Adaptation Responses to Climate Change under the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol, Dr. Wil Burns


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  • 'Adaptation must be a bridge to a de-carbonized future or it will prove to be a bridge to nowhere.' (p.2)

    It used to be said that a 1% tax on global output would be sufficient to mitigate climate change. As you have pointed out, that cost was deemed unacceptable by the developed world to date, now requiring adaptation alongside mitigation at far greater cost. How much greater?

    The U.S. has handily demonstrated that it can siphon up to 50% of its public treasury into rather fruitless military spending. The U.S. has also already experienced the largest migration due to ecological disaster since the 1930s dustbowl, the greatest economic disruption since the Great Depresssion, and timber stock in vulnerable California with lower moisture content than kiln-dried lumber. Can we expect to look forward to integrated climate change measures sucking away a similar 50% proportion, only this time globally?

    I am looking for a reasonably effective benchmark to calculate against the rainy day of rapid sea-level rise and catastrophic urban wildfires. Could we ever expect global business to volunteer even 10% of revenues toward planning adaptation measures like repositioning urban agglomerations and infrastructure and constructing city-sized firestops ahead of time? I'm afraid we know the answer to that; it always takes disaster to spur action and measures must be mutually coerced. How do we guarantee that resources will be applied evenly where and when prioritized - is not a life a life? The Kyoto Protocol turned out not to be a good test run. And finally, from a planning standpoint, who shall we say should decide which lineages and cultures live on and who dies out in the great rush of contraction to meet our shrunken global carrying capacity? I might wish that an omnipotent supreme being could be summoned into existence for such decisionmaking, but it will ultimately be up to you and y'all and me. Thank you for your excellent beginning in this presentation.

    -Paul M. Suckow , 30 March 2009 (lunchtime)
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Adaptation Responses to Climate Change under the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol, Dr. Wil Burns

