The sixth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has highlighted that the difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees (Celsius) of global warming is substantial, with every fraction of a degree translating into potentially increased risks.

Potential losses from climate-related risks in Asia-Pacific are estimated at between $1.2- and $4.7 trillion. As a percentage of GDP, countries that will lose the most are the Pacific small island developing states (SIDS) along with other Least Developed Countries, according to the Bangkok-based UN-ESCAP.

Nature-based solutions

Nature-based solutions are key to ecosystem-based adaptation, says Dr Sanjay Srivastava, Chief, Disaster Risk Reduction at UN-ESCAP. Mangroves, for example, reduce the impact of tropical cyclones, storm surges, coastal flooding and erosion, he told BusinessLine .

Without mangrove cover, total disaster-induced losses increase substantially by an estimated $11 billion in India, $2.25 billion in Bangladesh and $0.18 billion in Pakistan.

The Glasgow Climate Pact recognised the critical role of “restoring nature and ecosystems in delivering benefits for climate adaptation”. The pledge to end deforestation by 2030 taken by over 120 countries, representing nearly 90 per cent of the world’s forests is an important milestone.

This will yield substantial benefits for climate adaptation as forest ecosystems protect communities from extreme weather, Srivastava pointed out.

Research by UN-ESCAP estimates that there are only a few countries currently at risk of experiencing cyclones in categories 3 to 5 with wind speeds ranging from 180 to 250 km/hour. But many Pacific SIDS are likely to face more and stronger cyclones at 1.5 degrees of warming.

Commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are central to the Glasgow Climate Pact adopted at the just-concluded COP26. It also includes some key elements to boost adaptation in a riskier world, some of which can potentially narrow the adaptation gaps in Asia and the Pacific.

Huge infrastructure costs

A COP26 report highlights that infrastructure accounts for 88 per cent of all adaptation costs across a range of sectors. Further, 54 per cent of all future adaptation costs need to be spent on the water sector.

Estimates of infrastructure needs across the world in the next 20 years suggest that newer infrastructure will need to be built than what’s been done in the last 200 years. A projection between 2015 and 2040 suggests that the world will invest close to $90 trillion on this alone.

COP26 also witnessed pledges and commitments by governments and the private sector on building climate resilient infrastructure, Srivastava said.

For example, the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure launched the Infrastructure for Resilient Island States in the presence of Heads of Governments from Australia, Fiji, India, Jamaica, Mauritius and the UK, aimed at addressing the many issues posed by infrastructure systems in SIDS.

Srivastava recalled how a nagging imbalance has persisted between funding for mitigation and adaptation measures. Presently, adaptation finance comprises only a quarter of total climate finance, while adaptation needs due to increasing climate change impacts continue to grow.

Climate adaptation costs

To address this, at COP26, developed countries agreed to double the funding for adaptation by 2025. This is aligned with UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ vision that half of total climate finance must be committed to adaptation.

The ESCAP Risk and Resilience portal estimates that the costs of climate change adaptation vary from 1.4 per cent of GDP for Pacific SIDS to less than one per cent for South-East Asia, and North and Central Asia, Srivastava explained.