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WIREs Clim Change
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Global adaptation governance: An emerging but contested domain

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Abstract Adaptation to climate change has steadily risen on global policy agendas and entered a new era with the 2015 Paris Agreement, which established a global goal on adaptation. While this goal responds to calls to strengthen global governance of adaptation, it has not yet been operationalized. Further, few studies take stock of current global adaptation governance to inform the implementation of the goal. Against this background this review asks: To what extent is there global governance of climate change adaptation? Can it be characterized as a strong domain of global governance? In what ways is it contested? Global adaptation governance is defined here as occurring when state and non‐state actors in the global (including transnational) sphere authoritatively and intentionally shape the actions of constituents towards climate change adaptation as a public goal. Although empirical evidence is scant, it is proposed here that global adaptation governance is indeed emerging. Yet, its further strengthening appears contested. First, measurement of progress towards adaptation as a public goal at the global level is severely challenged by the ambiguity of adaptation and the lack of distinct metrics. Second, the lack of a clear global‐level problem‐framing, or recognition of adaptation as a global public good, has meant limited legitimacy of global governance initiatives. A consequence of contestation is that governance forms and functions used so far have not been authoritative in how they seek to shape actions. The review concludes by identifying research needs for advancing science and policy on adaptation. This article is categorized under: Policy and Governance > Multilevel and Transnational Climate Change Governance
Three dimensions for conceptualizing global adaptation governance. Note: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); United Nations Security Council (UNSC); Group of 20 (G20); Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); International financial institutions (IFIs); European Union (EU); Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Adaptation Fund (AF); Green Climate Fund (GCF); World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD); International Standards Organization (ISO); Climate Action Network (CAN); Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI); 100 Resilient Cities (100 RC)
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Understanding scales and levels of adaptation governance. (Reprinted with permission from Smit and Pilifosova (, p. 881, fig. 18‐1). Copyright 2001 United Nations Framework on Climate Change)
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