We need a sea change in adaptation measures such as funding to reduce damages and losses from climate change.
Carbon emissions reached a record high last year with 410 ppm for the first time since record began, and our efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change are faltering.
So are efforts worldwide to fortify societies and communities against rising sea levels, destructive storms, prolonged droughts, crop failures and other outcomes of a changing climate.
This is according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which has just released a new report, aptly titled “The Gathering Storm,” stressing the urgency of climate adaptation measures, especially in developing nations that are likely to be worst affected.
“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,” warns Inger Andersen, the UN body’s executive director.
“We need a step change in adaptation ambition for funding and implementation to significantly reduce damages and losses from climate change,” Andersen says. “And we need it now.”
The experts behind the report have found that climate change adaptation costs in developing countries are five to 10 times greater than “current public adaptation finance flows, and the adaptation finance gap is widening.”
“Meanwhile, the heightened cost of servicing debt, combined with decreased government revenues [because of the pandemic], may hamper future government spending on adaptation,” they add.
In other words, nowhere near enough is being spent on measures to reduce the impacts of climate change on people’s lives and their environment. That is disconcerting as the costs of adaption could amount to as much as $300 billion a year by the end of this decade and $500 billion each year by 2050.
In 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic, developing nations received only $77 billion in climate finance for mitigation and adaptation planning and implementation, which is well short of the required amount, UNEP says.
Encouragingly, however, nations worldwide are responding to the challenges of climate change. Nearly 80% of countries have at least one national-level adaptation plan, strategy, policy or law in place, which is 7% more than last year.
“Additionally, the top 10 donors funded more than 2,600 projects with a principal focus on adaptation, during the period between 2010 and 2019, indicating efforts are growing,” UNEP says.
The UN body urges countries, however, “to step up public adaptation finance through direct investment and by overcoming barriers to private sector involvement.” UNEP is also calling on richer nations to allocate more finances to developing nations for their climate change adaptation efforts.