The sixth edition of the UNEP Adaptation Gap Report: The Gathering Storm highlights that estimated adaptation costs in developing countries are five to ten times greater than current public adaptation finance flows, and the adaptation finance gap is widening.
Even as the world looks to step up efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions – efforts that are still nowhere near strong enough, the report finds that the growth in climate impacts is far outpacing our efforts to adapt to them.
“New estimated costs of adaptation are believed to be in the higher end of the cost brackets laid out in the Adaptation Gap Report 2016, when they were $140-300 billion per year by 2030 and $280-500 billion per year by 2050 for developing countries only,” the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report states.
Coinciding with the ongoing COP 26 summit being held in Glasgow, the report highlights that estimated adaptation costs in developing countries are five to ten times greater than current public adaptation finance flows, and the adaptation finance gap is widening.
The most recent analysis indicates that climate finance flowing to developing countries for mitigation and adaptation planning and implementation reached $79.6 billion in 2019.
“Further scaling up implementation of adaptation actions is needed to avoid falling behind on managing climate risks, particularly in developing countries. Of major concern is the continued low rate of monitoring and evaluation systems: only 26 per cent of countries have such a system in place,” states the UN organization.
The UNEP report underlines that Covid-19 recovery stimulus packages of $16.7 trillion deployed around the globe present a window of opportunity for green and resilient recoveries, but these opportunities are not currently being realized. Less than one-third of 66 countries studied explicitly funded Covid-19 measures to address climate risks up to June 2021.
At the same time, the heightened cost of servicing debt, combined with decreased government revenues, may hamper future government spending on adaptation, particularly in developing countries. There is an urgent need to scale up and further increase public adaptation finance, for both direct investment and for overcoming barriers for private sector adaptation.
While early evidence suggests that National Adaptation Plan development processes have been disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly among least-developed countries, progress is still being made on national adaptation planning agendas. Around 79 per cent of countries have adopted at least one national-level adaptation planning instrument (a plan, strategy, policy or law), an increase of 7 per cent since 2020.
Nine per cent of countries that do not have such an instrument in place are in the process of developing one. At least 65 percent of countries have one or more sectoral plans in place, and at least 26 per cent have one or more sub-national planning instruments.
Information from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that the top ten donors funded more than 2,600 projects with a principal focus on adaptation between 2010 and 2019. The projects are also getting bigger, with more projects attracting funding in excess of $ 10 million.
About 20 per cent of the projects primarily address the agricultural sector and 20 per cent focus on ecosystems. Almost 30 per cent are multi-sectoral projects, whereas approximately two projects out of ten were directed towards either water or infrastructure.
Stressing the urgency for further action, UNEP points out that 2021 was the year in which climate impacts hit the world with a new ferocity. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, meanwhile, warned that there is a stronger chance of a global temperature rise exceeding 1.5°C within the next two decades. So, new evidence suggests that the 1.5°C aspirational target of the Paris Agreement will likely be missed while some climate impacts are already irreversible, highlighting the urgent need to adapt.
While strong mitigation is the way towards the lowest impacts and long-term costs, raising the ambition in adaptation, in particular for finance and implementation, is critical to keep existing gaps from widening, UNEP states.