By Emily Gvino and Felix Dodds, the Water Institute at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
2021 Climate Summit themes for resilience and vulnerable groups
Within the climate space, coalitions advocate for addressing various themes that resound throughout the Climate Summit. This part of the Summit is a global ideas festival happening around the central fulcrum of negotiations. There are pavilions on water, agriculture, energy, and resilience, as well as those by countries, UN Agencies, and stakeholders. This year, recurrent interlocking themes of health and resilience were part of many Summit presentations and discussions. The WHO launched the 2021 health and climate change global survey report at COP26, among a packed schedule of activities. This survey of 95 countries found that 67% have conducted or are currently conducting a climate change and health vulnerability and adaptation assessment. The report highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic, insufficient climate financing and deficient resources are major barriers to protecting vulnerable groups from climate change impacts. Cross-sectoral collaborations, however, provide hope for resilience work as we commit to the social and structural determinants of health related to climate change.
The Climate Vulnerable Forum that happened in early September, the Dhaka-Glasgow Declaration, raised issues on finance and the need for balanced funding for both adaptation and mitigation and Loss and Damage. This forum neglected to address other relevant governance issues – particularly for the most vulnerable – in the area of risk reduction and resilience. One of the crucial missing keys is a global vulnerability index. UNDP developed a vulnerability index for small island developing states (SIDS) but outside of SIDS, we are lacking an index that might help other countries to address the most vulnerable in their communities.
In many cases, the pavilions reflect the themes within the policy discussions of the negotiations. Discussions on disaster risk reduction and resilience can pervade across these conversations and may be more apparent when thrown into focus by a current disaster experience; this year, the fires and floods in Greece, or the floods in Afghanistan, China, Germany, India, and Turkey were in recent memory.
Within these discussions on resilience, there is clearly work under the Loss and Damage banner within the establishment of the Santiago Network, which had its first meeting on the 31st of October and will be an ongoing space to develop input for future Climate Summits.
The UN Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) process aims to bring together governments, partners, and communities to reduce disaster risk and losses and to ensure a safer, sustainable future. However, UNDRR and its stakeholders and its processes has yet to engage as a major player within the UNFCCC process. The UNDRR and UNFCCC process should be mutually supportive of each other, as should the UNFCCC and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.
At COP26, the UNFCCC Race to Resilience campaign launched a metrics framework for subnational governments in urban, rural, and coastal cities or communities. The goal by 2030 is “to catalyse action by non-state actors that builds the resilience of 4 billion people from vulnerable groups and communities to climate risks.” The focus is on people and natural systems to address gaps in resilience, a marked change from prior strategies focusing on assets.
There is a very interesting constellation of UN meetings in 2022 and 2023 which could advance a more integrated agenda. In May 2022, UNDRR will host the seventh session of the Global Platform (GP2022) in Bali. This will be followed in June by the Bonn UNFCCC meeting, which will lead into the Egypt Climate Summit in November. The following year, the Sendai review could recommend a vulnerability index to the UNFCCC, which could be endorsed by the September 2023 Heads of State Review of the 2023 Agenda and the November Climate Summit.
In all of these diplomatic discussions and processes, a critical point should not be missed: vulnerable groups bear the disproportionate burden and impact of hazards and disasters. While gains have been made to create a more inclusive structure for stakeholders within the Climate Summit, much work to improve this remains. We need to build more effective mechanisms to engage a wide depth and breadth of stakeholders—including women, youth, indigenous and other groups—in the discussions on building resilience. By reducing the impact of disaster over time, we can ensure that in building resilience, we are in fact leaving no one behind.