Submission by SEI relating to the Adaptation Committee’s mandates

The transnational dimension of climate change could have important implications for the work of the Adaptation Committee and the broader institutional architecture of the UNFCCC.
Multiple Authors
Transnational Climate Change Impacts


This submission was submitted by SEI to the Adaptation Committee in relation to the report Transnational Climate Impacts Index: Indicators of a country-level exposure (2016).

These perspectives were submitted with the aim to draw the Committee’s attention to an important but frequently under-appreciated dimension of climate change – transnational climate change impacts. These impacts reach across borders, affecting one country – and requiring adaptation there – as a result of climate change or climate-induced extreme events in another country.

The transnational dimension of climate change could have important implications for the work of the Adaptation Committee and the broader institutional architecture of the UNFCCC.

Four Risk Pathways

Four risk pathways by which climate change impacts are transmitted between countries:

The biophysical pathway:- involves transboundary ecosystems and shared resources such as rivers and oceans. Climate change can alter the flow of resources, species and ecosystem services across borders, and even adaptation measures in one country can affect another

The trade pathway:- involves the flow of goods and services via international markets and supply chains. Climate change impacts may affect the price, quality or availability of goods traded internationally.

The people pathway:- involves international travel by tourists, migrants and refugees, all of which may be affected by climate change in both the country of origin, and the destination.

The finance pathway:- involves international flows of capital via foreign direct investment, overseas investments of public pension funds, or remittances, among others. Climate change impacts may stop or reduce financial flows from one country to another, or they may affect the value of or rate of return on overseas investments

Transnational Climate Impacts Index

SEI has developed a global Transnational Climate Impacts (TCI) Index which attempts to quantify country-level exposure to cross-border risks using a set of nine indicators. The results, which cover 203 countries, show that many countries that are usually considered to have low levels of vulnerability to climate change are highly exposed to transnational risks.

Given the risks that countries share from transnational impacts, it is in their common interest to collaborate in implementing adaptation measures at regional and global scales. The issues highlighted by applying this transnational lens to adaptation relate directly to the role and functions of the Adaptation Committee, as described in the Cancun Adaptation Framework1 .

  1. Technical support and guidance to Parties could be updated specifically to encourage a direct consideration of transnational impacts in national adaptation planning.
  2. The Adaptation Committee could seek to share relevant information on transnational impacts, including knowledge regarding types of impact, methodologies for assessment and early experiences from Parties who have begun to address transnational dimensions in their adaptation efforts.
  3. The Adaptation Committee should seek to strengthen engagement with regional organizations and other international organizations in order to facilitate adaptation within existing – and new – regional processes and forums of cooperation.
  4. The Adaptation Committee should highlight the additional incentives that transnational risks imply for Parties to implement adaptation actions and to facilitate the implementation of adaptation in other countries – for example, via enhanced finance, technology transfer and capacity-building.
  5. The Adaptation Committee may also assess information communicated by Parties on their monitoring of risks and review of adaptation actions. This information could be synthesized and considered so that impacts with the potential to spill over across borders, as well as adaptation gaps that increase the chances of transnational impacts, are brought to the attention of national and regional organizations.


  • An assessment of adaptation needs should include a consideration of the need to adapt to transnational climate impacts. Key barriers in this respect include:
  • Low levels of awareness among adaptation planners
  • Thin scientific evidence base upon which to conduct assessments of transnational risks as a basis for adaptation planning
  • High levels of complexity and uncertainty relating to transnational risks – for example, those stemming from climate risk in trade networks
  • Low engagement in adaptation from government departments with expertise in relevant areas – for example, trade ministries
  • Low capacity at national levels to expand the adaptation portfolio to include “external” dimensions beyond national borders


  • Updating technical guidance on National Adaptation Plans with information to support assessments of transnational risks
  • Consider ways to synthesize and communicate the content of Adaptation Communications, including via the five-yearly Global Stock Take, in ways that facilitate Parties and regional organizations to assess the relevance of climate impacts identified by other Parties within the context of transnational risks
  • Consider commissioning or inviting assessments of transnational climate impacts at regional scales, including efforts to better communicate useful case studies and examples to raise awareness among planners and donors of the many important dimensions of transnational climate risks.


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