Developing countries continue to lag on adaptation efforts and in reducing climate-warming emissions in line with long term goals set in the Paris Agreement.
According to the Adaptation Gap Report by the United Nations, poor and vulnerable regions continue to suffer the most from the associated impacts as the global emissions and the climate crisis accelerate.
While nations have advanced in planning and implementation, huge gaps remain particularly in finance for developing countries and in bringing adaptation projects to the stage where they accrue real reductions in climate risks.
During the release of the 2020 United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Adaptation Gap report last month, director Inger Andersen said adaptation efforts are lagging just as much as efforts to reduce climate-warming emissions.
She pushed for increased financing and cost-effective, nature-based approaches.
“The hard truth is that climate change is upon us,” said Ms Andersen, “Its impacts will intensify and hit vulnerable countries and communities the hardest, even if we meet the Paris Agreement goals of holding global warming this century to well below 2°C and pursuing 1.5°C.”
“Developing countries need funding (to take appropriate action to prevent or minimise adverse effects of climate change), yet finance remains low. The pace of financing is indeed rising, but it continues to be outpaced by rapidly increasing damage. Meanwhile, even as an extensive analysis of performance surveyed in scientific articles showed that the majority were in early stages of implementation, only three per cent reported evidence of real reductions in climate risks posed to the communities where the projects were being implemented,” she added.
Annual adaptation costs in developing countries are estimated at $70 billion, but the figure could reach up to $300 billion in 2030 and $500 billion in 2050. Almost three-quarters of nations have some adaptation plans in place, but financing and implementation fall “far short” of what is needed, according to the UNEP report.
Although the report showed that the cumulative investment for climate change mitigation and adaptation projects under some four major climate and development funds has risen over the past two decades, to $94 billion, only $12 billion was spent on nature-based solutions, a tiny fraction of total adaptation and conservation finance.
The funds are the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the Adaptation Fund, and the International Climate Initiative (IKI) — meant to support green initiatives with some element of nature-based solutions
In 2019, the Global Commission on Adaptation estimated that a $1.8 trillion investment in adaptation measures would bring a return of $7.1 trillion in avoided costs and other benefits.
“The world must also plan for finance and implement climate change adaptation to support those nations least responsible for climate change but most at risk,” the UN agency added. “While the Covid-19 pandemic is expected to hit the ability of countries to adapt to climate change, investing in adaptation is a sound economic decision,” it said.
The UNEP report underscored the importance of nature-based solutions aimed at protecting and restoring natural or modified ecosystems, and those that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions to reduce impacts and costs associated with climate change, including protecting river banks and restoring floodplains and mangroves as methods to reduce the impacts of flooding, droughts and sea level rise.
According to the UNEP report, even if the planet limited global warming to well below 2°C, or even 1.5°C, based on current pledges under the Paris Agreement, developing countries will suffer.
UNEP urged all nations to pursue the efforts outlined in its December 2020 Emissions Gap Report, which called for a green pandemic recovery and updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that include new net-zero commitments. The Paris Agreement requires all its signatories to plan and implement adaptation measures through national adaptation plans, studies, monitoring of climate change effects and investment in a green future.
In its Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2018 outlined that even if the global temperature increase does not exceed 1.5°C, far-reaching adaptation measures will be required.
For many regions, 1.5°C of global warming will stretch the limits of the adaptability and adaptive capacity of many human and natural systems. It said the world is heading for at least a 3°C temperature rise this century.
“As the Secretary-General (António Guterres) has said, we need a global commitment to put half of all global climate finance towards adaptation in the next year … this will allow a huge step up in adaptation, in everything from early warning systems to resilient water resources to nature-based solutions,” Ms Andersen added.
Race against time
In his 2020 State of the Planet address Mr Guterres said, “We’re in a race against time to adapt to a rapidly changing climate.”
Domestic public finance data with climate relevance remains sparse in East Africa. For example, only Kenya’s is available with an estimated eight per cent of the total annual budget found to be climate-relevant in the country. Rwanda unveiled a Rwf10.2 trillion ($11 billion) plan to combat climate change and build adaptation to its effects in the next 10 years. About $5.7 billion will be spent on climate mitigation measures while over $5.3 billion will be invested in climate adaptation priorities.
According to the World Meteorological Organisation, human emissions have already caused Earth’s average temperatures to rise 1.1°C above preindustrial levels and may cause a 1.5°C temperature rise by as early as 2030.
Last year was the warmest year in earth’s global average surface temperature tying in with 2016 the last registered warmest year on record, according to an analysis by NASA, continuing the planet’s long-term warming trend.