At the climate negotiations here in Bonn, the main discussions on adaptation have come to a close after a “second reading” of the draft negotiating text. Ecosystem-based adaptation, which we blogged about last week, has gained strong support from country delegations and is included in the text that is coming out of these meetings. But with six months to go to before a climate deal will be finalized in Copenhagen, there are plenty of details and potential obstacles to be addressed inside and outside these negotiations before nations will be able to make use of any adaptation agreement.

The talks here have pooled suggestions and ideas from across the globe about what ecosystem-based adaptation is. They have also marked some differences, reservations and many areas of agreement. But they are based in the very principles of the climate treaty (the UNFCCC) that provides the basis for these negotiations: that adverse effects on the environment can have significant impacts on socio-economic systems and human health and welfare.

What will be necessary in the months ahead is to make sure that these principles are not undermined as the political and financial terms of the deal are negotiated. How can we do this?

For The Nature Conservancy, our focus will be on efforts that bring developing and developed countries together to show what ecosystem-based adaptation is in practice. To show how we can build upon years of traditional and modern conservation experience to help people and natural systems fact the impacts of climate change. To show that efforts that add to the sustainability and long-term survivability of people and nature are a good return-on-investment.

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But we also need the political and financial will of developed nations.

Developed countries – with their  long history of emissions and significant financial resources —  are being called to help the world’s most vulnerable developing countries, who’ve had limited emissions but are facing the hardest impacts.

There are many different estimates about how much it will cost to help developing countries adapt to climate change. Estimates by the UNFCCC are in the range between US$28 to 67 billion per year by 2030. Other estimates (e.g. World Bank and Stern Report) indicate that current needs in developing countries could range from $4 to 41 billion annually.   But one thing all estimates have in common is they call for substantially larger sums of money than we’ve seen for any climate assistance to date.

Securing adaptation funding was already an issue, even before these negotiations for a new climate agreement began. In the Kyoto Protocol, developed countries made legally-binding commitments to finance actions on mitigation, adaptation and technology.  Yet much of that has not been delivered, making developing countries skeptical about what developed countries will deliver in the future. The negotiations here have included discussions around ensuring this financing will be available, but there is a long way to go before countries come to agreement on how.

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The United States has the opportunity to dispel some of those concerns by including significant funding for adaptation in legislation now moving through the House of Representatives.  Unfortunately, that bill’s funding for adaptation is well below what is needed to bring countries together or give developing countries – who will be hardest hit by climate change – the support they need to survive the impacts.

As the negotiations here come to a close, it’s clear that the international community must forge ahead quickly to ensure that local communities are equipped for the future that lies ahead. 

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