  1. 1. Adaptation Responses of Developing Countries under the UNFCCC & the Kyoto Protocol Wil Burns, SCU School of Law In confronting climate change, policymakers can focus on two basic strategies: • Mitigation [SLIDE 2] • Adaptation [SLIDE 3] • For many years, the climate change community’s focus was overwhelmingly on mitigation. However, in recent years, adaptation has become a much higher priority. • This is a salutary development for several reasons: o It has become increasingly clear that many of the world’s largest emitters have concluded that it is neither politically nor economically expedient to address climate change in a meaningful fashion. As a consequence, we now face emissions scenarios over the next 50-100 years that could wreak havoc on natural ecosystems, as well as the welfare of billions in developing countries, many of which will face the most severe impacts of climate change and have the least capability to respond. • With the pace of greenhouse gas emissions accelerating substantially at the outset of this century, temperature increases of at least 3C (4.5F) by the end of this century now appear inevitable, and 4-5C appearing far more likely o Moreover, the International Energy Agency in its latest World Energy Outlook concluded that a possible 50% increase in world energy needs by 2030 could translate into a 57% increase in carbon dioxide emissions and a 6C increase in temperatures. • Additionally, the empirical nature of climate change necessitates simultaneous implementation of both adaptation and mitigation measures: 1 | P a g e    
  2. 2. o The fact is that climate change mitigation initiatives will make a small difference to the human development prospects of vulnerable populations in the first half of the 21st Century—but a big difference in the second half. This is because of the long residence time of some greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, which can remain in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. • This ensures that no matter what we do to reduce emissions, the impacts of recent emissions will be visited on the globe through 2030, at which point mitigation efforts can begin to make a difference, though temperatures will continue to increase through 2050 at a minimum because of the system’s inertia o Even if atmospheric GHG concentrations could be held steady at 2005 levels, which is highly improbable, we would see temperatures increase 2.4C above pre-industrial levels Because the consensus is that a 2C increase is a critical threshold for many of the most dire impacts of climate change, a 2.4C increase will have serious implications for natural and human institutions [SLIDE 4] o Conversely, adaptation policies can make a big difference over the next 50 years in ameliorating the impacts of climate change— and they will remain important thereafter Example: California [SLIDE 5] • At the same time, it must be emphasized that if the world’s major greenhouse gas emitting States, most notably the U.S., the EU, Russia, Japan, China and India must make dramatic commitments to reducing greenhouse emissions within the next 10-20 years or the cost of adaptation will become cost-prohibitive for most developing nations, and to no avail in many cases. o Adaptation must be a bridge to a de-carbonized future or it will prove to be a bridge to nowhere. 2 | P a g e    
  3. 3. The purpose of this presentation is to briefly examine the institutional mechanisms to operationalize climate change adaptation at the international level under the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol, with an emphasis on the needs of the developing world and adequacy of financing mechanisms. To do this I will [SLIDE 6] 1. Provisions for Adaptation Under UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol A. UNFCCC: a. General obligation of Parties to engage in adaptation [SLIDE 7] b. Obligation of developed countries to provide adaptation funding for particularly vulnerable developing countries [SLIDE 8] i. UNFCCC notes that certain areas face special risks from climate change, including low-lying coastal areas, fragile ecosystems, arid and semi-arid regions, and areas that subject to drought, desertification, or prone to natural disasters. c. The UNFCCC also includes more general obligations pertinent to adaptation: i. Actions to meet needs and concerns of vulnerable countries [SLIDE 9] 1. Parties have acknowledged this includes adaptation needs ii. Technology transfer: 1. Article 4.5 [SLIDE 10] 2. Article 4.9 [SLIDE 11] 3. Parties have acknowledged this includes adaptation needs iii. Parties to promote economic development that will facilitate coping with climate change in developing countries [SLIDE 12] 3 | P a g e    
  4. 4. d. Finally, Article 11 of the UNFCCC established a funding mechanism for the Convention and tasks the Parties with establishing funding modalities i. Parties subsequently designated the Global Environment Facility to administer funding for many of the programs 1. The GEF was established in 1994 under the rubric of the United Nations Development Program, the World Bank, and the United Nations Environment Program to provide concessional funding in implementation of environmental protection programs in several sectors, including climate change. B. Kyoto Protocol Provisions on Adaptation: a. All parties required to develop programs to mitigate and adapt to climate change [SLIDE 13] b. Provides for funding of, inter alia, adaptation measures, entrusted to the GEF [SLIDE 14] C. Notably, neither UNFCCC or Kyoto provides quantitative commitments for financing adaptation, nor specific funding sources a. However, 3 funding programs have been established under the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol for adaptation: i. The Special Climate Change Fund, established by Parties to the UNFCCC at the 7COP in 2001 [SLIDE 15] ii. The Least Developing Countries Fund established by Parties to the UNFCCC at the 7COP in 2001 [SLIDE 16] iii. The Adaptation Fund, established by the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol at the 3rd MOP to the Kyoto Protocol in 2007 [SLIDE 17] 2. Critique of Adaptation Responses to Date A. Financial transfers for adaptation in developing countries has been extremely inadequate: a. How much do we need? 4 | P a g e    
  5. 5. i. Global adaptation costs estimated to be 7-10% of total global damage associated with climate change ii. For developing States, this will translate into a need for US$28–$67 billion a year by 2030 of additional investments and financial flows for adaptation to impacts on water resources, agriculture, forestry and fisheries, and health. 1. The needs are palpable throughout the developing world: a. Example: current climate models for Africa provide insufficient information to downscale data on rainfall, the spatial distribution of tropical cyclones and the occurrence of droughts i. One reason for this is that the region has the world’s lowest density of meteorological stations, with one site for every 25,460 km2—one-eighth of the minimum level recommended by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). iii. But we are providing egregiously limited funding to developing countries to address adaptation 1. UNFCCC and Kyoto aggregate is very small [SLIDE 18] a. We’re talking about $279 million at this point, to be disbursed over a number of years 2. Other bilateral and multilateral efforts are also tepid. Recent study documented commitments of only $94 million for adaptation responses between 2001- 2005, though this does appear to be accelerating now. 3. Contrast with developed world’s resources for adaptation: a. The German state of Baden-Würtemberg is planning to spend more than twice as much as the entire multilateral adaptation effort for 5 | P a g e    
  6. 6. developing countries on strengthening flood defenses b. The Venice Mose plan, which aims to protect the city against rising sea levels, will spend US$3.8 billion over five years 4. General conclusion: we’re leaving the world’s poor to cope for themselves [SLIDE 19] iv. We need to develop predicable, and substantial additional sources of funding for adaptation responses in developing countries. Potential examples include: 1. Swiss proposal for a uniform global tax of $2 on all fossil fuel emissions, would raise $48.5 billion annually, 2. Extending the $2 levy on Clean Development Mechanism Projects to Joint Implementation projects under the Kyoto Protocol would raise about $14 billion annually 3. A levy of only $7 per airplane ticket would also yield $14 billion annually 4. Other ideas include levies on vehicles that produce high levels of CO2, as well as on other low fuel efficiency vehicles 5. Ideally, countries should commit to allocating a certain percentage of their GDP to adaptation financing, or link contributions to historical responsibility for carbon emissions and financing capabilities measured by the Human Development Index and national income. B. Other Measures that Should Be Taken in Context of Adaptation: a. Need to integrate climate change adaptation objectives into Overseas Development Assistance Projects, for two reasons: i. First, UNDP study indicates that 17% of all development assistance projects are at intensive risk from climate change, translating into $16-32 billion. 1. “Climate proofing” such projects would cost about $4.5 billion, but this would likely prove to be an extremely important and cost-effective adaptation response 6 | P a g e    
  7. 7. ii. Second, an ODA project may have positive or negative effects on the vulnerability of the community or ecosystem to climate change; thus, to not take into account climate change would be counterproductive b. The use of risk assessments, vulnerability assessments and environmental impact assessments as part of ODA-funded projects could help to reduce the vulnerability of these projects to climate change C. Need to Integrate Adaptation into Foreign Direct Investment: a. FDI flows are a potentially important source for adaptation below such flows are a much more important source of funding for developing countries, about four times greater in magnitude than ODA b. Ways could be found to influence investment decision-making to incorporate adaptation strategies, most notably through national policy. i. For example, climate risk can be reduced if building codes and land-use regulations for real estate, including hotel resorts in the coastal zone, reflect best practices for reducing vulnerability to climate change impacts 1. An increasingly attractive scenario for investors would be if small subsidies, provided through loans from development banks, for example, complemented such regulations, compensating for the extra investment costs. 2. National policies should make climate adaptation considerations a prerequisite for foreign direct investment D. Critical research needs for developing adaptation strategies: a. Most current general circulation climate models are too coarse to accurately assess climate impacts at regional or local scales, making it difficult to craft cost-effective adaptation strategies i. Need to increase funding for such modeling as a very high priority over the next few years; ii. Should also explore potential role of adaptation insurance (insurance contemplated in UNFCCC) as a means of spreading risk and enhancing systemic resilience E. A broader measure would be to establish entirely separate protocol under UNFCCC for adaptation 7 | P a g e    
  8. 8. a. This could highlight the importance of this issue; 8 | P a g e