UNEP warns of climate adaptation gap

© DNY59 / iStock.com

UNEP has released the sixth edition of its Adaptation gap report and, in a report subtitled ‘The gathering storm’, sets out how the world is adapting to the impacts of climate change alongside continuing to ramp up its efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Among its findings, the report concludes that there is an urgent need to increase climate adaptation finance, given that adaptation costs in developing countries in particular are five to 10 times greater than public adaptation finance flows. This gap is widening, with developing countries potentially facing adaptation costs of US$ 280-500 billion per year by 2050. International public adaptation finance has increased by more than 50% over 2017-2018 and 2019–2020, but is still far too low, it adds.

The report also finds that COVID-19 recovery stimulus packages are becoming a lost opportunity to finance climate adaptation. Less than one third of the 66 countries investigated in the report explicitly funded COVID-19 measures to address climate risks up to June 2021. Furthermore, the increased cost of servicing debt, in association with reduced government revenue, could potentially hamper future government spending on adaptation.

However, there is a positive trend generally with regard to adequacy and effectiveness in adaptation planning, compared with 2020. Climate change adaptation is increasingly being integrated into policy and planning, with around 79% of countries adopting at least one national-level adaptation planning mechanism, representing an increase in such measures of 7% since 2020. Implementation of adaptation measures is also growing slowly, with the top 10 donors funding more than 2,600 projects with a principal focus on adaptation between 2010 and 2019.

More generally though, the report finds that further ambition is needed to advance national-level adaptation planning, finance and implementation around the world, including overcoming barriers facing private sector engagement. Even if greenhouse gas emissions ceased immediately, the world would still face decades of impacts from the climate change that has already occurred, it adds.