How should we act now to mitigate and adapt to climate change?

18 Dec 2023


After COP28, clearly, deeds not words will sustain hope of avoiding dangerous climate change and adapting to future events and impacts that have already been set in motion. So, what will you do today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow to reduce your GHG emissions and climate risks?

Paying heed to the science, it is clear that use of fossil fuels must end as soon as possible, with emphasis put into developing effective sustainable alternatives. On our current trajectory, we may exceed global warming of 1.5 degrees by 2030, 2 degrees by 2050 and upwards of 3 degrees by 2100. Yet mean global temperature rise may not be the greatest concern. The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment report has “high confidence” that the frequency and intensity of climate-related extreme events are already increasing. It may be only a matter of time before extreme events synchronise across the globe with dire consequences. Furthermore, we may be approaching Earth's major tipping points, which once crossed may pose an existential threat to our civilisation. So, we now have no choice, we truly must do everything all at once. The longer it takes to end use of fossil fuels, the greater the scope, scale and speed with which we will need to adapt. 

Mitigating climate change in ways that are not resilient or that compound other ways in which we are vulnerable to climate change is pointless. Equally, reducing climate vulnerabilities and risks in ways that unnecessarily increase emissions is also pointless. With that in mind Ricardo has supported countries and cities across the globe in many ways to promote synergies and avoid trade-offs between their plans and actions to mitigate and to adapt to climate change. Looking across all sectors and consulting with stakeholders has been common to much of this work. It is all too easy to think that climate mitigation needs to focus on the energy and transport sectors and climate adaptation needs to focus on the water, food and health sectors. The truth is that climate mitigation and adaptation are both of cross-cutting importance. 

Relevant examples of Ricardo’s work include development of international guidelines on “The Role of the NAP Process in Translating NDC Adaptation Goals into Action” and subsequent work with Palestine and Zimbabwe to ensure that update of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) were informed by their National Adaptation Plans (NAPs). Ricardo has developed costed NDC implementation plans that have addressed the links between climate mitigation and adaptation for Colombia, Jordan, Namibia and Palestine, and for the Philippines’ National Climate Change Action Plan. In the Global South, Ricardo has not only developed long-term low-emissions development strategies that take account of the resilience of climate mitigation measures but also developed them from an “adaptation-first” perspective (e.g. for Uganda). In leading development of the EU Mission Implementation Platform for Adaptation to Climate Change (MIP4Adapt), Ricardo is supporting regions and local authorities across Europe to develop their climate adaptation plans in ways that also consider implications for emissions reductions. 

Most notably, in leading Climate Services for a Net Zero Resilient World (CS-N0W) for UK Government, Ricardo systematically reviewed synergies and trade-offs between the climate mitigation actions in the UK Net Zero Strategy and climate adaptation actions proposed in the UK’s Third Climate Change Risk Assessment. This study identified that, in general, “green” or “blue” (natural) actions have greater synergies and fewer trade-offs than “grey” (hard-engineering) actions regarding climate mitigation and adaptation. Nevertheless, it is vital that people do not adopt nature-based solutions, as a means of delaying an end to the use of fossil fuels.

Looking for support to reduce your GHG emissions and adapt simultaneously? Find out more about our climate adaptation services and how our experts can support you. 

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Check out our other COP28 blogs exploring this year’s conference themes and our international team’s work on climate action, air quality, land use and energy.

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Richard Smithers