Developing countries need up to 10 times more funding to protect themselves from increasingly ferocious effects of climate change than the world has currently earmarked, the UN said on Thursday.
While the COP26 meeting tries to wrestle down emissions and keep warming within the Paris deal target of 1.5 degrees Celsius, a new report from United Nations Environment Programme highlights the need to prepare countries for effects that are already starting to be felt.
“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,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.
“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.”
Slammed by storms, floods and droughts intensified by global warming, the world’s poorest nations have put at the heart of the COP26 climate negotiations calls for richer countries to honour a pledge to provide $100 billion annually.
But only a part of that funding promise — which is now not set to be met until next year at the earliest — is set aside for adaptation measures that would help nations reduce the exposure of people and property to the growing threats of climate change.
‘Skydiving without a parachute’
The UNEP report found that developing countries alone will need to spend up to $300 billion a year on such measures by 2030, and up to $500 billion annually by 2050.
“Overall, estimated adaptation costs in developing countries are five to 10 times greater than current public adaptation finance flows, and the gap is widening,” UNEP said.
In 2019, wealthy countries provided $79.6 billion in climate assistance to developing countries — but two-thirds of that was for efforts to reduce emissions, with adaptation given lower priority.
On Monday, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley told COP26 delegates failure to provide nations with the funds to protect themselves and adapt to climate change was “measured in lives and livelihoods in our communities and that, my friends, is immoral and unjust”.
With 1.1C of warming since the mid 19th Century, the world has seen a torrent of deadly weather disasters intensified by climate change in recent months, from asphalt-melting heat waves to flash floods and untameable wildfires.
UNEP said governments had so far missed an opportunity to use the Covid-19 pandemic to prioritise green recovery spending.
“By failing to invest in climate adaptation, it seems like we’ve gone sky diving and decided we don’t need a parachute,” said Brian O’Callaghan, of the Oxford University economic recovery project and one of the authors of the UNEP report.
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