Climate adaptation falling behind pace of change

Finance to help developing nations adapt to climate consequences is US$70 billion short of funding committed by rich nations.

So says the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in a report coinciding with this week’s COP27 climate change conference in Egypt.

There, diplomats are discussing finance for poorer nations disproportionately affected by climate change.

Increased average global temperatures from human-made carbon emissions bring a range of increased risks to nations, including increased and more severe droughts, floods, wildfires, cyclonic activity, biodiversity loss, land degradation and ocean acidification.

The report says efforts to adapt to these and other climate consequences is taking place at a far slower speed than the climate’s pace of change.

“The world must urgently reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit the impacts of climate change, but we must also urgently increase efforts to adapt to the impacts that are already here and those to come,” says UNEP executive director Inger Andersen.

Falling short

US$100 billion in climate finance aid was pledged by developed nations at the Copenhagen summit in 2009 – less than a third has been delivered.

Despite the shortfall, the Glasgow Climate Pact signed at the end of last year’s COP26 conference in Scotland intends to double that commitment by 2025.

That means rich nations will need to substantially address climate financing this week, particularly with the UN estimating between US$160-240 billion is required by the end of the decade for global climate adaptation programs.

But some observers expect climate finance to be an obstacle at COP27, due to the joint short-term challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising energy costs impacting domestic budgets.

“The sticking points are probably going to be about money – finance – in COP terms,” says Professor Jackie Peel from Melbourne Law School.

“So, who’s providing it, how much, to whom, for what, and how it’s going to be delivered – there are all kinds of questions around finance that are unresolved and need to be progressed.”

Twenty percent of countries have no climate adaptation plan

Most countries have implemented a plan, legislation or climate adaptation policy, however the implementation of these has been insufficient to meet the increasing demands of climate change related hazards.

Read more: What’s happening at COP27?

One-in-five nations is yet to either progress or even devise mechanisms to deal with present or future hazards.

“If we don’t want to spend the coming decades in emergency response mode, dealing with disaster after disaster, we need to get ahead of the game,” says Andersen.

“We cannot use other global crises as excuses for inaction. Yes, the war in Ukraine, global supply shortages and the COVID-19 pandemic have all contributed to an energy and food security crisis.

“The temperature ranges we are currently looking at over the decades to come – even with mitigation – will turn the climate impacts we are seeing now into knockout blows for generations.”

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