Policy ForumClimate Change

Global adaptation after Paris

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Science  10 Jun 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6291, pp. 1280-1282
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf5002

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Besides achieving major decisions on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions mitigation, the 2015 Paris climate change Agreement (1) also initiated a process to “establish a global goal on adaptation” (Article 7.1), a crucial step that encourages parties to the agreement to go beyond the restrictive and historic funding-focused lens that structured United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks on adaptation until now (24). Suggesting that global adaptation is as important as global mitigation is an important shift in international climate negotiations that highlights the importance of not uncoupling 21st-century mitigation and adaptation storylines. After all, one cannot define the “well below +2°C” long-term temperature goal as sustainable without providing evidence on societies' ability to adapt to the unavoidable impacts of such warming (5). Although this represents great progress, we discuss three key challenges around the development of a global adaptation framework within the UNFCCC: defining a global goal, identifying tracking criteria, and anticipating political barriers. A major underlying condition is that the framework must make sense from both a negotiation and a scientific perspective.