UN: World facing ‘gathering storm’ with tenfold increase needed in climate adaption finance

As world leaders champion new decarbonisation strategies at COP26, a new report from the UN has called for an urgent increase in finance that is focused on adapting to the impacts of the climate crisis, with current economic flows requiring a "step change" to protect developing countries.

UN: World facing ‘gathering storm’ with tenfold increase needed in climate adaption finance

The UN report finds that the costs of adaptation look set to reach the higher end of $140-$300bn each year by 2030

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has today (4 November) published its Adaptation Gap Report 2021: The Gathering Storm, which summarises the efforts of nations to date to both allocate finance and introduce policy measures that improve adaptation against the increasing impacts of the climate crisis.

The report warns that efforts to combat the climate crisis through decarbonisation and adapt through planning and spending are “dramatically” below the required levels. With a separate UN report warning that the world is on course for a 2.7C average temperature increase based on national commitments prior to COP26, this report also warns of an ever-growing financial gap on adaptation.

The UN report finds that the costs of adaptation look set to reach the higher end of $140-$300bn each year by 2030, potentially rising to $500bn by 2050. This is for developing countries alone.

In stark contrast, financial flows provided to developing countries for mitigation and adaptation planning sat at $79.6bn in 2019. The UN is warning that estimated adaptation costs in developing countries are “five to 10 times greater” than what is currently being provided through public finance. This gap, according to the UN, will only grow greater without action.

“As the world looks to step up efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions – efforts that are still not anywhere strong enough – it must also dramatically up its game to adapt to climate change,” UNEP’s executive director Inger Anderson said:

“Even if we were to turn off the tap on greenhouse gas emissions today, the impacts of climate change would be with us for many decades to come. We need a step-change in adaptation ambition for funding and implementation to significantly reduce damages and losses from climate change. And we need it now.”

Going into COP26, the Presidency unit outlined plans to finally make good on a commitment from developed nations to provide $100bn of climate finance to poorer countries annually, but stated that the full amount will not be delivered this year or next.

According to the new Delivery Plan, the $100m milestone is unlikely to be achieved in 2020 or 2021, nor in 2022. But, in 2023, it should be met, and in the years that follow, exceeded. Some $117bn should be provided in 2025.

Missed opportunities

The lack of finance is impacting the ability and pace at which developing nations can introduce adaptation and mitigation policies.

The report notes that currently, around 79% of countries have introduced at least one national-level adaptation planning policy, strategy or law – an increase of 7% compared to last year. Of the 21% of nations that have yet to introduce them, 9% are currently in the developmental process. More broadly, at least two-thirds of countries have one or more sectoral plans in place, while 26% have one or more subnational planning instruments.

Data collated from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found that the top 10 donors funded support for around 2,600 adaptation projects between 2010 and 2019. Around 20% of these projects address agriculture and 20% are focused on eco-systems. Water security is also benefitting from these sources of finance.

The UN report also claims that the calls for a “green recovery” from the coronavirus pandemic led to a “missed opportunity” to align financing with adaptation initiatives.

Around $16.7trn of fiscal stimulus was issued in response to the pandemic, but fewer than one-third of 66 countries studied had actually issued Covid-19 funding that addressed climate risks as of June 2021.

COP26 Primer: Climate Adaptation & Resilience

edie’s COP26 Primer Reports are about seizing the green opportunity. Produced in the run-up to the official talks, this mini-series of reports are based on the five key themes of COP26: Clean Energy, Clean Transport, Climate Resilience, Nature-Based Solutions, and Climate Finance.

This report, sponsored by UL, examines how crucial green finance is in driving the net-zero transition and overcoming the climate crisis. It also explores the role that COP26 will have in creating new tipping points for nations to seize the economic, societal and planetary benefits of shifting finance streams towards a sustainable future.

From the enablers and accelerators to the global climate finance movement, to the political challenges and consequences of failing to pivot away from supporting carbon-intensive sectors, this report acts as a timely state-of-play for global efforts to deliver a green recovery and kickstart the net-zero trajectory.

Click here to download the report.

Matt Mace

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