IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

18.7.1 Climate policy and institutions

As explained and illustrated in the previous sections of this chapter, effective climate policy would involve a portfolio of adaptation and mitigation actions. These actions include technological, institutional and behavioural options, the introduction of economic and policy instruments to encourage the use of these options, and research and development to reduce uncertainty and to enhance the options’ effectiveness and efficiency. However, the actors involved in the implementation of these actions operate on a range of different spatial and institutional scales, representing different sectoral interests. Policies and measures to promote the implementation of adaptation and mitigation actions have therefore been targeted primarily on either adaptation or mitigation; rarely have they been given similar priority and considered in conjunction (see Section 18.5 for more detail).

On the global scale, the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol are at present the principal institutional frameworks by which climate policy is developed. The ultimate objective of the UNFCCC, as stated in Article 2, is:

“to achieve... stabilisation of greenhouse-gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system … within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.”

Initially, this objective was often interpreted as having relevance only or primarily to mitigation: reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and enhancing sinks such that atmospheric concentrations are stabilised at a non-dangerous level. However, whether or not anthropogenic interference with the climate system will be dangerous does not depend only on the stabilisation level; it depends also on the degree to which adaptation can be expected to be effective in addressing the consequences of this interference. In other words, the greater the capacity of ecosystems and society to adapt to the impacts of climate change, the higher the level at which atmospheric greenhouse-gas concentrations may be stabilised before climate change becomes dangerous (see also Chapter 19). Adaptation thus complements and can, in theory and until the limits of adaptation are reached, substitute for mitigation in meeting the ultimate objective of the UNFCCC (Goklany, 2000a, 2003).

The possibility of considering adaptation and mitigation as substitutes on a global scale does not feature explicitly in the UNFCCC, the Kyoto Protocol or any decisions made by the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC. This is so because any global agreement on substitution would, in practice, be unable to account for the diverse, and at times conflicting, interests of all actors involved in adaptation and mitigation and for the differences in temporal and spatial scales between the two alternatives (see Section 18.3). Mitigation is primarily justified by international agreements and the ensuing national public policies, but most adaptation is motivated by private interests of affected individuals, households and firms, and by public arrangements of impacted communities and sectors. The fact that decisions on adaptation are often made at sub-national and local levels also presents a challenge to the organisation of funding for adaptation in developing countries under the UNFCCC, the Kyoto Protocol and any future international climate policy regimes (Schipper, 2006).

Yet there is one way in which adaptation and mitigation are connected at the global policy level, namely in their reliance on social and economic development to provide the capacity to adapt and mitigate. Section 18.6 introduced the concept of response capacity, which can be represented as adaptive capacity and mitigative capacity. Response capacity is often limited by a lack of resources, poor institutions and inadequate infrastructure, among other factors that are typically the focus of development assistance. People’s vulnerability to climate change can therefore be reduced not only by mitigating greenhouse-gas emissions or by adapting to the impacts of climate change, but also by development aimed at improving the living conditions and access to resources of those experiencing the impacts, as this will enhance their response capacity.

The incorporation of development concerns into climate policy demonstrates that climate policy involves more than decision-making on adaptation and mitigation in isolation. Accordingly, Klein et al. (2005) identified three roles of climate policy under the UNFCCC: (i) to control the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases; (ii) to prepare for and reduce the adverse impacts of climate change and take advantage of opportunities; and (iii) to address development and equity issues. Although climate change is not the primary reason for poverty and inequality in the world, addressing these issues is seen as a prerequisite for successful adaptation and mitigation in many developing countries. In a paper produced by a number of development agencies and international organisations, Sperling (2003) made the case for linking climate policy and development assistance, which would promote opportunities for mainstreaming considerations of climate change into development on the national, sub-national and local scales (Box 18.3).

Box 18.3. Mainstreaming

The links between greenhouse-gas emissions, mitigation of climate change and development have been the subject of intense study (for an overview see Markandya and Halsnæs, 2002). More recently the links between climate-change adaptation and development have been brought to light (Section 18.6). As these links have become apparent, the term ‘mainstreaming’ has emerged to describe the integration of policies and measures that address climate change into development planning and ongoing sectoral decision-making. The benefit of mainstreaming would be to ensure the long-term sustainability of investments as well as to reduce the sensitivity of development activities to both today’s and tomorrow’s climate (Beg et al., 2002; Klein, 2002; Huq et al., 2003; OECD, 2005).

Mainstreaming is proposed as a way of making more efficient and effective use of financial and human resources than designing, implementing and managing climate policy separately from ongoing activities. By its very nature, energy-based mitigation (e.g., fuel switching and energy conservation) can be effective only when mainstreamed into energy policy. For adaptation, however, this link has not appeared as self-evident until recently (see Chapter 17). Mainstreaming is based on the premise that human vulnerability to climate change is reduced not only when climate change is mitigated or when successful adaptation to the impacts takes place, but also when the living conditions for those experiencing the impacts are improved (Huq and Reid, 2004).

