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UN Report: Nations Aren’t Doing Enough To Prepare For Climate Impacts

Above Photo: Flooding in Pakistan on Aug. 30, 2022 is an example of why nations need to improve climate adaptation. Fida Hussain / AFP via Getty Images.

As extreme weather events this year from flooding in Pakistan to historic global heat waves make clear, the climate crisis is already with us.

Yet nations are not doing enough to adapt to this new normal, especially when it comes to funding adaptation projects in the most vulnerable countries. That’s the conclusion of the UN Environment Programme’s Adaptation Gap Report 2022, released Thursday ahead of the COP27 climate conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, from November 6 to 18.

“Adaptation needs in the developing world are set to skyrocket to as much as $340 billion a year by 2030. Yet adaptation support today stands at less than one-tenth of that amount. The most vulnerable people and communities are paying the price. This is unacceptable,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement on the release of the report emailed to EcoWatch. “Adaptation must be treated with a seriousness that reflects the equal worth of all members of the human family. It’s time for a global climate adaptation overhaul that puts aside excuses and picks up the toolbox to fix the problems.”

The report, subtitled “Too Little, Too Slow – Climate adaptation failure puts world at risk,” found that at least 84 percent of the countries that are Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) do have plans, strategies, laws and policies in place to respond to climate impacts, and this was up five percent from the year before. More than a third of these countries have plans with timelines and quantifiable goals and nearly 90 percent of these plans consider the needs of marginalized groups including women and Indigenous people.

However, what is missing is the funds to realize these plans, especially in the developing world. To adapt, these countries need an estimated $160 to $340 billion by 2030 and $315 to $565 billion by 2050. Yet international finance for these countries reached only $28.6 billion in 2020. Currently, needs are five to 10 times higher in the developing world than the international community is funding, and this gap will only increase if nothing changes.

Further, adaptation actions themselves are falling short of impacts. So far, adaptation projects have focused on the agriculture, water, ecosystems and cross-cutting sectors. But the world at 1.1 degrees of warming above pre-industrial levels is already a world of increasing extremes, and this will only worsen. This year’s UN Emissions Gap Report found that current national climate pledges put us on track for 2.4 to 2.6 degrees Celsius of warming by 2100, and every tenth a degree of warming makes the climate crisis more dangerous.

“Climate change is landing blow after blow upon humanity, as we saw throughout 2022: most viscerally in the floods that put much of Pakistan under water,” UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said in a statement emailed to EcoWatch. “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.”

In a statement responding to the report, Guterres recommended four actions that nations could take to improve adaptation, beginning at COP27:

  1. Increasing Finance: During last year’s COP26 climate conference, developed nations promised to double adaptation funding to developing nations to $40 billion a year by 2025. At COP27, they must establish an actual plan for doing so.
  2. Improving Business Models: Currently, many financial institutions do not consider the adaptation plans of governments to be investable projects and this must change.
  3. Localizing Data: Vulnerable countries especially need to be able to access relevant data about climate risks in order to plan effectively.
  4. Expanding Warning Systems: Guterres repeated his call for universal early warning systems to be in place within five years.

The report comes amidst a variety of immediate crises including the coronavirus pandemic and the skyrocketing of energy and cost-of-living costs following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The UN acknowledged these events but said that countries could not forget to plan for climate impacts while they respond to other events.

“Yes, the war in Ukraine, global supply shortages and the COVID-19 pandemic have contributed to an energy and food security crisis. Costs of living are going through the roof. Climate adaptation may not seem like a priority right now. It is,” Andersen said in a statement emailed to EcoWatch. “Even if all commitments are implemented immediately, the reality is that climate change is going to be with us decades into the future. And the poorest keep paying the price for our inaction. It is therefore imperative that we put time, effort, resources and planning into adaptation action.”

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