Adaptation and resilience at COP27: Priorities for implementation

The Egyptian COP27 President ensured attendees would not forget: This was the Implementation COP. Each morning, as conference-goers shuffled through security stalls at the entrance of the Sharm El Sheikh International Convention Center venue, they were greeted with “Time for Implementation” scrolled across the UN-blue walls. Over five years into the Paris Agreement, could the world achieve its mandate to open the next phase of the agreement and truly usher in its implementation mode?

The world is now a different place than in 2015, when 196 nations adopted the Paris Agreement. It is more climate-impacted — and deadly. Six years ago, disasters caused 8,186 deaths worldwide. Today, at least 29 billion-dollar weather disasters had devastated all parts of the planet by October 2022, with heat waves in Europe killing more than 16,000 people and flooding in Pakistan killing  nearly 1,700. Moreover, cities are contending with multiple threats, including high inflation, supply chain disruptions, and food shortages, together with rising seas, stronger storms, and extreme heat. These challenges do not happen in a vacuum but instead cascade, leading to cycles of worsening impacts that pose an existential threat to humans and the natural world.

Dire times call for a drastic shift in thinking, and all sectors of society, and particularly voices from Africa and the Global South, have called for climate adaptation to take equal priority with mitigation. Implementation mode for Paris means on-the-ground, day-by-day action to lower emissions while preparing for—and responding to—climate change impacts.


What Major Global Adaptation Initiatives Came of COP27 Benefit Cities and Regions?

Heading into COP27, much of the adaptation-focused efforts were coordinated by 34 partners in the Race to Resilience. Unified with the goal to increase the resilience of 2.9 billion people, the partners had mobilized more than 11,000 non-State actors, with a large portion of these being cities and regions coordinated through ICLEI and the LGMA.

The UN High-Level Climate Champions have been backing the Race to Resilience since COP26 in Glasgow, and launched a number of new, supportive efforts at COP27, inlcuding the African Cities Water Adaptation Fund, an African-led insurance commitment to provide cover for up to $14bn in climate losses, and support for The Cool Coalition’s Beat the Heat: Nature for Cool Cities Challenge.

One flagship program was put forward by the Climate Champions with the Marrakech Partnership, the platform for non-State actors launched in 2016 at COP22 and which ICLEI has been a member of since its founding. The Sharm-El-Sheik Adaptation Agenda outlines 30 Adaptation Outcomes to enhance resilience for 4 billion people living in the most climate vulnerable communities by 2030.

Outcomes include ambitious 2030 goals such as: increasing food yields by 17% while reducing farm emissions by 21%, without expanding agricultural frontiers; protecting and restoring an estimated 400 million hectares while supporting Indigenous and local communities to be land stewards; and expanding access to clean cooking for 2.4 billion people.

Each outcome presents global solutions that can be adopted at a local level to protect vulnerable communities to extreme heat, drought, flooding, or extreme weather. It comes as research warns that nearly half the world’s population will be at severe risk of climate change impacts by 2030, even in a 1.5-degree world according to analysis published by IPCC AR6 WG II Report.

Finally, at the first ever Urbanisation and Climate Ministerial bringing together Ministers and Mayors to discuss the key challenges facing cities, the COP 27 Presidency launched the Sustainable Urban Resilience for the Next Generation (SURGe) initiative, which aims to build on commitments of cities and provide a holistic framework to achieve sustainable and resilient urban systems. It also aims to unlock urban climate finance and work with national governments, multilateral development banks and the private sector to facilitate access to finance, and develop a pipeline of bankable projects. The initiative was facilitated by UN-Habitat and ICLEI.


The (Rapidly) Growing Case for Climate Adaptation in Cities

Adaptation measures like community-led relocation, climate-smart agriculture, and green stormwater infrastructure can help communities become more resilient, not only to climate change, but also to other kinds of shocks and stressors. When people, communities, and systems are more resilient, they are better able to resist, adapt, and even transform in ways that leave them less vulnerable to the next crisis, be it economic or climatic in nature.

Yet adaptation efforts to date are still  “too little, too slow” as the most recent addition of UNEP’s global Climate Change Gap Report puts it. Despite minimal contributions to greenhouse gas emissions, countries in the Global South are facing the first and worst impacts of climate change. This inequity has put loss and damage–the costs that climate change has already exacted, and will continue to exact–on the COP27 agenda. With loss and damage mounting globally, but primarily in countries with the fewest resources to respond, it is critical that COP27 call for scaled up investment in equitable adaptation alongside aggressive mitigation targets.


ICLEI Puts Adaptation on the Agenda at COP27

Across the two weeks, ICLEI and our partners within the LGMA mobilized more than 150 mayors, governors, and their deputies. A LGMA Multilevel Action Pavilion program included more than 55 sessions featuring 400 speakers. The voice of cities and regions carries much wider than our pavilion, of course, through an estimated 2,000 collective interventions across the Blue Zone — and many of these interventions positioned adaptation as among the core pillars of local climate action.


Amidst this elevation of resilience in the Implementation COP, adaptation shined in several stand-out moments and announcements:

Scotland pledges £5m for loss and damage in the Multilevel Action Pavilion. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon increased her funding pledge from the £2m, made at COP26, to £5m.

IPCC AR6 Summary for Urban Policymakers: From Science to Action. SUP authors explored how local governments are translating scientific evidence into informed policy-making, with a special adaptation-focused edition.

Closing the Global Stocktake Technical Dialogue at COP27, the LGMA Focal Point, offered the #Stocktake4ClimateEmergency to be led by local and regional governments as an effective tool for ensuring adaptation and mitigation are balanced in the stocktake process.

Circular agriculture for climate emergency. The vision of Circular Agriculture developed by Turkey’s Izmir Metropolitan Municipality is based on ecological agriculture principles and make it accessible to actors in policy and planning.

African cities receive new funding to tackle water crisis. ICLEI and the World Resource Institute launched the African Cities Water Adaptation Fund (ACWA Fund) for water resilience efforts in Africa.

Urban Africa in Action at COP27. The Kenyan government presented its cutting-edge “building climate resilience for the urban poor” program, the first on the continent, and supported by ICLEI Africa.

First-ever Climate & Urbanization Ministerial (17 Nov) – Bringing the climate community together with the urban community at the minister-level for the first time opens a door for enhanced collaboration around resilient infrastructure, food systems and more. Messages from the U.S, Japan, and other nations supported the SURGe initiative and adaptation as a defining feature.

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