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NEWS: Understanding and advancing climate adaptation in Latin America

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The first ‘Exchange of Experiences and Dialogue on the Preparation and Implementation of National Adaptation Plans of Latin American countries’ took place on 30 September, 2020. Twenty two representatives from eight Latin American countries took part, to learn about climate change adaptation experiences from each other. Daniel Morchain of IISD and María José Pacha of CDKN report.

Adaptation and mitigation efforts are poles apart

Adaptation— which aims to reduce the negative impacts of climate change on people and systems and identify opportunities under these new and changing circumstances—lacks a simple mandate that the field of mitigation has had for decades. Namely, mitigation calls to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by x amount in y sectors in z years. Reaching mitigation goals is not easier, but it is clearer.

When simplified for the sake of monitoring its progress, adaptation efforts struggle to accurately represent their ambition to address a key, non-quantifiable variable: people’s wellbeing.

This polarity between adaptation and mitigation efforts makes the job of government officials working on adaptation around the world quite difficult. The struggle to quantitatively justify the efficiency of their proposed investments – and reasonably so.

It is essential, then, to be able to promote spaces for sharing experiences to identify what works and what does not, in adaptation efforts.

What works and what doesn’t in adaptation efforts? 

Aware that the planning and implementation of National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) is an important process used by several countries, the Fundacion Futuro Latinoamericano (FFLA), the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), and the NAP Global Network, whose Secretariat is hosted by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), are working together to support governments in strengthening their capacities and provide a virtual space for the exchange of experiences and dialogue on NAP processes in Latin American countries.

To better understand the interests and needs of various Latin American governments regarding their NAP process, a survey was first sent to the invited government representatives.

From those results, an exchange and dialogue process was designed, to be held in three virtual sessions on the following topics:

(1) multi-level governance (vertical) integration of NAP processes;

(2) monitoring and evaluation of NAPs; and

(3) climate risk analysis tools, including the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change models and projections.

This series began on September 30, 2020, as 22 representatives from eight countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Peru) participated in the first exchange on vertical integration.

Daniel Morchain from IISD started with a presentation on the subject, followed by Maritza Jadrijevic Girardi, Head of Adaptation and Capacity Building for ​​the Climate Change Division of the Ministry of the Environment of Chile, who commented on how Chile is addressing this issue. Next, the floor opened for a wider discussion, which consisted of a rich exchange on the challenges and lessons learned from countries’ experiences on the multi-level integration of adaptation actions.

Some of the challenges identified were:

(a) achieving inter- and intra-institutional coordination and aligning different sectoral needs;

(b) ensuring the establishment of links between the country’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and its NAP process, and including adaptation goals and actions in local and national development planning tools; and

(c) enhancing the scientific inputs for adaptation decision-making and risk analyses.

How are countries approaching the adaptation challenge?

Furthermore, lessons learned from each country were explored. For example, representatives from Colombia highlighted the importance of engaging the private sector and using the financial sector as an enabling agent for NAP implementation. The latter has leveraged the development of strategies to generate new risk management plans and products.

On the other hand, colleagues from Peru indicated that binding mechanisms that promote the vertical integration of NAPs should be put in place. This would require an enabling environment for institutional arrangements, budgeting tools, information management, and the monitoring of climate risks.

The complexity that characterises adaptation is a factor that has slowed the transition from adaptation planning to action.

One government representative, for example, spoke about how it took her country eight years to reach the implementation phase of its national adaptation strategy. As her country faces rapid environmental deterioration and social urgency, these political timelines are unsustainable and hinder both adaptation and development efforts.

Near the end of October 2020, a second virtual exchange with Latin American countries will be held on the NAP Monitoring and Evaluation process.

 

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