by Frédéric Gagnon-Lebrun and Shardul Agrawala
This paper provides an assessment of broad trends in progress on assessment and implementation of adaptation to climate change in “developed countries”, defined here as being Member states of the OECD and/or Parties listed under Annex I of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Primary inputs to this analysis are the National Communications (NCs) by these countries to the UNFCCC. NCs follow a standardised reporting format which facilitates cross-national comparison. They also reflect “whole government” perspectives. At the same time, however, the coverage of particular issues within these documents need not be comprehensive, nor might it necessarily reflect policy priorities on the ground. Therefore, this paper also examines other policies and projects which highlight progress on implementing adaptation, but which have not been reflected in the NCs.
The analysis shows that climate change impacts and adaptation receive limited attention within the NCs relative to the discussion of greenhouse gas emissions and mitigation policies. Within the discussion on impacts and adaptation in the NCs, it is the assessment of future climatic changes and impacts that tend to dominate. The discussion on adaptation, meanwhile, is often limited to the identification of generic options. Some developed countries do identify existing policies, particularly in the area of natural hazards management, that might be synergistic with adaptation to climate change. However, only very few countries currently report on actual implementation of anticipatory measures that take into account future climate change.
A preliminary review was also conducted of adaptation-related initiatives that have not (yet) been covered in the NCs. This review indicates that there is, in fact, a small but growing number of cases where climate change is being considered in anticipatory planning. Some of these measures were undertaken as “one-off” projects more or less autonomously by engineers and project managers, particularly in the design of long-lived infrastructure. More recently, there is also a more concerted effort in a few developed countries to develop more comprehensive national and regional adaptation strategies and frameworks. This is clearly an encouraging sign, although it is too early at this stage to assess the eventual impact of such measures.
Progress on Adaptation to Climate Change In Developed Countries: an Analysis of Broad Trends