Adaptation to potentially disastrous climate-related change is faltering because, at an international level, the task has fallen between up to four different segments of the climate change negotiations, according to a report by leading development agencies.
Technologies to help countries adapt to challenges such as flooding and desertification should be urgently implemented, say Caritas Internationalis and CIDSE, the world's largest network of Catholic development and relief agencies.
But instead of prioritising them, the international community's response has been "patchy", "incoherent" and "very fragmented", they say.
"At international climate negotiations, there is no single setting or body that has responsibility over adaptation technologies per se," says the report, 'Reducing Vulnerability, Enhancing Resilience: The importance of Adaptation Technologies for the post-2012 Climate Agreement', which was presented at the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Bonn earlier this month (1-12 June).
It highlights the existence of a framework to better implement Article 4.5 under the convention which states that developed countries should promote, facilitate and finance the transfer of adaptation technologies and knowledge to developing countries.
The framework provides guidelines on technology transfer, and has produced a web-based technology clearing house (TT:Clear) and an Expert Group on Technology Transfer.
In a separate setting, the report says, the Nairobi Work Programme (NWP) aims to help countries make informed decisions on practical adaptation — and technology in particular.
"There is little evidence, however, that progress made on adaptation technologies through the NWP is filtering back into formal negotiations within the UNFCCC," say the agencies.
In a third setting, National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs), which operate under the UNFCCC, provide information about existing technologies used by, and urgent technology needs of, least developed countries.
"NAPAs are a useful tool," says the report. "But given that the focus of the NAPAs is on urgent and immediate adaptation actions, not all adaptation technologies will be recognised."
For example, in a fourth setting, Technology Needs Assessments (TNAs), countries identify their own technology priorities. But TNAs have so far focused mainly on mitigation technologies and have done little to make the UNFCCC process recognise adaptation technologies, the report claims.
In addition, there is little overlap in the adaptation technologies that NAPAs and TNAs have identified, with only 15 out of 165 technologies identified by both approaches.
The report says that technologies for mitigating — rather than adapting to — climate change dominate because they preoccupy the more advanced developing countries and are potentially more lucrative.
The knock-on effects of this lack of responsibilty are manifold, the report claims. There is no clear understanding anywhere of which adaptation technologies exist, for example, and the key challenges to their implementation remain poorly understood — leading to a bias towards certain types of technology.
And questions about how to finance adaptation technologies and how to overcome intellectual property rights problems associated with their use remain underexplored.
The agencies urge the different groups it has identified to talk to each other. They call for an internationally agreed "technology mechanism".
Link to the full report [863kB]