COP26: Adaptation, Loss and Damage Day

What we know so far

 

Today’s theme:

Adaptation, loss and damage

One week down, one week to go. As the second week of COP26 continues, the pressure is growing to achieve a deal as wealthier countries look to increase ambition and less wealthy countries call for more funding. A formal ‘stocktaking’ plenary session saw COP26 President Alok Sharma MP declare that ‘finding consensus is not going to be straight forward’, with talks on carbon markets, common time frame targets and transparency apparently far from agreement.

Sometimes overlooked as part of the climate action ‘toolbox’, adaptation and resilience involve clawing back the damage reaped on nature – and the corresponding loss of biodiversity. Today in Glasgow, negotiations to deliver “the practical solutions needed to adapt to climate impacts and address loss and damage” are supposed to be the order of the day. And this is why, first up in announcements, we had a funding pledge from our government to help those who govern poorer countries fund the changes needed to mitigate and reduce climate risks.

The funding announcement is well-placed considering today’s theme; the impact of climate change is not the same at home as it is abroad. Some of the advocates involved in COP26 so far, including Tina Stieg of the Marshall Islands, Chad’s Hindou Oumar Ibrahim and the Pacific Islands’ Barack Obama, represent nations and people who will face the impact of climate change first. They have helped highlight to some extent how complex it will be to implement adaptation and resilience plans across the world, without first gaining global cooperation.

Abroad

If we consider an area like deforestation, for example, consensus and cooperation are incredibly difficult to achieve. Countries across the world struggle to reconcile the idea of ending all deforestation by 2030 with current economic activity, such as cattle ranching in Brazil or cultivating palm oil plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia – the latter having described the 2030 target as ‘unfair’. In countries which are already seeing the impact of climate change, environmental breakdown translates to new pests and pathogens as well as flooding and rainfall, all of which result in more than just disruption to daily life.

Against a context of large cuts to the foreign aid budget, £290 million for APAC countries to plan and invest in climate mitigation, or a new UK guarantee to the African Development Bank, suggests the Government’s focus will be on financial support. The impact of these figures is already being questioned, as some compare it to the eye-watering $100 trillion some nations are calling for to avoid climate disaster – and which wealthier nations pledged as far back as 2009. Whilst mechanisms like the Adaptation Fund exist, and the collective addition of $232 million from several countries is welcome, they don’t meet the required sums to fund systemic changes to adapt homes and buildings for extreme weather, strengthen flood barriers, plant or preserve new crop varieties, plant more trees or protect the crops we depend upon, for example.

At home

A month before COP26, the Environment Agency highlighted the role of better environmental regulation, reviving natural ecosystems and resources for emergency responses in helping people ‘live with risk’ in its third adaptation report to DEFRA. This is bleak phrasing in any context but a useful reminder of the different reality we work with now.

Flooding, in recent years, has led to devastating consequences – both in London, where Tube stations and homes or commercial buildings closest to the river being inundated led to concerns about the Thames barrier providing sufficient protections, as well as across Welsh and Scottish coastlines. Despite a lack of detail, deals on forests, methane and coal have been struck alongside COP26 negotiations, but nothing yet for flooding or the impact of rising sea levels on coast lines.

Allocating a budget to nature-based solutions or mitigation measures can help, and it’s worth remembering that a case exists for government investment in nature-protecting schemes, where jobs and regional economic growth, as part of a wider levelling up agenda, could be gained from the right policy frameworks. The business case for adaptation planning also extends to the housing retrofit, as part of which the mismanaged Green Homes Grant scheme was meant to create skilled, green jobs as well as healthier, warmer housing for voucher applicants. Where previously the focus on energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation have been the priority, plans for a retrofit stand to gain from adopting resilience criteria in their implementation frameworks – if only to avoid a forecasted rise in heat-related as well as cold-related deaths.

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