By Elizabeth Kahurani
In what can be considered as a feat for most developing nations, the new climate agreement adopted in Paris has elevated adaptation to a level comparable to mitigation in efforts to cope and deal with climate change.
Article 7 of the new text acknowledges adaptation as a global goal essential to sustainable development and calls for “international cooperation on adaptation efforts and the importance of taking into account the needs of developing country Parties, especially those that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.”
Adaptation, or ability to cope with increasing negative effects of climate change is an important agenda for majority of developing countries who do not emit large quantities of carbon but bear the heavy cost of emissions including droughts, flooding in coastal areas, food scarcity as land becomes more unproductive, and largely, degradation of the ecosystem and lack of services thereof.
In the period leading up to the climate negotiations, scientists at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) have published evidence on the need to have mitigation and adaptation as synergistic approaches as opposed to the previous approach of treating the two initiatives as parallel activities, with much emphasis given to mitigation. “Treating mitigation and adaptation as two separate items creates inefficiency as different sectors and stakeholders end up competing for resources, yet, on the ground, the farmers do not know the difference between the two,” Dr Lalisa Duguma, Senior Scientist at ICRAF had pointed out.
With the finance clause of the agreement postponing financial aid commitment targets to 2025, it still remains unclear how funding for adaptation will be channeled given that this is an immediate priority for most developing countries already experiencing adverse effects of climate change.
However this development is still remarkable. According to Dr Peter Minang, Science leader, Environmental Services at ICRAF the new emphasis on adaptation does provide a framework and basis for policies and strategies to mobilize action and funding from different sources.
And perhaps the most important aspect according to Dr Minang is that the new agreement opens avenues for integration and enhances multifunctionality at the landscape level, where different sectors including agriculture can play both mitigation and adaptation roles through practices such as agroforestry.
During the last UNFCCC COP 20, a new book on Climate-smart landscapes: Multifunctionality in Practice was launched and provides an overview of theoretical concepts, frameworks, tools, methods and examples for integration through the application of landscape approaches
Dr Meine vanNoordwijk, Chief Scientist at ICRAF points out that the text on adaptation in article 7.5 is profound with the acknowledgement that “adaptation action should follow a country-driven, gender-responsive, participatory and fully transparent approach, taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems, and should be based on and guided by the best available science and, as appropriate, traditional knowledge, knowledge of indigenous peoples and local knowledge systems, with a view to integrating adaptation into relevant socioeconomic and environmental policies and actions, where appropriate.”
Dr Meine says this is important for any beneficial and sustainable initiatives and as an institution, ICRAF has worked with countries like Indonesia to provide tools such as LUWES that give guidance on best methods for involving multiple stakeholders in negotiations while making land use management decisions. Currently, LUWES is being used in all provinces in Indonesia, and has the potential to be scaled out in other countries with pilot studies already being conducted in Cameroon and Peru.
With this positive development from the climate talks in Paris and available evidence/tools for implementation, the challenge now remains for countries to strategically leverage on available and emerging opportunities to implement both adaptation and mitigation activities. This can only be done through well thought out practical policies particularly through their national commitments (INDCs).