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Road to adaptation monitoring in tropical countries

Blog | Wed, 01 Nov, 2023 · 11 min read

The current year has witnessed an exacerbation of extreme climatic events across diverse domains, resulting in losses and damages of such magnitude that their comprehensive enumeration proves challenging. In the last decade, research and support initiatives have predominantly centered on emissions mitigation. However, it is discernible that such measures, albeit essential, are insufficient in addressing the comprehensive variety of challenges inherent in combatting climate change. While mitigating emissions remains crucial, addressing the impacts and consequences of climate change is equally important. The reality of rapid warming requires that every country creates an adaptation strategy to become more resilient to the effects of climate change.

Assessing adaptation

As part of the Paris Agreement, the UN Adaptation Committee is preparing a universal framework - including indicators, approaches, targets, and metrics - that would enable for assessing adaptation progress, compare results, and get insight into what works and what doesn't. Adaptation is however very context specific. Several examples exist of local efforts in assessing adaptation but actions to link these local efforts up to higher scale – regional, national, global – remains rather challenging and unclear. Adaptation monitoring is complex; not only because adaptation touches multiple sectors (making indicator selection difficult), but also because monitoring frameworks are often built to satisfy donor or national reporting needs, with universally applicable frameworks, and therefore may not fully capture the impacts at community levels.

Reflecting on Parties’ positions at COP27, there are still many open questions that require further debate.  Given the possible implications of a framework for the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA), including for the direction of investments, it is important that the essence of any adopted framework is thoroughly considered rather than hastily put together during the COP. After all, “the content and quality of the framework critically determine its ability to affect positive change”. Importantly, evidence and insights from the scientific community are vital for the development of a solid framework.

While tracking progress on the implementation of the adaptation actions, the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) approach should ultimately allow assessing whether the main adaptation objectives that were set when developing its adaptation strategy are being achieved. Clear and specific and measurable (through indicators) objectives are therefore crucial for a meaningful M&E procedure. Setting up an M&E method requires a combination of robust indicators, knowledge management and active and sustained engagement of stakeholders, such as the public and private sectors and civil society.

Following the Adaptation futures 2023 workshop, held in Montreal (Canada), 2- 6 October 2023, and the LAC Climate Week  in Panama City (Panama), 23-27 October 2023, several additional challenges linked to adaptation reporting have been listed including:

  1. Attribution: how can we know that the progress made on a given indicator is thanks to an adaptation policy or intervention?
  2. Uncertainties and lack of robust data are also as major challenge. Potential solutions include making better use of existing reporting on for ex. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Sendai Framework, satellite data and Artificial Intelligence.

Transformation and locally led adaptation

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Report 6 (2022) explicitly mentions the need for transformational adaptation but there is an overall lack on metrics related to transformational adaptation. So concretely, how do we know that system change is taking place?

To approach this, we need to consider: 1) changes in mental models and point of view from the world 2) changes in social structures including power structures (decision power) 3) plural ways of knowing – face our assumptions of what is knowledge and finally 4) resilience: diversity, redundancy, connectivity, and adaptive learning.

Over 100 countries signed the initiative on the eight principles for locally lead adaptation. The question is what makes sense to decide on locally? Could this be a move to push over the responsibility to the individual? Some structural aspects like access to education and healthcare, legislation on land ownership etc. may be better decided on a national level. The level of decision making should be discussed.

Monitoring and Evaluation in practice

A common theme in the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) is the need to seek clarity on precisely ‘what’ should be evaluated before defining ‘how’ to measure it. The importance was noted of defining the purpose of M&E in line with IPCC findings, as well that M&E under the GGA should be informed by the best available science.

There is a need for frameworks to review the adequacy and effectiveness of technology transfer and capacity-building approaches, whilst others specifically mentioned monitoring national level adaptation actions and those by non-Party and local level actors, and whether these can be aggregated to existing indicators. One example of this is the ‘national custom targets and indicators’ under United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) to enable Parties to measure national progress against the four priorities of the global level Sendai framework (UNDDR).

Quantitative and qualitative approaches to measuring progress on adaptation

There is quite some agreement that a mix of qualitative and quantitative approaches is needed to monitor progress under the GGA, but that clarity is needed on what elements of adaptation can be evaluated qualitatively or quantitatively to establish the most effective (national) monitoring systems.

A protocol will identify relevant climate information and climate threats, develop methodologies, and outline key actors for gathering, processing, storing, and using information. The system is based on a multi-dimensional analysis of climate change risk. It builds on the conceptual framework of risk put forward in the Fifth and Sixth Assessment Report of IPCC (2014 and 2022) as demonstrated in Figure 1.



Figure 1. IPCC conceptual framework of risk, AR6 (IPCC, 2022).

In line with the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) priorities, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) within the framework of the UN-REDD Programme is mapping the goals and possible adaptation monitoring measures for the forestry sector in pilot countries following the example of the agriculture sector, striving to support countries and international agenda in maximizing joint benefits from mitigation and adaptation actions. The initial step would involve mapping out all the ongoing efforts and identifying stakeholders to address all the technical gaps and challenges.

They will commence deliberations on adaptation monitoring. Additionally, efforts are underway to compile the latest advancements in adaptation monitoring in Africa.

The path towards adaptation monitoring will be complex and extensive. However, with the implementation of universal frameworks, the commitment of pilot countries, and the guidance from the scientific community, the world is better prepared to navigate the challenges that lie ahead.