sensitive approaches in climate change adaptation was highlighted in several publications, which contributed not only to SDG 13, but also to SDG 5 (Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls).

April events relating to adaptation and loss and damage took place against the backdrop of: scientific reports of potentially irreversible damage of coral reefs caused by ocean acidification; warnings of the damaging impacts of various climate phenomena, including slow onset and extreme weather events; and the acceptance by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of the UNFCCC’s invitation to deliver a special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above preindustrial levels and related global greenhouse gas (GHG) emission pathways. At the same time, a report by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) cautioned that not enough media attention is given to climate change and its linkages to other pressing issues, such as food insecurity, conflict and migration.

Activities under the Nairobi Work Programme, Community-Based Adaptation, Local Initiatives

The UNFCCC Secretariat released, ahead of the 44th session of the UNFCCC Subsidiary Bodies (SB 44) scheduled to take place in May in Bonn, Germany, a note outlining progress made in implementing activities under the NWP (FCCC/SBSTA/2016/INF.4). The report also provides an overview of activities since the 43rd session of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 43) and includes possible areas of future work resulting from those activities. It describes the core functions and features of the work programme and the continued engagement in the implementation of NWP activities of Parties, partner organizations, regional centers and networks, experts and communities of practice. It also highlights collaborative activities undertaken with the Adaptation Committee and the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) Expert Group (LEG) and concludes with a brief overview of next steps. [UNFCCC Report on Progress Made in Implementing Activities under the NWP]

The UNFCCC Secretariat also issued a report on activities undertaken by regional centers and networks on adaptation planning processes, and processes and structures for linking national and local adaptation planning (FCCC/SBSTA/2016/INF.1). The document synthesizes the information contained in 68 submissions contributed by 13 regional centers and networks and eight international organizations with regional presence, including 19 partner organizations of the NWP. The submissions provided specific information on: available and implemented tools and methods for adaptation planning addressing ecosystems, human settlements, water resources and health; good practices and lessons learned in relation to adaptation planning, including monitoring and evaluation, addressing those four issues; and good practices and lessons learned related to processes and structures for linking national and local adaptation planning. The report also contains an overview of the knowledge-sharing and training activities carried out by those organizations, as well as a synthesis of the outcomes of those activities in different regions of the world. The document concludes by identifying possible next steps to be taken in light of the challenges and gaps singled out in the submissions. [UNFCCC Report on Activities by Regional Centers and Networks on Adaptation Planning]

The NWP was established by COP 11 in 2005 as a mechanism under the Convention to facilitate and catalyze the development and dissemination of information and knowledge that would inform and support adaptation policies and practices. In its role as the UNFCCC knowledge hub on adaptation, the NWP provides an opportunity to link relevant institutions, processes, resources and expertise outside the Convention in order to respond to adaptation knowledge needs. [NWP Webpage]

Outside the UNFCCC, a number of international and local initiatives focused on promoting resilience in urban and rural settings and ways to benefit smallholder farmers.

The tenth International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change (CBA 10), which took place in Dhaka, Bangladesh, from 21-28 April, focused on enhancing urban community resilience. CBA 10 was organized by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and partners, and sponsored by, inter alia, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), UN Development Programme (UNDP) and Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP). It concluded with a call for governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and infrastructure investors to work with urban community federations to mainstream local adaptation and ensure that finance reaches the most vulnerable to climate change in urban settlements. [IIED Press Release on CBA 10] [IIED Press Release on CBA 10 Outcomes] [Congo Basin Forest Partnership Press Release]

A project focusing on climate information and historic data reconstruction was launched in Rwanda to build a more climate-resilient agriculture sector. The project is carried out by the Rwandan Government, in collaboration with the CGIAR Research Program on Climate, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and others, and with funding from the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The Rwanda Climate Services for Agriculture project seeks to transform Rwanda’s rural farming communities along with national economy through improved climate risk management. [Rwanda Climate Services for Agriculture Project Webpage] [CGIAR CCAFS Press Release]

Participants at the 74th meeting of the Governing Board of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), held in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, from 20-22 April 2016, issued a call for science-backed solutions and stronger partnerships to help smallholder farmers cope with extreme climate events, such as the current severe drought gripping Zimbabwe. Working on projects like ‘Building Farmers’ Resilience to Production Variability through Enhanced Climate Services and Improved Agricultural Technologies,’ ICRISAT and partners aim to help smallholder farmers achieve sustained improvements in food security through better access to climate information and natural resources management. ICRISAT is a member of CGIAR. [ICRISAT Press Release 1] [ICRISAT Press Release 2]

The threats small-scale farmers in developing countries are facing as a result of climate change were also highlighted by Carlo Cracco, Italian celebrity chef working with IFAD Recipes for Change campaign, who visited an IFAD-supported project in Kandal province in southern Cambodia where IFAD is helping over 90,000 farmers build their resilience to climate change by introducing low-cost technology and more efficient farming practices.

