MRI News
article written by MRI
14.12.23 | 09:12

The 28th meeting of the UN Climate Change Conference of Parties (UNFCCC COP28), held from 30 November to 13 December 2023 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, signalled the start of a seven-year sprint to reduce emissions by 43% by 2030. Mountains were in the spotlight for this year’s COP, with the MRI supporting several key sessions.

Understanding and Closing Adaptation Knowledge Gaps in Mountains and High-Latitude Areas: The 16th Nairobi Work Programme (NWP) Focal Point Forum

Mountains, high-latitude areas, and the cryosphere are critical components of our planet’s ecological balance. Recognizing their importance in the face of accelerating climate impacts, and in response to a mandate issued by the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), the COP28 UN Climate Change Conference highlighted the urgent need to bridge adaptation knowledge gaps in these regions.

The 16th Focal Point ForumThe 16th Focal Point Forum, held on 2 December 2023 at COP28, shed light on the challenges faced by these areas and proposed concrete steps for intervention in 2024 under the Nairobi Work Programme (NWP), a network of over 450 organizations working to close knowledge gaps and scale up climate adaptation action in countries. The MRI was selected to co-moderate the breakout discussion on mountains, alongside its partner, the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative (ICCI), who moderated the discussions on high latitude and the cryosphere. The Forum’s audience included diverse participation and engagement from Parties, UNFCCC national focal points, experts on mountains, high-latitude areas, and the cryosphere, including local communities and indigenous peoples, NWP partners, development partners, the private sector, UNFCCC constituted bodies, and UNFCCC observers.

The MRI’s Carolina Adler moderating the mountains breakout discussion with Parties and observer organizations. Photo: UNFCCC Secretariat

Building on the assessment findings of the IPCC AR6, Carolina Adler from the MRI Coordination Office moderated the breakout group and discussions on mountains during this mandated event, alongside Alvin Chandra from the UN Environment Programme as rapporteur. The breakout discussion began with input from Tashi Pem, Director General at the Department of Environment and Climate Change in Bhutan, who set the scene by detailing practical needs on adaption and opportunities to inspire follow-up actions under the NWP.

Key knowledge gaps were identified, including the need for a better understanding of climate-related changes in the cryosphere and how these interact with non-climate related impacts, limited studies on past and future impacts in relation to key risks identified by the IPCC for mountains and the cryosphere, and gaps in assessing the cost-effectiveness of adaptation solutions. The NWP’s future priorities for these thematic areas involve collaborating to address these gaps, focusing on evidence-based knowledge sharing, context-specific solutions for mountain regions, strategic partnerships, and creating a supportive financial environment for adaptation efforts in mountains and the cryosphere. For detailed information, refer to the full article.


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Watch the 6th Focal Point Forum of the Nairobi work programme: Understanding and closing adaptation knowledge gaps in mountains, high-latitude areas, and the cryosphere.

Earth Information Day

Earth Information Day 2023, which took place on 3 December 2023, facilitated discussions on current global climate conditions and systematic observation advancements through a plenary session, three panel sections, and a World Café, with topics guided by contributions from Parties and non-Party stakeholders to address systematic observation objectives and UNFCCC-related efforts.

The World Café session featured 12 thematic tables, one of which addressed the topic “Cryosphere, Mountains, and Adaptation,” with the MRI and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) invited to co-facilitate the discussion at this table during this mandated event. Key discussion points included:

  • Key risks linked to climate change in mountains and the cryosphere, such as natural hazards and disasters and threats to water security both locally and for downstream regions, with key observation gaps in tracking adaptation effectiveness.
  • Mountains and the cryosphere exhibit vast regional differences in monitoring capabilities, data gaps (e.g., permafrost, Glacial Lake Outburst Floods), and the ability to sustain long-term observation records, necessitating improved support for intra- and interregional exchange and capacity sharing among the research community, NGOs, and local and regional authorities and government agencies.
  • Opportunities lie in enhancing conventional instrument-based observations with community-based insights, including Indigenous and local knowledge, to create a more comprehensive and culturally relevant understanding of climate change impacts and improve resilience.
  • The integration of in-situ, satellite-based, and other remotely-sensed data can be optimized through agreed-upon protocols and standards, especially along elevational gradients, to improve the exchange of information at relevant spatial-temporal scales.

Other Mountain Events

Several mountain-themed events took place during COP28, providing advocacy and focus on mountain issues. MRI representatives and network members participated in many of these events, including a panel input at the UNESCO Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme (IHP) side event “Roadmap towards the International Year of Glaciers’ Preservation and Glacier Day, 2025 and Beyond,” held on 5 December 2023.

Outlook for the MRI

Based on the fruitful outcomes of the 16th NWP Focal Point Forum, Earth Information Day 2023, and other informal meetings at COP28 to directly engage in the UNFCCC process, the MRI network and its partners can look forward to many opportunities to contribute expertise and research insights and thereby respond to knowledge needs on adaptation and on closing observation gaps in mountains and the cryosphere.

As COP28 concludes, and key decisions are clarified and adopted, the MRI Coordination Office will take stock of these engagement opportunities in consultation with its Governing Body, its Working Groups, and key network partners, and incorporate the many requests made at COP28 for mountain-specific expertise and contributions as part of the MRI’s own work plan in 2024. Stay tuned for more information on engagement opportunities that will be coordinated via the MRI. In the meantime, take the chance to update your expert profile in the MRI Experts Database, which will be called upon to identify and reach out to relevant experts within the network in due course.

This article includes content originally published by the UNFCCC Secretariat to mark the 2023 International Mountain Day on 11 December 2023. You can view the original article on their website.

Cover image: The facilitating team for the Nairobi Work Programme Focal Point Forum on Mountains and High-Latitude Areas, chaired by the UNFCCC SBSTA Chair and Vice-Chair, supported by representatives from the WMO, UNEP, FAO, MRI, ICCI, and the UNFCCC Secretariat. Photo by UNFCCC Secretariat.