Poor nations need more cash to adapt to climate change - U.N.

James Marshall
January 16, 2021

The UNEP acknowledges that climate adaptation is now widely embedded in policy and planning across the world, but says additional finance is critical to enhance adaptation planning and implementation and limit climate damage, particularly in developing countries.

The worldwide community must step up its efforts to adapt to climate change and build up resilience in the face of growing impacts of global warming or face mounting costs, damages and losses, according to a new UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report.

As the pandemic raged in 2020, all corners of the world felt the consequences of climate change.

The report pointed out that 2020 was among the hottest years on record, and 51.6 million people globally were directly affected by floods, droughts or storms by September.

Previous year also saw devastating wildfires from Australia to the Russian Arctic and extreme storms battering the Americas, island nations in the Indo-Pacific and wreaking havoc in Africa.

A year ago was one of the warmest on record and as impacts intensify, governments around the world must adapt better or face serious costs, damages and losses, the UNEP Adaptation Gap Report 2020 said.

UNEP executive director Inger Andersen says that adaptation finance now comprises only 5%, or $30-billion, and is falling well short of both the need and commitments made as part of the Paris Climate Agreement to strike a funding balance between adaptation and mitigation.

"Its impacts will intensify and hit vulnerable countries and communities the hardest - even if we meet the Paris Agreement goals of holding global warming this century to well below 2C and pursuing 1.5C". While vaccine rollouts are now underway, even the wealthiest nations are facing a hard economic recovery. However, increased public and private adaptation finance is needed. The agreement requires its signatories to implement adaptation measures through national plans, climate information systems, early warning, protective measures and investments in a green future. But not enough countries are taking advantage of this opportunity, the report states.

The global agency calls for both public and private finance to be ramped up to introduce projects more swiftly.

It calls for adoption of nature-based solutions as low-priced options that can help reduce climate risks, restore and protect biodiversity and bring benefits for communities and economies.

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Quoting the Global Commission on Adaptation, the report estimates that a $1.8-trillion investment in areas such as early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure, improved dryland agriculture, global mangrove protection and resilient water resources could generate $7.1-trillion of avoided costs and nonmonetary social and environmental benefits.

The agency's "Adaptation Gap Report 2020", released on January 14, warns that the Covid-19 crisis has already led to adaptation falling down the political agenda and it is likely to aggravate the finance gap by constraining public finances at both national and global levels. A further 9 per cent have plans in the works.

Adaptation costs in developing countries are estimated at $70bn (£51bn) a year, the report notes.

There is some good news.

The report estimates that annual adaptation costs in developing countries are $70 billion United States, but the figure could reach up to $300 billion in 2030, and $500 billion in 2050.

The Green Climate Fund's decision to allocate 40% of its total portfolio to adaptation is highlighted as a positive development for galvanising additional resources.

Additionally, more than 500,000 people have been trained in climate resilience measures.

The report also discovered that from "1,700 adaptation initiatives surveyed, only 3 per cent had already reported real reductions to climate risks posed to the communities".

Global emissions - which had a temporary lull during the pandemic - remain at record high levels meaning that projects to adapt to climate change may be outpaced by the number of disasters.

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