The world is not doing enough to protect itself from the bad effects of global warming that have already become unavoidable, says a report of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), released today. 

Steps taken towards protection from already unavoidable climate change effects are called ‘adaptation’ -more relevant for developing countries. ‘Adaptation’ is one of the three major planks of climate action, the other two being ‘mitigation’ (efforts, such as renewable energy and electric mobility, aimed at reducing further global warming) and ‘loss and damage’ (efforts aimed at developing systems that would help countries hit by a climate event to get back on its feet.) 

“Global efforts towards adaptation planning, financing and implementation, while increasing incrementally, are “not keeping pace with increasing climate risks,” the UNEP ‘Adaptation Gap Report, 2022’ says. 

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This report, along with the Emissions Gap Report, released by UNEP last week, provides grist for the climate negotiations that will get underway at the COP27 meeting set to happen in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt between November 6 and 18. 

The Emissions Gap Report said the world is on course for a 2.8°C increase in average temperature, over the average temperatures obtained in the pre-industrialization era of 1850-1900. This is bad news: scientists say global warming should be limited to 2°C- anything above that would be catastrophic. 

Finance flow

One of the key messages in the Adaptation Gap Report is the woefully inadequate flow of finance into adaptation efforts. Adaptation finance needs could be around US$202 billion a year, it says; in contrast, international adaptation finance flows to developing countries amounted to $29 billion in 2020 US$612 billion/year) this decade.  

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“Combined mitigation and adaptation finance flows in 2020 fell short of the annual US$100 billion global goal pledged by developed countries, even by finance providers’ own accounting, which according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) amounts to US$83.3 billion,” the report says. 

Self-reporting of finance providers indicates that there has been a trend of gradually increasing international adaptation finance to developing countries in recent years, reaching $28.6 billion in 2020. However, the share of adaptation in total climate finance to developing countries was 34 per cent in 2020, still far behind mitigation finance. 

In the climate conference of last year—the COP26, which took place in Glasgow—developed countries agreed to “at least double” the adaptation finance that they would make available, from 2019 levels, by 2025. However, UNEP says that “this would be insufficient to close the adaptation finance gap.” 

“A growing body of evidence indicates that finance providers are not strategically targeting adaptation assistance towards the most vulnerable countries and population groups,” it said. 

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Mahua Acharya, a climate expert and the CEO of the government-owned CESL, said she was “not surprised” that the UNEP report has sounded an alarm on the lack of adequate financial flows for adaptation. “The heart of the matter is collective effort around making adaptation projects investible,” Acharya told BusinessLine

She said that more data is required--such as trends over time, weather changes pattern and general climate information, for a better focus on adaptation.