Five Ways the Global Goal on Adaptation Can Help Build a Global Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning System for Adaptation by COP 28

By Emilie Beauchamp (International Institute for Sustainable Development) and Iga Józefiak (University of Geneva)

Earth to COP video at the Opening Ceremony for Cop26 at the SEC, Glasgow. Photograph: Karwai Tang/ UK Government
The Glasgow-Sharm el-Sheikh work program on the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) was established during COP 26 in Glasgow, UK, in 2021: Designing MEL systems for adaptation by COP 28 is a key issue to be discussed in the GGA talks at the 58th meeting of the UNFCCC’s Subsidiary Bodies in Bonn, Germany. (Photo: Karwai Tang/ UK Government)

With the 58th meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) Subsidiary Bodies (SBs) due to kick off in Bonn, Germany, on June 5, one of the key issues to watch in the realm of climate change adaptation are the talks on the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA), given the need to move toward designing a monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) system for adaptation by COP 28.  

In 2015, the Paris Agreement (in Article 7.1) established the GGA, with the aim to “enhance adaptive capacity, strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change.” Demonstrating the relevance and urgency of the GGA, its framework has been at the centre of many subsequent negotiations to establish its scope and main elements.

During COP 26 in Glasgow, United Kingdom, the Glasgow-Sharm el-Sheikh work program on the GGA was established, including eight workshops for UNFCCC countries and observers to operationalize the GGA and create a framework that would allow better implementation of the above-mentioned Article 7.1. A year later at COP 27, parties further agreed to work on the framework with the aim of adopting it by COP 28. The Bonn talks this June will include the sixth workshop of the Glasgow-Sharm el-Sheikh work program on the GGA.

Among its functions, the GGA framework needs to establish key elements, or dimensions, that can help capture and categorize evidence on progress toward the GGA. This information, in turn, will provide the basis for the design of a global MEL system for adaptation under the GGA framework.

Based on a recently published IISD report, this article explains why and how the GGA framework should clarify the elements of a global MEL system for adaptation by COP 28.

What links the GGA with a global MEL system for adaptation?

A MEL system refers to the tools, responsibilities, and processes used to monitor, evaluate, and learn from a specific climate change adaptation intervention. It is both a distinct phase in the adaptation policy cycle and an ongoing process throughout the entire policy.

Information is already available to guide the assessment of progress on the GGA. In fact, both the Paris Agreement and elements considered in Decision 3/CMA.4 from COP 27 highlight key components of the GGA that can shape a global MEL system for adaptation, including:

  • A vision for the GGA based on its definition in the Paris Agreement’s Article 7.1.
  • Dimensions of change through which evidence on progress can be captured, categorized, and assessed that are based on the four dimensions of the iterative adaptation cycle—impact, vulnerability, and risk assessments; planning; implementation; and MEL—along with key themes and cross-cutting considerations.
  • Sources of information that channel data from local, national, regional, and global sources.

A conceptualization of the current elements of the GGA discussions that can be used as a basis for a global MEL system for adaptation.
(Source: International Institute for Sustainable Development)

How can the GGA framework finalize a global MEL system for adaptation at COP 28?

The development of the GGA framework is an opportunity for decision-makers to learn from the lessons of existing MEL systems under global agreements and frameworks, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Those frameworks have followed a top-down approach and include long lists of templated indicators that countries contextualize to match their national and sub-national realities. For example, the SDGs’ global indicator framework includes 248 indicators that can be picked and contextualized by countries.

While, in theory, such top-down approaches can help generate political buy-in, facilitate global analysis, and support policy development, globally defined indicators often do not reflect local context or priorities and ignore existing systems, which are crucial for adaptation. Building on an existing MEL system is important to avoid a reporting burden, considering that almost half (48%) of NAP documents submitted to the UNFCCC already include MEL systems as part of their NAP processes; 55% of these reference specific indicators. Ahead of COP 28, the new proposed GGA framework should consider drawing lessons from previous exercises by designing a MEL system for the GGA that combines a minimal top-down approach with a bottom-up, country-driven approach that incentivizes national MEL systems.

The GGA framework needs to focus on its overarching goal of enhancing adaptation action rather than becoming a long-lasting methodological exercise. During discussions this year, countries must advance elements of both a global MEL system and the GGA framework that will make them implementable after COP 28. The MEL system under the GGA framework would therefore benefit from using a mix of top-down and bottom-up approaches. For this purpose, the GGA framework should prioritize:

1. Defining indicators based on existing systems

The choice of which indicators can inform progress on the GGA can be based on already existing sub-national, national, and other MEL systems in order not to overburden countries. The MEL of NAP processes, for example, can provide one way forward. This mixed approach can be used to identify a limited number of global targets that can drive political support for adaptation, yet that recognizes current sub-national and national MEL systems and does not add reporting burden on countries.

2. Designing an iterative and boldly pragmatic MEL system

The GGA framework should set realistic expectations of what countries can achieve rather than adopting overambitious targets that would exceed their capacities. The GGA framework and its MEL system must be an iterative process that continuously evolves, ratcheting up ambition while reflecting new realities brought on by the increasing climate crisis.

3. Strengthening country-driven and participatory processes

A non-prescriptive framework for the first GGA can guide countries to reinforce their national MEL systems to gather and communicate data, helping them articulate their adaptation story. This would strengthen country-driven and participatory processes, ensure a fair representation of varied voices and views that integrate the most marginalized groups, and account for local realities.

4. Establishing pathways for informing policy and practice

The GGA framework must focus on establishing processes, not just methods, to enable learning throughout the adaptation cycle to inform policy and practice. Learning pathways and exercises should be set at different stages of implementing the GGA, building on good practices in other countries and sharing evidence between different UNFCCC and external processes, including the Global Stocktake and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports.

5. Defining roles for implementing the GGA framework and global MEL system for adaptation

This means determining modalities, timelines, and roles for the global community to support countries as they inform the GGA, as well as analyzing the evidence and providing recommendations to share insights with regional, national, and sub-national stakeholders.

The GGA presents an opportunity to incentivize and strengthen MEL systems in countries. However, having a well-designed MEL system is not a substitute for the political will and financial support necessary for implementing sustainable national MEL systems, building lasting capacities, and financing adaptation actions themselves.