The IFAD Recipes for Change series features top chefs that travel to developing countries, cook foods that are being threatened by climate change, and show how IFAD is working with farmer communities to help them adapt to climate change impacts. [IFAD Press Release]

Indigenous and Traditional Knowledge, Gender-Sensitive Approaches

The role of indigenous and traditional knowledge and gender-sensitive approaches in climate change adaptation is another issue that received attention in April.

According to the ‘Outlook on climate change adaptation in the Tropical Andes mountains,’ published by the UNEP, GRID-Arendal and the Consortium for Sustainable Development of the Andean Ecoregion (CONDESAN), adapting to climate change in the Tropical Andes requires a regional strategy that must include the knowledge of indigenous peoples and women. One in a series of reports on climate change effects in mountain regions around the globe, the report recommends that adaptation strategies “build from existing traditional knowledge and strengthen women’s role.” [Publication: Outlook on Climate Change Adaptation in the Tropical Andes Mountains]

A food policy report titled ‘Climate change impacts and household resilience: Prospects for 2050 in Brazil, Mexico, and Peru’ assesses local and global effects of changing agricultural yields on the economy, subnational regions and different household types, in particular male- and female-headed households. Issued by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the study suggests that female-headed households may be less vulnerable to the effects of climate change than male-headed households, highlighting the importance of considering women as a source for solutions for building resilience to climate change. IFPRI is a member of CGIAR. [Publication: Climate Change Impacts and Household Resilience: Prospects for 2050 in Brazil, Mexico, and Peru]

Loss and Damage Committee, Other Entities Focus on DRM, DRR, Climate Migration

As some of the negative residual impacts of climate change cannot be adapted to, and issues related to loss and damage, DRM and DRR, as well as climate change-induced migration have been gaining prominence. The month of April saw a range of initiatives focus on those issues.

During its third meeting held in Bonn, Germany, from 26-30 April 2016, the WIM ExCom initiated work under the mandate given to it by the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the UNFCCC in relation to the establishment of a task force on displacement and a clearing house for risk transfer.

The ExCom made further progress on the implementation of its initial two-year workplan under a number of activity areas, including: particularly vulnerable developing countries, populations and ecosystems; comprehensive risk management approaches; slow onset events; non-economic losses; resilience, recovery and rehabilitation; migration, displacement and human mobility; financial instruments and tools; and complementing, drawing upon the work of and involving other bodies.

In the advancement of its work, the ExCom drew upon, inter alia, the database of organizations working on slow onset events and the inputs received in response to the invitation to submit information on: internal and cross-border migration, displacement and other forms of human mobility; and best practices, challenges and lessons learned from existing financial instruments. The ExCom also considered an information paper on best practices, challenges and lessons learned from existing financial instruments at all levels that address the risk of loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, issued ahead of the meeting. The financial instruments identified in the paper include: risk transfer and risk pooling; catastrophe risk insurance; disaster relief funds; social protection schemes; contingent credit; climate bonds; catastrophe bonds; and micro grants, savings and credit. [ExCom Third Meeting Webpage] [ExCom Third Meeting Agenda] [Summary of Decisions] [Inputs on Existing Financial Instruments] [Inputs on Migration] [Information paper on existing financial instruments] [Decision adopting the Paris Agreement] [IISD Adaptation and Loss and Damage Update of 9 April 2016]

An emphasis on DRM, DRR, resilience and disaster preparedness was also reflected in several recent publications and initiatives.

A report commissioned by the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), titled ‘Transformative Development and Disaster Risk Management,’ reviews current scientific knowledge on the transformative character of DRM. The main conclusions of the report include that: although knowledge on vulnerability, adaptation and resilience has expanded significantly in recent years, a rift between knowledge and action persists; transformative development and DRR needs actionable research; observed transitions in, for example, the agricultural and tourism sectors are the product of forced transition and immediate threats to livelihoods; and honest and comprehensive assessments providing concrete evidence of the capacity and advancements in DRR at all scales are needed.

The report builds on the work conducted for the Integrated Research for Disaster Risk (IRDR) Assessment of Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (AIRDR). The IRDR is a research programme co-sponsored by the International Council for Science (ICSU), the International Social Science Council (ISSC) and UNISDR. [Publication: Transformative Development and Disaster Risk Management] [IRDR Webpage]

The World Bank Group (WBG) issued several reports on DRM investment that focus on: private sector investment in DRM; DRM co-benefits; and DRM investment accounting for climate uncertainty. [Publication: Capturing the Co-benefits of Disaster Risk Management on the Private Sector Side] [Publication: Co-benefits of Disaster Risk Management] [Publication: Investing in Disaster Risk Management in an Uncertain Climate]

The role of the private sector in DRM was also highlighted by the UNISDR Private Sector Alliance for Disaster Resilient Societies (ARISE) during a meeting held in Geneva, Switzerland, on 12 April 2016. ARISE pledged to ensure that the private sector plays its part in implementing the Sendai Framework for DRR, which was adopted by the international community in March 2015. [UNISDR Press Release on ARISE Meeting]

The Sendai Framework’s seven targets relate to substantial reductions in global disaster mortality, the number of people affected, economic losses, damage to critical infrastructure, an increase in the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies, strengthened international cooperation for developing countries, and access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information and assessments. [UNISDR Sendai Framework Webpage]

Sendai Framework implementation efforts also included: a data collection programme to build an evidence base of disaster losses launched by six members of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) – Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia; and the first-ever pilot of the indicators that will help local governments assess the success of the Sendai Framework pioneered in the Kenyan city of Kisumu. [UNISDR Press Release on SADC Initiative] [UNISDR Press Release on Kisumu Pilot]

A disaster risk preparedness and DRR initiative was launched by the Government of the Philippines and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) involving the use of unmanned aerial drones to gather data that can be used to assess where agricultural systems are at particular risk from natural disasters and identify ways through which such risks can be countered. [FAO Press Release]

Climate insurance received prominence during a high-level meeting on resilience with insurance industry leaders and other stakeholders held at the UN Headquarters in New York, US, on 13 April 2016. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the insurance industry to continue to work with the UN on DRM and DRR and ultimately ensure a more sustainable world for all. “We need to move from managing disasters to managing and reducing risks,” he said. [UN Press Release] [Secretary-General’s remarks at High-level Meeting on Resilience]

The climate-migration nexus was at the forefront of discussions during two events held in Rabat, Morocco, from 22-24 March 2016, in preparation for UNFCCC COP 22, which is scheduled to take place in Marrakesh, Morocco, from 7-18 November 2016: a thematic panel and the first specialized training workshop on migration, environment and climate change, funded by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Development Fund. [IOM Press Release] [IISD RS Sources]

Scientists Expose Potentially Irreversible Harm, IPCC to Prepare Special Report on Impacts of Global Warming of 1.5 ºC above Preindustrial Levels

The background for April adaptation and loss and damage news was set by reports of potentially irreversible harm and anticipated damaging climate events.

A comprehensive survey conducted by scientists revealed that almost 93% of the Great Barrier Reef has been affected by coral bleaching occurring as part of a worldwide bleaching event caused by an unusually strong El Niño and global warming. If it lasts for an extended period of time, bleaching can kill reef-forming corals that support a quarter of all marine life. Globally, about 20% of coral reefs have already been destroyed, and scientists predict even greater losses as the sea temperatures rise and the oceans become more acidic. [UNEP Press Release]

El Niño’s damaging effects were also highlighted by the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien who sounded the alarm about the ‘genuinely disastrous’ impact of the phenomenon on human life and well-being. Its lingering impacts include elevated risk of poor harvests and, consequently, of malnutrition, as well as water-borne diseases and mosquito-spread viruses, such as malaria and Zika. “Recovery from El Niño takes years,” said O’Brien. [UNISDR Press Release]

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) South Asia Climate Outlook Forum (SASCOF) published its consensus outlook for the 2016 Southwest Monsoon season, which suggests that, during the 2016 southwest monsoon season lasting from June to September, above-normal rainfall is likely to occur over much of South Asia. [WMO Press Release]

A technical report titled ‘Meteorological Droughts in Europe’ published by the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) reveals that global warming will be a key factor in the more extreme drought impacts in Europe, particularly in the last decades of the 21st century. The report finds that, while increased precipitation in northern Europe is likely to lead to a reduction in the frequency, duration, severity and intensity of drought events, future drought events are likely to be more frequent, longer, and more severe and intense in most of southern Europe. [JRC Press Release]

Meanwhile, at its 43rd session, the IPCC agreed the strategy and timeline for its next series of reports, including the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) and the special reports that will be prepared in the next few years. In response to the invitation from the UNFCCC, the IPCC will provide a special report in 2018 on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global GHG emission pathways. It will also prepare two other special reports on: climate change and oceans and the cryosphere; and climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security and GHG fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems. [IPCC Press Release] [IIISD RS Story on IPCC-43]

Yet, as a research report ‘The Untold Story: Climate change sinks below the headlines’ funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) suggests, some of the world’s influential media outlets have failed to cover climate change as a top news item. According to some of the report’s key findings: climate change stories were either completely absent or their numbers decreased in major media outlets in Europe and the US before and after COP 21; coverage on the consequences of climate change, such as migration, fell by half in the months after COP 21; and news consumers want climate change issues and solutions to be given more prominence in the media and, in particular, want more information on the connections between climate change, food insecurity, conflict and migration. [Publication: The Untold Story: Climate Change Sinks Below the Headlines] [IFAD Press Release]


This Adaptation Update is the second in a series published by IISD RS. It brings together news related adaptation projects, planning and governance from a range of intergovernmental actors. The first update can be found here. News related to adaptation finance is included in IISD RS’s climate finance updates.


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