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Developing countries need up to $387bn a year to adapt to climate change but flows of international public cash are faltering at the same time as the effects of global warming become more disastrous, the UN has said.
The amount needed had increased by some $47bn since the last annual assessment by the UN Environment Programme, with the updated report released ahead of the COP28 climate summit where the question of funds for countries to cope with global warming is high on the agenda.
The UN found the “adaptation” finance needed to help developing countries to prepare and deal with the consequences of climate change was anywhere between 10-18 times more than international public finance flows.
The UNEP said a finance “gap” of about $360bn was 50 per cent higher than thought. It estimated that between $215bn to $387bn a year this decade would be required, but public multilateral and bilateral finance flows to developing countries had dropped 15 per cent to $21bn in 2021.
Inger Andersen, executive director of UNEP, said during 2023, the effects of climate change were “yet again more disruptive and deadly”, with temperature records, wildfires, floods and storms causing devastation.
“These intensifying impacts tell us that the world must urgently cut greenhouse gas emissions and increase adaptation efforts to protect vulnerable populations. Neither is happening,” Andersen said.
She urged policymakers attending the UN climate summit later this month to “take heed” of the research, “step up finance and make COP28 the moment that the world committed fully to insulating low-income countries and disadvantaged groups from damaging climate impacts”.
At COP28 the richer nations will be again under pressure to deliver on previous funding pledges to help developing countries, as well as to live up to a commitment made at COP26 in Glasgow, when countries said they would deliver about $40bn per year in adaptation finance support by 2025.
Countries are also locked in difficult negotiations over how to get a so-called loss and damage fund up and running to help countries deal with the worst impacts of climate change.
“Adaptation is not receiving a fair share of climate finance,” Sultan al-Jaber, president-designate of COP28 told countries this week.
Earlier this week, Ralph Regenvanu, minister for climate change adaptation in Vanuatu, said adaptation and resilience initiatives were “literally saving lives” in the low-lying pacific island state.
But poorer small islands were struggling to access the funding they needed to support their adaptation plans, he added.
The UN report said investments in adaptation — covering a wide variety of activities from helping countries maintain food production during droughts to shoring up coastal defences against rising seas — saved money over the long term.
The 55 most climate-vulnerable economies alone have experienced losses and damages of more than $500bn in the last two decades, a figure the UN said would increase as the effects of climate change worsened.
Scientists say extreme weather events will become more common and extreme with every fraction of a degree of global warming. Temperatures have risen at least 1.1C in the industrial era, and greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.
The UN highlighted various ways of increase financing for adaptation, including reforming the global financial architecture to overhaul the World Bank and other multilateral development banks.
Andersen said that even if the world stopped emitting greenhouse gases today, “climate disruption would take decades to dissipate”.