The UN Secretary General, António Guterres said it quite succinctly a few days ago: “We need a global surge in adaptation investment to save millions of lives from climate carnage. 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 and this is unacceptable.”
Guterres was speaking on the occasion of the release of the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Adaptation Gap Report 2022. Released on the eve of the crucial COP27 international climate summit, which begins on Sunday at Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt, the report is a detailed look at the cost of adapting to the global reality of climate change. Every year, the impacts of the climate crisis—from wildfires to droughts to disastrous flooding and superstorms—are increasing manifold, and in order to cope with this reality, countries need to urgently build adaptation and resilience measures.
But this requires money, the amount that Guterres quoted, and this finance is currently in extreme short supply. The finance required to both mitigate climate change—to help nations shift energy generation from planet-warming fossil fuels to renewable energy—and to adapt to climate change, is likely to dominate the COP27. The onus for delivering this finance is on the world’s richest countries—which have historically contributed the most to global warming—and developing nations that are facing the brunt of the climate impacts are increasingly frustrated and annoyed by continued inaction on this front. It is a frustration that is clearly shared by the UN Secretary General.
As this column has discussed earlier, rich nations are already lagging woefully when it comes to delivering an already mandated commitment to provide $100 billion a year to developing countries to mitigate climate change. Now, the pressure is on developed countries to deliver, and provide further finance for both adaptation and loss and damage arising from climate change. For developing countries, the solution is simple. A loss and damage finance facility has to be set up immediately, to facilitate the channelling of this money. The pushback against this has come from the European Union countries and the US, which want to put off any formal institutional commitments on this till 2024.
However, given the scale and frequency of climate disasters, developing countries do not want to wait another two years, especially given the inadequate past performance of rich countries in delivering on climate finance. At the COP27, the most crucial day will be the first day of the conference, on 6 November. If countries don’t reach a consensus to add loss and damage finance to the agenda of the summit, it could spell trouble right from the outset. COP27 needs to be the summit for climate finance and, by extension climate justice. Any inaction on this will mean failure.