Investing in Climate Adaptation Would be a Sound Economic Decision: UN Report

The lack of financing to implement adaptation programs is a rising concern


The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has released a report that says nations must boost their efforts to adapt to the changing climate scenario to avoid dire consequences in the future.

The UNEP Adaptation Gap Report 2020 stated that about 72% of countries had adopted at least one national-level plan for adaptation and most developing countries have one in the works. Still, the funding needed to implement these programs is not growing adequately.

According to the report, ‘adaptation’ refers to the process of human systems adjusting to the climate and its effects to moderate, avoid harm, or exploit beneficial opportunities. It said that countries must ramp up public and private finance facilities to support these adaptation programs rapidly.

While about 72% of countries have adaptation planning instruments in effect or in the works is encouraging, the lack of financing for these programs is a concern. The report said that even though the availability of adaptation finance facilities is increasing, the costs are also growing.

It said that tools like sustainability investment criteria, climate-related disclosure principles, and mainstreaming of climate risks into investment decisions could boost climate resilience investments. Nearly 400 adaptation projects financed by multilateral funds under the Paris Agreement have taken place in developing nations since 2006, with 21 projects worth over $25 million executed since 2017.

The UNEP’s report emphasized the need for nature-based solutions, including taking actions that address societal changes like climate change and providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits by conserving natural resources and other modified ecosystems.

It said cumulative investments for climate change mitigation and adaptation projects under four major climate and development funds – the Global Environment Facility, the Green Climate Fund, the Adaptation Fund, and the International Climate Initiative – stood at $94 billion. Of this, only $12 billion was spent on nature-based solutions.

“The hard truth is that climate change is upon us. 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,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.

The study said that a lack of clarity in adaptation goals, limited information availability, and the amount of uncertainty surrounding the enabling conditions for adaptation were hindrances to the scope of the study.

However, it was vital to assess and monitor a set of key climate risks of global importance, contrast risk levels under different global warming and socioeconomic scenarios, and advance scientific knowledge on measuring the actual and future benefits of adaptation programs.

The report stated that all countries must commit to an adaptation plan and bolster the financial support facilities. The aim must be to implement climate change adaptation to support the nations least responsible for climate risk but are at the most risk. While the COVID-19 is expected to have repercussions in terms of countries’ abilities to adapt to climate change, investing in adaption would be a ‘sound economic decision,’ it said.

In 2019, seven of the world’s largest multilateral development banks provided $61.6 billion (~₹4.6 trillion) in climate financing. Of this, $41.5 billion (~₹3.09 trillion) was offered to low-income and medium-income economies, according to the 2019 Joint Report on Multilateral Development Banks’ Climate Finance.

More recently, the World Gold Council said that gold miners would need to shift rapidly to renewable power generation sources to decarbonize the sector to be in line with the Paris Agreement’s global warming target of 1.5°C.

Image credit: Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash


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