The world is doing far too little to prepare for the effects of a warmer planet, even as climate-driven storms, floods, heat waves and droughts become more extreme.
That’s the conclusion of the latest report from the United Nations Environment Programme, which finds that efforts to build defenses against climate change – known as adaptation – are not keeping pace with the growing risks they pose to humanity.
“The world must quickly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit the effects of climate change. But we must also quickly increase our efforts to adapt to the effects that are already here and those to come, said Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, in a statement.
Adaptation – and funding to support it – will be a key focus of international climate talks set to begin Sunday in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. At last year’s summit, developed countries agreed to double the amount they committed to helping countries invest in efforts such as drought-tolerant crops, coastal defenses and other disaster-resistant infrastructure.
It will increase funding from $20 billion in 2019 to $40 billion by 2025. But the UN report finds that between $160 billion and $340 billion will be needed by 2030 to respond to growing adaptation needs. Without more support, climate risks could outpace countries’ efforts to respond – and put them further under treatment, the report says.
A series of catastrophic climate events this year, punctuated by historic floods in Pakistan that killed around 1,700 people and left up to $40 billion in damage, have put the spotlight on the need to harden the country’s resources before disasters strike and find ways to deal with them. heal again when the damage is done.
Climate impacts will only get worse if the world continues on its current path. A sister report by the UN Environment Program released last week showed that under countries’ current policies, temperatures are set to rise 2.8 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, well above the 1.5 C target set out in the Paris Agreement.
The lack of action has put the spotlight on the need for adaptation. It has also highlighted a new and growing threat: loss and damage that occurs when climate impacts cannot be adapted.
And the countries that have done the least to cause the problem – and have fewer resources to deal with them – are forced to bear the consequences.
“Those on the front lines of the climate crisis are at the back of the line for support,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said at the launch of the UNEP report. “This is unacceptable.”
He runs an initiative aimed at accelerating the financing of adaptation projects that will be launched in Egypt. It will depend on helping countries turn their adaptation needs into bankable projects and then matching them with lenders who can work together to deliver large investments rather than small, scattered ones.
“Frankly, that’s one of the challenges we’ve had over the last 30 years on the adaptation front, right, is translating what we know and what we see as priorities in the countries into something tangible that can be invested in helping a country with increasing its resilience against the climate crisis,” said a senior UN official speaking to reporters on the background of the UN-led initiative.
A large majority of countries have adaptation plans or strategies, but many lack details or timelines and have struggled to attract investment. Although money for adaptation has grown slightly in recent years, it still only accounts for around a third of total climate finance, with the bulk going towards the deployment of clean energy and other emissions reductions that provide a clearer return on investment.
At a time when the world is facing major global challenges, the report calls for “unprecedented political will” and greatly scaled-up investment in adaptation to prevent the gap from widening.
Guterres and a number of other leaders have also called for a major overhaul of the way development banks — particularly the World Bank — extend financing to help developing countries deal with climate change (Climatewire7 October).
“The investment pipeline is blocked; we must lift the blockade now,” Guterres said.
He also called on rich nations that have failed to fulfill a pledge to provide much-needed climate finance to the poor to present a plan with clear timelines for how they will meet their commitments.
“If we don’t want to spend the coming decades in preparedness mode dealing with disaster after disaster, we need to get ahead of the game,” Andersen, the UNEP chief, wrote in a forward to the report.
Reprinted from E&E News with permission of POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2022. E&E News provides important news for energy and environmental professionals.