Although mainstreaming is most often discussed with reference to developing countries, it is just as relevant to industrialised countries. In both cases it requires the integration of climate policy and sectoral and development policies. The institutional means by which such linking and integration is attempted or achieved vary from location to location, from sector to sector, as well as across spatial scales. For developing countries, the UNFCCC and other international organisations could play a part in facilitating the successful integration and implementation of adaptation and mitigation in sectoral and development policies. Klein et al. (2005) see this as a possible fourth role of climate policy, in addition to the three presented earlier in this section.

In April 2006 the OECD organised a ministerial-level meeting of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) and the Environment Policy Committee (EPOC). The meeting served to launch a process to work in partnership with developing countries to integrate environmental factors efficiently into national development policies and poverty reduction strategies. The outcomes of the meeting were an agreed Framework for Common Action Around Shared Goals, as well as a Declaration on Integrating Climate Change Adaptation into Development Co-operation (OECD, 2006). These outcomes are evidence of the importance that is now being attached to mainstreaming adaptation into Official Development Assistance (ODA) activities. The OECD framework and declaration are expected to provide an impetus to all development agencies to consider climate change in their operations and thus facilitate mainstreaming.

To facilitate mainstreaming would require increasing awareness and understanding among decision-makers and managers, and creating mechanisms and incentives for mainstreaming. It would not require developing synergies between adaptation and mitigation per se, but rather between building adaptive and mitigative capacity, and thus with development (see Section 18.6). This fourth role of climate policy highlights the importance of involving a greater range of actors in the planning and implementation of adaptation and mitigation, including sectoral, sub-national and local actors, and the private sector (Robinson et al., 2006, see also Section 18.3).

The above may give the impression that a broad consensus has emerged that mainstreaming adaptation into ODA is the most desirable way of reducing the vulnerability of people in developing countries to climate change. There is indeed an emerging consensus among development agencies, as reflected in the OECD declaration. However, concerns about mainstreaming have been voiced within developing countries and among academics. On the one hand, there is concern that scarce funds for adaptation in developing countries could be diverted into more general development activities, which offer little opportunity to evaluate, at least quantitatively, their benefits with respect to climate change (Yamin, 2005). On the other hand, there is concern that funding for climate policy would divert money from ODA that is meant to address challenges seen as being more urgent than climate change, including water and food supply, sanitation, education and health care (Michaelowa and Michaelowa, 2005).

With the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol ending in 2012, a range of proposals have been prepared that lay out a post-2012 international climate policy regime (e.g., Den Elzen et al., 2005; Michaelowa et al., 2005). The majority of current proposals focus only or predominantly on mitigation; some proposals consider adaptation and mitigation in concert. However, few proposals have been appraised in terms of, for example, their effectiveness, efficiency and equity.

On the regional scale, climate policies and institutions do not tend to consider inter-relationships between adaptation and mitigation. In the European Union, for example, mitigation policy is conducted separately from adaptation strategies that are being developed or studied for water management, coastal management, agriculture and public health. Most Least-Developed Countries are concerned primarily with adaptation and its links with development. The Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate only refers to mitigation.

Organisations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the European Union can, through specific mechanisms, integrate environmental policy into their economic rationales. In addition, there is a need to address contradictions between existing policies (e.g., policies relevant to the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions and agricultural trade policies). Energy remains a crucial input in agro-processing, transportation and packaging, and the combined effects of increases in energy consumption in the agricultural sector and impacts of agricultural trade policies are typically not considered within the context of climate change.

Regional co-operation could create ‘win-win’ opportunities in both economic integration and in addressing the adverse effects of climate change (Denton et al., 2002). Initiatives such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment conducted a number of consultative processes in order to prepare an Environmental Action Plan for the Implementation of the Environment Initiative of NEPAD. One of the proposed projects is to evaluate synergistic effects of adaptation and mitigation activities, including on-farm and catchment management of carbon with sustainable livelihood benefits. Organisations such as the West African Monetary Union (WAMU) are actively engaged in energy development to address the perennial problem of energy poverty in the continent. They focus on how to exploit the CDM and other mechanisms to mitigate present and future emissions, especially with the use of renewable energy. WAMU countries are vulnerable to drought and desertification and, while mitigation may not be their main concern, it does offer opportunities also to reduce the negative impacts of deforestation and land-use change. Equally, links between the UNFCCC and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification offer opportunities to exploit both adaptation and mitigation within the context of promoting sustainable livelihoods and environmental management. A number of sub-regional institutions have action plans to address desertification, such as the Arab Maghreb Union in northern Africa, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development in eastern Africa, the Southern African Development Community in the south, the Economic Community of Western African States and the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel for the west, and the Economic Community of Central African Countries in central Africa.

