In March 2023, the final instalment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) was released. This represents an eight-year long effort from scientists and researchers around the world. The report underscores the urgent need for increased action on climate resilience and adaptation, and provides valuable guidance and insights for decision-makers as they plan for a more sustainable and resilient future.
The Synthesis Report echoes previous calls from the IPCC for urgent and decisive action to reduce emissions and adapt to a changing climate.
The report calls for drastic and urgent cuts to emissions to avoid increasingly damaging or even irreversible impacts that are beyond the limits of adaptation. At the same, efforts to adapt to climate change need to be ramped up dramatically.
After more than a century of burning fossil fuels and unsustainable land use and development has already led to 1.1 of global warming above pre-industrial levels.
This warming has already resulted in more frequent and more intense extreme weather events, and have had an unprecedented impacted on nature and people in every part of the world. Every increment of global warming will see more climate impacts and extremes that are unprecedented in recent human history. With further warming, even to the Paris limit of 1.5 degrees, climate change risks will become increasingly complex and more difficult to manage, particularly as climate and non-climate risks interact more often and create compound and cascading risks.
The good news from the report is that we already have the tools and know-who to effect meaningful change that will not only reduce emissions and enable communities to adapt to climate change, but also address inequity and climate justice. While the report calls for urgent and drastic action to reduce emissions, there are also some key takeaways for adaptation and resilience:
- Increased risks and impacts: Climate change is already causing significant impacts on natural and human systems, and these impacts are expected to increase in the coming decades.
- Adaptation is critical: Climate resilient development is a critical component of the response to climate change, and urgent action is needed to enhance resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate impacts.
- Adaptation finance must be prioritised: The lack of funding being directed towards adaptation and resilience-building
- Equity and social justice: The report emphasizes the importance of ensuring that climate resilience and adaptation efforts are equitable and socially just, taking into account the needs and perspectives of marginalized and vulnerable communities.
- Co-benefits: Investments in adaptation and resilience has the potential to generate a wide-variety of co-benefits, such as improved public health and ecosystem services, and encourages decision-makers to consider these benefits in their planning.
- Synergies with mitigation: The report notes that climate resilience and adaptation efforts can be complementary to mitigation efforts, and that integrated approaches that address both adaptation and mitigation are essential for achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.
The AR6 shows that finance for adaptation will need to increase dramatically to manage the impacts of climate change that are already being felt, and that will become more severe with every increment of warming. Decision-making about when, where and how to invest resilience needs to happen in the context of systems-wide transformation to achieve change at the scope and scale needed to respond to the climate crisis.
Adaptation finance must be allocated effectively and efficiently, based on robust assessment of the risks and vulnerabilities of different regions and communities, and taking into account the unique characteristics and circumstances of each location.
Adaptation can generate multiple additional such as improving agricultural productivity, innovation, health and wellbeing, food security, livelihood and biodiversity conservation.
However, measures that enable adaptation and build resilience tend to be small-scale, fragmented, incremental, sector-specific, unequally distributed across regions reactive and focus on immediate impacts and often single hazards.
Actions that focus on sectors and risks in isolation and on short term gains can lead to maladaptation in the long term, creating lock-ins vulnerability, exposure and risks that are difficult to change. This maladaptation is happening in some sectors and regions, and is made more likely when organisations try to tackle these challenges alone.
Maladaptation can be avoided by flexible, multi-sectoral, inclusive, long-term planning and implementation of adaptation actions. This approach can also create broad benefits for people, the environment and the economy.
Governments, civil sector and the private all play a crucial role in enabling and accelerating shifts in developments pathways towards sustainability and climate resilient development. This is enabled when all sectors make inclusive development choices that prioritise risk reduction, equity and justice, and when decision-making process, finance and actions are integrated across governance levels, sectors and timeframes.
The IPCC has identified a clear way forward, and that is through climate resilient development. This requires integrating measures to adapt to climate change with actions to reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions in ways that provide wider benefits.
Taking a systems approach requires cross-sectoral collaboration, which can be challenging. The Resilient Futures Investment Roundtable provides a space for leaders and practitioners from divers organisations to work together on complex challenges.
Understanding the wider benefits to a potential resilience-building measure is critical for informed decision-making. This is where the Resilient Futures Investment Roundtable steps in – members are working collaboratively to test and pilot different approaches to value the broad social, environmental, economic and governance benefits and costs of resilience interventions, to enable decision-makers pinpoint where, how and when to direct investment in resilience and adaptation.
We are working to shift a fragmented approach to adaptation to a more transformational, systemic approach that recognises the cascading and complex impacts of disasters.
The IPCC report identifies some key barriers to adaptation, including limited resources, lack of private sector and citizen engagement, and insufficient mobilisation of finance. By engaging with diverse public, private and not-for-profit organisations and building capability across sectors, the Resilient Futures Investment Roundtable helping to build capability and create the cultural shift needed to mobilise public and private funding and resources to overcome some of these barriers.