How does the UNFCCC enable multi-level learning for the governance of adaptation?

Gonzales-Iwanciw, Javier; Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, Sylvia; Dewulf, Art


Adaptation has become a priority in global climate change governance since the adoption of the Cancun Adaptation Framework and the Paris Agreement. Adaptation to climate change has been increasingly recognized as a multi-level governance challenge in both the United Nations Framework Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC) regime and academic literature. This recognition often includes, explicitly or implicitly, the role that learning can play across governance levels to accelerate and scale up responses to address adaptation challenges. However, there is no comprehensive assessment in academic literature of how multi-level learning has been considered in the UNFCCC regime, what the enabling factors are, and the outcomes of such learning. Drawing on approaches suggested by multi-level governance and learning literature, this paper seeks to fill this knowledge gap by focusing on the ways in which the UNFCCC multilateral process enables multi-level learning for the governance of adaptation and how it could be enhanced. This will be accomplished through a legal–technical analysis of the enabling factors of multi-level learning in the governance of adaptation under the UNFCCC. Qualitative research methods have been applied for the thematic analysis of selected documentation, complemented by interviews and personal observations of adaptation negotiations in the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement. Results are presented according to three research questions oriented to understand how institutional design of adaptation under the UNFCCC enables multi-level learning; the learning strategies adopted across levels of governance; and the way the UNFCCC regime understands the contribution of multi-level learning for adaptation outcomes.