Leveraging the National Adaptation Plan Process for Adaptation Communications
Climate change is making it harder to plan for the future. Current priorities and strategies for building prosperous communities and healthy ecosystems may need to change as the climate crisis escalates. Decision making needs to consider the impacts of climate change.
Developing countries renewed calls at the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP 27) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2022 for support to accelerate adaptation efforts to reduce vulnerability and build resilience to climate change—which is already impacting lives, livelihoods, and ecosystems—and to help avert and minimize losses and damages. The 2022 Adaptation Gap Report recognized signs of progress being made on adaptation planning and implementation, finding 84% of countries that are parties to the UNFCCC have adopted at least one national-level adaptation plan, strategy, law, or policy.
But while this progress is welcome, as the effects of climate change worsen, the authors caution that the costs of adaptation are expected to increase rapidly and that the implementability of National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) and policies will be put to the test. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report highlights that adaptation efforts have been observed to generate multiple benefits but that adaptation progress has been uneven across sectors and regions and is expected to slow with increasing warming (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2022).
Globally, information on adaptation needs, priorities, and progress is highly fragmented. In developing countries—whose adaptation financing needs are urgent and growing rapidly—having a clear articulation of national adaptation priorities and a clear pathway toward addressing those priorities will be essential for accelerated and strategic investments to reduce countries’ vulnerability to climate impacts in the medium and long terms. To achieve this, most developing countries already have a NAP process underway.
Alongside NAP processes, adaptation communications (AdComs) present a means for communicating a clear and up-to-date overview of adaptation. As one of several reporting instruments under the UNFCCC, climate change decision-makers are carefully considering how an AdCom fits into their national approach to adaptation planning and implementation. The purpose of this report is to highlight opportunities for countries to leverage the results of NAP processes for preparing AdComs, making strategic use of an AdCom for boosting the profile and visibility of adaptation progress and needs without creating undue additional reporting burden. It draws on experiences from the NAP Global Network’s support to 22 countries since 2020 to build on their NAP processes to prepare their first AdComs.
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AdComs: An overview
Established under Article 7 of the Paris Agreement in 2015, AdComs present an important means for countries to boost the profile and visibility of their adaptation needs, priorities, and progress, among other purposes.
As a voluntary, flexible, and country-driven reporting instrument, AdComs can potentially serve as a means of communicating with domestic and international stakeholders. However, given countries’ multiple reporting commitments under the UNFCCC and other sustainable development agendas, national decision-makers leading adaptation efforts (i.e., NAP teams) have highlighted in international negotiations the need to avoid creating additional burdens for developing countries.
There are four main purposes of AdComs identified in Decision 9/CMA.1, which provides the guidance for AdComs. These purposes are to
- Increase the visibility and profile of adaptation and its balance with mitigation
- Strengthen adaptation action and support for developing countries
- Provide input to the global stocktake (GST)
- Enhance learning and understanding of adaptation needs and actions
The UNFCCC Adaptation Committee is preparing comprehensive supplementary guidance for countries on AdComs.
Leveraging the NAP Process for AdComs
The NAP process, established under the UNFCCC Cancun Adaptation Framework in 2010, drives adaptation efforts in many countries. The NAP process is about putting climate change adaptation at the heart of decision making toward the achievement of climate-resilient development. It is a strategic process through which countries are identifying and addressing their medium- and long-term priorities for adapting to climate change. To date, 139 of 154 developing countries have reported having started a NAP process.
The NAP process involves “identifying current and future climate risks, designing and implementing strategies to manage them, and tracking progress to see if or how these strategies are working” (Hammill et al., 2020). Through NAP processes, countries are building up systems and capacities to make adaptation planning a core part of national decision making and budgeting rather than a niche or fragmented exercise.
NAPs are a foundation for adaptation at scale, and AdComs are an important instrument for capturing and sharing countries’ priorities, progress, and needs for adaptation under the Paris Agreement, as well as for informing the Global Stocktake (GST).
Countries preparing their AdComs should leverage the progress and results of NAP processes. As AdComs are voluntary and are not meant to add to countries’ reporting burden, they do not necessarily need to be comprehensive to be valuable—they can also provide a reasonable summary or “snapshot” of the state of play of adaptation in a country. The Adaptation Committee has noted that AdComs are an opportunity to “distill the essence of the NAP process.”
Countries at different stages of the NAP process are making these links, whether in the early stages of their NAP process (e.g., Somalia, Namibia), finalizing and launching a NAP document (e.g., Liberia, Haiti), or implementing and undertaking progress reporting on their NAPs (e.g., Burkina Faso, Grenada, Saint Lucia).
Conclusion and Key Lessons
The first generation of AdComs being submitted to the UNFCCC provides critical information on the state of play of adaptation across the world. They help address the fragmentation of climate change-adaptation information and are proving useful for a wide range of actors and processes.
In preparing an AdCom, countries should leverage the outputs and results of the NAP process—and experience shows this can be equally true whether a country is in the early stages of the NAP process or several years into implementing its NAP.
The NAP Global Network’s experiences partnering with countries to help prepare their AdComs yielded the following key lessons.
- Though voluntary, AdComs can have significant strategic value—NAP teams should consider how to make use of them to best advance their goals on adaptation and their NAP processes. AdComs’ flexibility allows countries to determine an approach that best suits their circumstances. Even when faced with capacity constraints, concise AdComs can have strategic value to boost adaptation’s profile and visibility, provide national input into the GST process, advocate for adaptation funding, and share learning on adaptation.
- NAP teams should involve consultation as part of the process to develop the AdCom, even while avoiding undue reporting burdens. The process of developing an AdCom is a chance to engage a government’s interested parties and actors to build a common understanding and vision for adaptation. The reporting burden can be reduced by aligning these processes with consultations as part of the NAP process to build on its results.
- If countries choose to include an adaptation chapter in their next enhanced or updated NDCs or Biennial Transparency Reports (BTRs), they can look to AdCom elements and guidance, as well as how peer countries have approached their AdComs. Most developing countries have chosen to include adaptation in their NDC. As there is currently no guidance for preparing an NDC adaptation chapter, the UNFCCC Adaptation Committee has highlighted that countries can structure NDC adaptation chapters according to the AdCom elements (as countries that used their NDC as a vehicle document for the AdCom have already done). Countries will also have the option to include adaptation in BTRs to the UNFCCC from 2024 onwards—and though there is guidance available under Decision 18/CMA.1 for the preparation of adaptation in BTRs, there may be benefits for countries to align their approach to collecting data and information on adaptation under different processes.
Ledwell, C., Hammill, A., & Grey, O. (2023). Leveraging the National Adaptation Plan Process for Adaptation Communications (NAP Global Network report). International Institute for Sustainable Development. https:// napglobalnetwork.org/
- UNEP Adaptation Gap Report 2022
- Gender-Responsive National Adaptation Plan (NAP) Processes: Progress and promising examples
- Action Recommendations on Capacity Building for Adaptation Communications
- Reporting adaptation through the biennial transparency report: A practical explanation of the guidance
- Adaptation Communications: Catalyzing the shift from planning to implementation