Countries belonging to these and other regional groupings can identify projects that have net adaptation and mitigative benefits. Studies (e.g., Greco et al., 1994) have predicted a reduction in water supply in most of the large rivers of the Sahel, thus affecting vital sectors such as energy and agriculture, both of which are dependent on water availability for hydroelectric power generation and agricultural production. Seventeen countries in West Africa share 25 trans-boundary rivers and many countries within the region have a water-dependency ratio of around 90% (Denton et al., 2002). Water resources and watershed management in trans-boundary river basins are possible ways in which countries in West Africa can co-operate on a regional basis to build institutional capacity, strengthen regional networks and institutions to encourage co-operation, flow of information and transfer of technology. The construction of the Manantali Dam in Mali as part of the Senegal River Basin Initiative is to a large extent able to produce hydropower electricity and enable riparian communities to practice irrigation agriculture, especially since Senegal and Mauritania remain highly dependent on agriculture and suffer deficits in staple cereal crops. These initiatives have global sustainable development benefits since they are able to offer both adaptation and mitigative benefits as well as accelerate the economic development of countries sharing the river (namely Senegal, Mali and Mauritania) (Venema et al., 1997).

The Convention on Biological Diversity has acknowledged the potential win-win opportunities between biodiversity management, on the one hand, and adaptation and mitigation to climate change, on the other. There is particular scope for this in large-scale regional biodiversity programmes such as the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor Project, in which reforestation and avoided deforestation can help to mitigate climate change through the creation of carbon sinks, while creating livelihood benefits for local communities, thus increasing their capacity to adapt to climate change. In addition, the creation of large biological corridors will help ecological communities to migrate and adapt to changing environmental conditions (CBD, 2003).

The national, sub-national and local scales are where most adaptation and mitigation actions are implemented and where most inter-relationships may be expected. However, there is little academic literature that describes or analyses policy and institutions at these levels with respect to inter-relationships of adaptation and mitigation. The literature does provide a growing number of examples and case studies (see Section 18.5) but, unlike the emerging literature on global policy and institutions, it does not yet discuss the role of policies and institutions vis-à-vis inter-relationships between adaptation and mitigation, nor does it discuss the implications of potential inter-relationships on policy and institutions. A research field is emerging that builds on studies carried out for adaptation or for mitigation. For example, the AMICA project (Adaptation and Mitigation: an Integrated Climate Policy Approach) aims to identify synergies between adaptation and mitigation for selected cities in Europe (http://www.amica-climate.net/).

In the Niayes region of central Senegal, the government has sought to promote irrigation practices and reduce dependence on rain-fed agriculture with the planting of dense hedges to act as windbreaks. These have enhanced agricultural productivity. Windbreaks have been effective in combating soil erosion and desiccation and have also provided fuelwood for cooking, thus reducing the need for women and girls to travel long distances in a rapidly urbanising area in search of wood. The windbreaks have carbon sequestration benefits but, most of all, they have helped to intensify agricultural production, especially with commercial products, thus boosting the economic livelihoods of poor communities. Thus, what started off as an adaptation strategy has had substantial integrated development benefits by easing deforestation and reducing carbon emissions, as well as addressing gender and livelihood issues (Seck et al., 2005).

Effective implementation of climate change adaptation and mitigation is often dependent on the support from local non-governmental organisations, private sector and public government authorities. Market-based policy instruments (e.g., pollution taxes and different types of tradable permits) have been successfully implemented to provide incentives in both industrialised and developing countries. The use of tax credits and financial assistance in India has opened up the electricity market to the private sector, which has resulted in a ‘wind energy boom’ (Sawin and Flavin, 2004). Similarly, incentives for the uptake of biofuels and energy-efficiency programmes in Brazil have considerably reduced carbon emissions (Pew Center, 2002). Although these programmes have typically not been designed with the purpose of creating synergies between adaptation and mitigation, they do provide net adaptation and mitigation benefits, as well as addressing sustainable development priorities of communities. In addition, the private sector is increasingly becoming involved in environmental governance. For example, transnational corporations are being drawn into partnerships and networks to help managing the global environment.

A special role can be played by international funding agencies and climate change funds. For example, the World Bank BioCarbon Fund and Community Development Carbon Fund provide financing for reforestation projects to conserve and protect forest ecosystems, community afforestation activities, mini- and micro-hydro and biomass fuel projects. These projects are focused specifically on extending carbon finance to poorer countries and contribute not only to the mitigation of climate change but also to reducing rural poverty and improving sustainable management of local ecosystems, thereby enhancing adaptive capacity.