Framing adaptation to climate change – a challenge for building institutions

Horstmann, Britta


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Dokumentart: Bericht / Forschungsbericht / Abhandlung
Institut: DIE - Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik
Schriftenreihe: Discussion paper // Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik
Bandnummer: 2008, 23
ISBN: 978-3-88985-414-8
Sprache: Deutsch
Erstellungsjahr: 2008
Publikationsdatum: 15.08.2011
Originalveröffentlichung:$FILE/DP%2023.2008.pdf (2008)
SWD-Schlagwörter: Klimaänderung , Enwicklungspoltik , Klimaschutz , Vereinte Nationen , Kyoto - Protokoll
DDC-Sachgruppe: Politik
BK - Basisklassifikation: 89.72 (Internationale Organisationen), 89.93 (Nord-Süd-Verhältnis), 43.47 (Globale Umweltprobleme)
Sondersammelgebiete: 3.6 Politik und Friedensforschung

Kurzfassung auf Englisch:

Adaptation to climate change has long been neglected in climate and development policy and there is an institutional deficit in addressing adaptation action. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has yet to develop coherent institutional structures that facilitate the effective implementation of adaptation and related commitments in a way that is at once catalytic and synergetic at the global level. The question of how to respond adequately to the requirements of adaptation to climate change is still an open one and a matter of controversy in discussions, also with regard to a follow-up agreement for the Kyoto Protocol. One of the related challenges, in UNFCCC negotiations but also in development policy and practice, is the definition of a conceptual basis for adaptation from which to derive action. The question of how adaptation is conceptualized is crucial for leveraging action and addressing adaptation across different scales, from the global to the local level. This applies not only for the United Nations Framework Convention but also for institution building in a wider sense. It forms the basis for adaptation strategies, implementation, the calculation of adaptation costs and financial needs or translates into eligibility criteria for funding. Especially, the funding mechanisms of the climate convention, the connecting link between the global and the national or local level, assume an important position here. Their institutional arrangement and conceptual basis can influence action on adaptation on a broad scale. While the concept and problem definition of mitigation is relatively clearly framed with regard to cause and effect, the conceptual frame of adaptation remains vague and has changed over time. Adaptation was initially conceptualized from an environmental and climate change perspective focusing on impacts of climate change. It is now increasingly seen from a development perspective emphasizing development needs and aspects of vulnerability to current climate variability. Each perspective emphasizes a different type of policy response. Three fora are relevant for the evolution of conceptual thinking on adaptation to climate change: the UNFCCC, scientific discourse and development policy and practice. Adaptation has been framed differently in each of these. Nevertheless, there are core characteristics of adaptation that emerge from these discourses. They are represented by the following questions: — Adaptation to what? (climate-related stimuli) — Who or what adapts? (characteristics of system) — How does adaptation occur? (attributes, forms, types of adaptation) — On what time scale and on what spatial scale is adaptation being addressed? (time/space scale) — Who defines adaptation how and why? (power, processes, decision criteria, information) — How to address uncertainty and responsibility in adaptation? The last three aspects of adaptation have until now not received sufficient attention in defining adaptation options, and they are challenging for institution building: — The definition of time scales of adaptation needs careful balancing between short- and long-term requirements, development needs and climatic trends. To what time scale of climatic trends should adaptation measures respond and within what time frame can they be considered as climate change adaptation measures? — The question of “who defines, how and why?” is an important parameter in targeting adaptation as there is no concept-inherent, pre-given definition of a problem of and hence solution for adaptation. This implies that the challenge for adaptation planning and addressing it in institutions lies in the definition of the problem itself. What are the processes, criteria and information on which a decision is based? As there are no common, “objective” criteria of what “good” or “bad” adaptation to climate change is, the decision criteria for adaptation measures need to be socially embedded. — Uncertainty is a dominant feature of adaptation in a twofold sense. On the one hand, impacts of climate change are uncertain and there will be no definite information on what needs to be adapted to. On the other hand, there is a degree of uncertainty with regard to the determinants of vulnerability and there is no guarantee that certain measures will lead to reduced vulnerability or enhanced adaptive capacity. Both aspects of uncertainty imply the risk of maladaptation or maladaptedness. What is the best way to address the question of responsibility if adaptation fails? In view of the core characteristics of adaptation, what are the implications for a future adaptation framework under the UNFCCC? Addressing adaptation relates to a reframing of the effects of climate change that can be addressed under the convention and to whether this includes climate variability. The parties to the convention should reconsider the conceptual frame of adaptation funding and adopt a representative governance structure. The adaptation framework should adopt a process-oriented approach to adaptation that includes climate variability, and it should strengthen the generation of context-specific information and analysis. At present, uncertainty and responsibility are not addressed sufficiently under the convention.

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