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Linking Mitigation and Adaptation in Long-Term Strategies

This is a GIZ discussion paper prepared for UNFCCC COP24 in Katowice, summarising early findings from research on the potential of mitigation–adaptation linkages in long-term climate strategies.
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The 2015 Paris Agreement agreed the goal of ‘holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 C’ (Article 2a). In line with this goal, the Agreement also called on all Parties to ‘formulate and communicate long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies (LEDS)’. These Long-term strategies (LTS) typically extend out to the year 2050. The Agreement also agreed a global goal for adaptation, ‘enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change, with a view to contributing to sustainable development and ensuring adequate adaptation response in the context of the aforementioned temperature goal’ (Article 7.1). This raises the question of how to integrate these adaptation goals into LEDS.

A recent UNFCCC technical paper on Long-term adaptation planning (AC/2018/12) has set out the role for national adaptation plans to ‘serve as the main vehicles for national adaptation planning and implementation in the decades to come, while maintaining synergy (with)… the goal to limit the rise in global average temperature’. This therefore raises a similar question, i.e. how to ensure that long-term adaptation plans align with emission reduction goals and are low carbon.

GIZ, funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, have commissioned some early research to stimulate discussion in this area. This factsheet*summarizes early findings from the research and sets out some initial suggestions, but it is primarily presented as a work in progress to stimulate discussion and inputs from other stakeholders.

*Download the full factsheet from the right-hand column. A summary of the key points from the paper is provided below.

Barriers to linking mitigation and adaptation over the long-term

Policy barriers

  • Mitigation is a global public good and it requires collective action (by all countries) to be effective.
    • In contrast, adaptation has costs and benefits that are local, near-term and accrue to those that take the action.
  • Mitigation and adaptation also involve different entry points and modalities, that act against integration.
    • Mitigation has mostly been taken forward in stand-alone plans, both short and long-term.
    • In contrast, adaptation is a cross-cutting issue, and it is increasingly implemented through mainstreaming (the integration into existing plans, not stand-alone ones).

Governance and organisational barriers

  • Mitigation and adaptation are taken forward by different sectors: mitigation focuses on the major emitters (energy, transport, industry, and sometimes forestry and agriculture), while adaptation focuses on the most climate sensitive (agriculture, water, health).
  • They also involve different actors, with mitigation delivery through the private sector (energy markets), but adaptation through the public (water, health, natural resource management).
  • There are often different teams, with different disciplinary expertise among the people who develop mitigation and adaptation plans.

Market failures

  • If carbon prices were already in place (to reflect the external costs of GHG emissions), adaptation plans would already be prioritising lower emission options.
  • Similar issues exist with impacts and adaptation, especially where this involves public goods or non-market sectors.

Information and technical barriers

  • GHG emission sources are well known, and reductions can be targeted deterministically, prioritising and incentivising the most cost-effective measures.
    • In contrast, planned, pro-active adaptation (the focus for LTS) is time and pathway dependant, site and context specific, and involves high uncertainty and multiple criteria.
    • Its appraisal requires extended cost-benefit analysis and decision making under uncertainty.
    • This makes integration difficult: for example, iterative adaptation does not fit to a LEDS marginal abatement cost analysis.

Financial and economic barriers

  • The benefits of synergistic policy and integration are commonly ancillary (co-benefits) or non-market in nature.
  • They also involve opportunity and transaction costs that make implementation costs higher.
    • This means that integration may make sense from an economic perspective (in societal terms), but not from a financial one (for private investors).
  • This is compounded by the economics of long-term adaptation. The present value of future adaptation benefits is low due to discounting, which makes it more difficult to justify short-term integration investment.

Key findings based on three key questions

What is the evidence base for joint mitigation and adaptation in LTS?

The potential for win-win synergies in mitigation and adaptation planning is less optimistic than portrayed in much of the policy literature.

  • Integrating climate resilience into LEDS – and low carbon measures in adaptation LTS – is important but challenging to deliver in practice.
  • This is because of multiple barriers, (governance, information, policy and finance).
  • Enhancing the integration of adaptation in LEDS, and low carbon integration in LTS, will therefore require a portfolio of measures and actions to address these barriers.

What are the entry points for combining or linking adaptation and mitigation in long-term strategies?

Designing and delivering any long-term strategy is challenging.

  • For LDCs, one entry point is to use core economic visions and integrate mitigation and adaptation, rather than producing stand-alone plans: this would then cascade down into medium-term national and sector development plans.
    • However, these long-term visions are led by the economic, finance and planning ministries, while climate change is usually led by environmental ministries: integration into national visions is therefore difficult unless there is a high- level political champion.
    • For LDCs, an alternative would be to develop long-term adaptation plans, but integrate low carbon perspectives within these.
  • For developed countries, there is a need to enhance the mainstreaming of adaptation in LEDS, but there might be additional entry points through the development of sector LEDS and integration into sector strategies and plans, to ensure sector specific barriers are targeted.

How can LTS be realised and achieve transformation in the context of sustainable development?

Recent climate reports have recommended a shift from current governance arrangements towards multi-level governance, collaborative multi-stakeholder partnerships, and more. This will be needed to deliver transformational change, but it involves major political change.

  • At a more pragmatic level, there are some success factors that could enhance integration of adaptation and mitigation in LTS.
  • These include the presence of a high-level champion, the involvement of strong Ministries, and the availability of climate finance, accompanied by technical assistance, information and capacity building support.
  • These need to be complemented with more targeted barrier analysis for each integration opportunity.

Lessons Learnt

Most LEDS do not consider the impacts of climate change – and the need for adaptation integration –in their scenario development and projections.

  • Similar issues arise for adaptation LTS, which omit the impacts of low carbon pathways. Factoring in such analysis will signpost the need for integration.

Addressing barriers is critical for integration. Further work to document the main barriers, and to identify actions to address these, is therefore a priority.

  • This could also include good practice case studies to provide insights and learning on how barriers can be overcome.

Despite the difficulties and barriers, the consideration of a changing climate in LEDS and low-carbon visions in LTS are crucial for sustainable futures.

  • The findings presented in this fact-sheet will hopefully stimulate further discussion and we would welcome additional insights as well as comments from stakeholders.

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