Entry points for integrating transboundary climate risks in the global goal on adaptation

Explore entry points for integrating transboundary climate risks in the global goal on adaptation framework in this Adaptation Without Borders discussion brief. The analysis considers a range of options, taking into account the stages of the adaptation cycle and themes to be covered by the framework.
Multiple Authors


The Paris Agreement recognises that adaptation is a global challenge that requires international cooperation, particularly to support the most vulnerable communities. It also sets a global goal on adaptation, of “enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability” to contribute to sustainable development and ensure an adequate adaptation response.

The COP26 decision does not mention transboundary climate risks, but governments and experts alike increasingly recognise them as a serious concern. The framework to guide the achievement of the global goal on adaptation (GGA), due for adoption at COP28 in Dubai in December 2023, presents an opportunity to ensure that implementation of the global goal reflects the full complexity of climate risk, as countries have to manage and adapt to risks at the local, national, regional and global levels all at once.

This briefing paper identifies entry points for integrating transboundary climate risks in the GGA framework. Recognising that key decisions about the framework have yet to be made, and different Parties and negotiating groups have different priorities, the analysis considers a range of options, taking into account the stages of the adaptation cycle and themes to be covered by the framework.

This article is an abridged version of the original text, which can be downloaded from the right-hand column. Please access the original text for more detail, research purposes, full references, or to quote text.

Accounting for transboundary climate risks at each stage of the adaptation cycle

A detailed GGA framework with clearly articulated targets and indicators could provide a stronger foundation for the global stocktake and for efforts to accelerate and scale up action to build resilience to climate risks at all levels. Agreeing on the details will take time, however, and the work is expected to continue after COP28. Explicitly addressing transboundary risks in the Dubai decision is thus an essential first step. Ideally, this would be done in two ways:

  • Recognising that countries face climate risks not only at the local and national levels, but also – through shared resources, trade, and the movement of people and finance – at the regional and global scales, and enhanced dialogue and cooperation are needed to ensure effective adaptation that is equitable and inclusive and protects the most vulnerable people.
  • Including a specific call for follow-on work on the GGA to consider transboundary risks along with local and national-level risks, with a view to enhancing cooperation at all stages of the adaptation cycle and across the themes covered by the GGA framework.

1. Impact, vulnerability and risk assessment

If governments are to develop adaptation strategies and plans in line with the global goal on adaptation, they need to fully understand what they need to adapt to, and what key vulnerabilities they need to address. As more national assessments are conducted, they can offer important models for others. There is huge potential to share best practices and encourage wider adoption. This is one important outcome that the new framework should aim to achieve.

Sample target: Impact, vulnerability and risk assessments account for transboundary climate risks.

2. Adaptation planning

In drawing attention to the need for national adaptation plans to adopt a transboundary perspective, the GGA framework could better harness their potential to strengthen regional and even global resilience. Transboundary climate risks cement the need for a whole-of-government approach to adaptation planning, to consider how they may undermine and influence health plans and strategies, trade relationships, food security, diplomatic and geopolitical relations, investment portfolios, migration and development policies, and law and governance. Sub-national and local governments should also be involved, to ensure coherence across levels of governance.

Sample target: Adaptation policies and planning instruments include measures that aim to strengthen resilience to transboundary climate risks.

3. Implementation 

The GGA framework could encourage countries to develop joint work programmes to address transboundary climate risks, through regional organisations or new partner- ships and alliances. These might start with pilots, but ultimately adaptation needs to go beyond small-scale, time-bound projects, to manage risks across entire systems and account for their evolution over time.

Sample target: Public and private stakeholders act to demonstrably enhance resilience to transboundary climate risks and strengthen regional and global cooperation on adaptation.

4. Monitoring, evaluation and learning

The GGA framework can add significant value from a transboundary risk perspective by encouraging countries to actively monitor and evaluate whether their adaptation policies, programmes and projects have impacts beyond their borders. If harmful impacts are found, they should be acknowledged transparently, and corrective measures should be taken to prevent further harm. If unexpected benefits to people in other countries are found, lessons should be drawn out and shared to inform future work.

Sample target: Monitoring, evaluation and learning frameworks assess the efficacy of actions to adapt to transboundary climate risks, as well as the transboundary impacts of adaptation actions more broadly.

5. Means of implementation

Mobilising resources to support adaptation to transboundary climate risks is crucial to the success of efforts throughout the adaptation cycle. The GGA framework can send an important signal to the multilateral banks, climate funds and donor countries that this is a vital aspect of effective adaptation.

Sample target: Adaptation finance, technical assistance and capacity-building support efforts to adapt to transboundary climate risks along with local and national- level efforts.

*To explore the implications of transboundary climate risks for each stage of the adaptation cycle and respective sample targets and indicators in more detail please refer to the full discussion brief.

Further resources

  • Suggested Citation:Davis, M., Harris, K., Talebian, S., Nitsch, C. and Klein, R.J.T. (2023). Entry points for inte- grating transboundary climate risks in the global goal on adaptation. Adaptation Without Borders Discussion Brief. Available at https://adaptationwithoutborders.org/research-and-evidence


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