Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose: Adaptation in the Paris Agreement


Global climate policy till date has focused on building consensus around a differentiated roadmap for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Equally important yet receiving less attention is the need to support adaptation of the most vulnerable communities to the increasingly severe impacts of climatic changes. The Paris Agreement, negotiated at the 21st COP in December 2015, ‘stitches up’ national contributions on adaptation and mitigation into a global agreement. This article first reviews the adaptation components of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted by developed, emerging and least developed nations. Second, we examine how adaptation and the related themes of loss and damage have been dealt with in the Paris Agreement in terms of- global goal, legal form, review mechanisms and financing arrangements. Finally, we look at the possibility of evolving new arrangements and opportunities for strengthening global response to adaptation by drawing on references to human rights and climate justice in the Paris Agreement. We contend that the global response cannot be relegated to action by individual nations—partly and loosely supported by global financial and technological flows. The Paris Agreement has made significant steps in raising the importance of adaptation vis-à-vis mitigation in climate action but a lot of work remains to be done. In a sense, the top-down elements of adaptation action reflect long held negotiating positions and the skepticism of developed nations with respect to adaptation. For the post-Paris climate regime to be legitimate and earn the trust of developing nations, it must focus equally on adaptation and mitigation and address the special needs of vulnerable communities across the world.

India Quarterly
Aniruddh Mohan
Aniruddh Mohan
Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellow