Step up climate change adaptation efforts or face consequences: UN report

Climate Change.
Representational image: IANS

Glasgow: As nations gather for the latest round of climate talks in Glasgow, a new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on Thursday called for urgent efforts to increase the financing and implementation of actions designed to adapt to the growing impacts of climate change.

'The Adaptation Gap Report 2021: The Gathering Storm' found that while policies and planning are growing for climate change adaptation, financing and implementation are still far behind where they need to be.

In addition, the report finds that the opportunity to use the fiscal recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic to prioritise green economic growth that also helps nations adapt to climate impacts such as droughts, storms and wildfire is largely being missed.

"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 Executive Director Inger Andersen 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."

The report says financing of adaptation remains weak.

Current promises under the Paris Agreement point to global warming of 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Even if the world limits warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius, as outlined in the agreement, many climate risks remain.

While strong mitigation is the best way to lower impacts and long-term costs, raising ambition in adaptation, in particular for financing and implementation, is critical to keep existing gaps from widening.

The report finds that the costs of adaptation are likely in the higher end of an estimated $140-300 billion per year by 2030 and $280-500 billion per year by 2050 for developing countries only.

Climate finance flowing to developing countries for mitigation and adaptation planning and implementation reached $79.6 billion in 2019.

Overall, estimated adaptation costs in developing countries are five to ten times greater than current public adaptation finance flows, and the gap is widening.

According to the report, some progress in planning and implementation.

While early evidence suggests that National Adaptation Plan development processes have been disrupted by Covid-19, progress is being made on national adaptation planning agendas.

Around 79 per cent of countries have adopted at least one national-level adaptation planning instrument, such as a plan, strategy, policy or law. This is an increase of seven per cent since 2020.

Nine per cent of countries that do not have such an instrument in place are in the process of developing one. At least 65 per cent of countries have one or more sectoral plans in place, and at least 26 per cent have one or more subnational planning instruments.

Meanwhile, the implementation of adaptation actions continues to grow slowly.

Data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reveals that the top 10 donors funded more than 2,600 projects with a principal focus on adaptation between 2010 and 2019.

Projects are also getting bigger, with more projects attracting funding over $10 million. Despite this progress, the report finds that further ambition is needed in financing and implementation.

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