The importance of the Global Goal on Adaptation at COP28

In his 1992 book, Earth in the Balance, Al Gore labeled adaptation as a “kind of laziness.” Over the last thirty years, the calculus has changed, and now climate adaptation is not an option: It is a necessity. 2023 was the hottest year on record. With a number of unprecedented extreme weather events around the globe, causing devastating impacts that made it clear that climate adaptation is imperative if we are to succeed in a world that is hotter by 1.5 degrees Celsius or more. Adapting to a changing climate is a global challenge faced at all levels, yet is essential to protect people, livelihoods, infrastructure, nature, and ecosystems.

Loss and damage—economic and noneconomic losses related to climate change impacts—dominated media and political attention at COP27 when countries involved in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreed to funding arrangements including a fund for assisting developing countries. However, delivery on adaptation-related topics and mandates will be critical to a successful outcome at COP28 in Dubai—in particular the global goal on adaptation (GGA) Framework.

What is the global goal on adaptation?

Article 7.1 of the Paris Agreement established the GGA to enhance adaptive capacity, strengthen resilience, and reduce vulnerability to climate change and in the context of pursuing efforts to reduce global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Since COP26 and the establishment of the Glasgow–Sharm el-Sheikh work programme (GGA work programme) to further define the GGA Framework, Parties and non-party stakeholders have engaged widely through submissions, workshops, and ministerial consultations. There have been eight GGA workshops over the last two years.

Guiding Star

Many have asked: How do we measure adaptation at a global level? In contrast with mitigation that can be easily measured, adaptation is complex and location-specific, making it difficult to quantify and measure at the global level. Ideas have emerged about a guiding star for adaptation that can sit atop the GGA Framework as an aspirational goal “guiding” global adaptation action. Some proposals include references to early warning systems, population resilience, risk-informed planning or adaptation planning, loss avoidance, and adequate financing. For a more in-depth analysis see C2ES’s publication, Options for a Politically Salient Headline for the Global Goal on Adaptation.

A look towards COP28

There has been some convergence around using the GGA Framework to send a strong political signal and set out a guiding star, as well on the importance of thematic areas such as strengthening the resilience of food, water, health, nature, and infrastructure. However, progress has been slow with a lack of consensus around targets, indicators, and metrics, and there is still much to be done to pave the way for success at COP28 in Dubai.

An ambitious and effective delivery of the GGA Framework is crucial for continued ambition on adaptation action globally. Adaptation is a necessary and life-saving global endeavor, complementing ambitious mitigation efforts. Let’s prove Al Gore and others wrong that viewing adaptation action as an “either/or” scenario is the true lazy path.

For information on an effective and ambitious outcome on the GGA Framework see C2ES’s recent publication, The Global Goal on Adaptation at COP28.

And C2ES’s recent publication, COP28: A layered approach to the Global Goal on Adaptation Framework.