The Guardian: Adapting to a warmer world will cost hundreds of billions of dollars and up to three times as much as previous estimates, even if global climate talks manage to keep temperature rises below dangerous levels, warns a report by the UN.
The first United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) ‘Adaptation Gap Report’ shows a significant funding gap after 2020 unless more funds from rich countries are pumped in to helping developing nations adapt to the droughts, flooding and heatwaves expected to accompany climate change.
“The report provides a powerful reminder that the potential cost of inaction carries a real price tag. Debating the economics of our response to climate change must become more honest,” said Achim Steiner, Unep’s executive director, as ministers from nearly 200 countries prepare to join the high level segment of UN climate talks in Lima, Peru, next week.
“We owe it to ourselves but also to the next generation, as it is they who will have to foot the bill.”
Without further action on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, the report warns, the cost of adaptation will soar even further as wider and more expensive action is needed to protect communities from the extreme weather brought about by climate change.
Delegates from the Alliance of Small Islands States at the UN climate conference in Lima, which opened on Monday, are already feeling those impacts. They have appealed for adaptation funds for “loss and damage” as their homelands’ very existence is threatened by rising sea levels.
“We’re keen to see the implementation of the Green Climate Fund – we’re still waiting,” Netatua Pelesikoti, director of the climate change office at the Secretariat of the Pacific Environment Programme, referring to a fund set up to hope poorer countries cope with global warming.
“The trickle down to each government in the Pacific is very slow but we can’t abandon the process at this stage,” said the Tongan delegate.
Rich countries have pledged $9.7bn to the Green Climate Fund but the figure is well short of the minimum target of $100bn each year by 2020.
The Adaptation Gap Report said adaptation costs could climb to $150bn by 2025/2030 and $250-500bn per year by 2050, even based on the assumption that emissions are cut to keep temperature rises below rises of 2C above pre-industrial levels, as governments have previously agreed.
However, if emissions continue rising at their current rate – which would lead to temperature rises well above 2C – adaptation costs could hit double the worst-case figures, the report warned.
“This startling report opens up a window on to a nightmarish future, where the global economy is crippled and the most vulnerable countries are even further disadvantaged,” said Sandeep Chamling Rai, WWF’s senior global adaptation policy advisor. “This is not a gap, it’s an abyss. We can avoid falling into it, but we’re running out of time.”
“The report leaves no doubt, adaptation must be at the heart of a long-term agreement developed here in Lima. Communities around the world are drastically unprepared for the costly impacts of climate change, which is already destroying lives and livelihoods every day,” said Jan Kowalzig, policy advisor for Oxfam, urging negotiators to scale up funding to meet the $100bn annual commitment.
David Waskow, director of the International Climate Initiative at the World Resources Institute, said the $9.7bn raised by the Green Climate Fund was a “key threshold” but added that developed nations’ funding should extend beyond the fund, engaging “large international companies and even small and medium-sized companies.”
“On adaptation there hasn’t been enough funding and most estimates show that less than 20% of climate finance has gone to help countries adapt to climate change,” he added.
Su Wei, the head of China’s climate delegation, said the Green Climate Fund pledges were far from adequate and told Reuters that he was critical of Australia’s refusal to contribute to the fund, saying contributing should be a “legal obligation for all developed country parties”.
Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, last month ruled out contributing to the fund, saying his government was giving aid through other channels.
Figures on global financial flows relating to climate action were published for the first time on Wednesday. They stood at between $340 and $650bn in 2011-2012, the UN said.
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