People wade past stranded trucks on a flooded street in Bangladesh, where floods are an increasing threat, on June 21, 2022. MAMUN HOSSAIN / AFP via Getty Images
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According to a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), climate adaptation progress is slowing when it should be speeding up in order to catch up with the increasing impacts and risks of climate change.
The report, “Underfinanced. Underprepared. Inadequate investment and planning on climate adaptation leaves world exposed,” released before the UN COP28 Climate Change Conference later this month in Dubai, found that the adaptation finance requirements of developing countries are much larger — 10 to 18 times — than the actual amount of public finance.
“Today’s Adaptation Gap Report shows a growing divide between need and action when it comes to protecting people from climate extremes. Action to protect people and nature is more pressing than ever. Lives and livelihoods are being lost and destroyed, with the vulnerable suffering the most,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in his message on the report.
Due to the growing needs for adaptation financing, along with inadequate flow, currently the adaptation gap is from $194 to $366 billion annually, a press release from the UN said. Meanwhile, planning and implementation for adaptation seem to be leveling off. Adaptation failure has huge implications for loss and damage, especially for the most vulnerable.
“In 2023, climate change yet again became more disruptive and deadly: temperature records toppled, while storms, floods, heatwaves and wildfires caused devastation,” said Inger Andersen, UNEP’s executive director, in the press release. “These intensifying impacts tell us that the world must urgently cut greenhouse gas emissions and increase adaptation efforts to protect vulnerable populations. Neither is happening.”
The updated report found that more funds are required for adaptation in developing countries this decade, from $215 billion to $387 billion.
“Even if the international community were to stop emitting all greenhouse gases today, climate disruption would take decades to dissipate,” Andersen said in the press release. “So, I urge policymakers to take heed of the Adaptation Gap Report, step up finance and make COP28 the moment that the world committed fully to insulating low-income countries and disadvantaged groups from damaging climate impacts.”
Adaptation costs in developing nations are projected to rise substantially by mid-century. However, as needs grow, financing by public multilateral and bilateral sources in 2021 decreased by 15 percent to $21 billion. The ebb in financing occurred despite COP26 pledges of around $40 billion in adaptation finance each year by 2025.
Five of six countries now have at least one adaptation planning device, but progress toward reaching complete global coverage has slowed, and the amount of adaptation actions supported by international climate funds stalled in the past decade.
“Developed countries must present a clear roadmap to double adaptation finance as promised – prioritizing grants over loans – as a first step towards devoting half of all climate finance to adaptation. Multilateral Development Banks should also allocate at least fifty percent of climate finance to adaptation, and change their business models to mobilize far more private finance to protect communities from climate extremes,” Guterres said in his message.
Resilience can be enhanced by ambitious adaptation and forestall loss and damage, the press release said. This is especially important for disadvantaged groups and low-income countries.
Studies show that for each billion invested in coastal flooding adaptation, economic damages are reduced by $14 billion. Also, $16 billion in annual agricultural investment would protect around 78 million people from chronic hunger or starvation due to climate impacts.
But the adaptation finance gap can’t be closed significantly by either a potential New Collective Quantified Goal for 2030 or the doubling of the 2019 flow of international finance.
“[A]daptation plans must be transformed into investment plans, with new collaborative models that bring together governments, funders, development partners and civil society. The Adaptation Pipeline Accelerator partnerships, announced at the September United Nations Climate Ambition Summit, help show the way. By 2025, every vulnerable developing nation should have the support they need to develop and implement adaptation investment plans,” Guterres said in the message.
The report includes seven ways financing can be increased, including through private and international sector finance and domestic expenditure. Other strategies include implementing Article 2.1(c) of the Paris Agreement regarding the shifting of finance flows toward climate resilient and low-carbon development.
The new fund for loss and damage will be an important resource as well, but it will need to use more innovative mechanisms for finance in order to achieve the needed investment scale.
“Fossil fuel barons and their enablers have helped create this mess; they must support those suffering as a result. I call on governments to tax the windfall profits of the fossil fuel industry, and devote some of those funds to countries suffering loss and damage from the climate crisis,” Guterres said in the message. “We are in an adaptation emergency. We must act like it. And take steps to close the adaptation gap, now.”