BARCELONA, Nov 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Syria, Libya and Yemen are among the countries whose ability to withstand climate change shocks and stresses has deteriorated most in the past five years, suggesting conflict makes people more vulnerable to climate impacts, researchers said.
The University of Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN), released on Tuesday, uses 46 indicators to measure climate change risks to 180 countries and how ready they are to accept investment that could help them cope with more extreme weather and rising seas.
The main contributing factors to the falling scores of the three fragile states in the Middle East and North Africa, riven by armed conflict, are increases in political instability, violence, corruption and poor rule of law, according to the index.
"Even without climate change, you're going to see that countries that have done a poor job on their governance or economic systems are a source of refugees, (and) because of conflict, they haven't been able to serve their people, and things are deteriorating there in all different sectors," said Joyce Coffee, ND-GAIN's managing director.
But adding vulnerability to climate change - which affects food and water security, and less directly health and sanitation - appears to indicate "where the real flash points are", she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
In the same period, 10 countries made marked progress in their ability to cope with climate change, the annual index showed.
They are Malaysia, Albania, the Solomon Islands, Guinea, Mongolia, Rwanda, Poland, Russia, the Philippines, Georgia, Laos and Ivory Coast.
The researchers attributed their success to economic gains and development improvements such as boosting access to reliable drinking water and sanitation, strengthening agriculture, and lowering slum populations and child malnutrition.
The ND-GAIN findings imply that investments in climate change adaptation could pay dividends for a country's stability and development, and vice versa, the researchers added.
Issued ahead of a U.N. climate summit in Paris set to agree a new deal to curb climate change, the index is intended to help leaders prioritise investments to help countries adapt better, and ensure the most vulnerable are not forgotten, Coffee said.
"To save lives and improve livelihoods, we must not only prevent the avoidable, but also prepare for the unavoidable changes in climate," she added.
To adapt to those changes, developing countries say they need much more financial assistance from the international community - and will be pushing hard for that at the two-week Paris climate conference which begins on Nov. 30.
Climate adaptation includes measures such as constructing cyclone shelters, raising up homes and building embankments to protect against floods, putting in place early warning systems, and trying different crops and farming techniques.
According to a new report from development charity ActionAid, rich countries provided grants to fund adaptation in developing nations of $3 billion to $5 billion in 2013.
That is very far off the annual $50 billion they should be giving by 2020 if they stick to a pledge to mobilise $100 billion per year by then, and split it between adaptation and actions to reduce planet-warming emissions as developing nations have urged, ActionAid said.
By 2025, at least $150 billion per year will be needed to fund adaptation, the charity said. It described the figure as a conservative estimate based on U.N. figures that likely underestimate the real costs of climate impacts.
The $100 billion goal for 2020 includes not just government grants but also loans and private-sector funding, which ActionAid said should not be counted because they risk exacerbating poor countries' debt, and would fail to reach the communities that most need support.
While the adaptation funding needs may sound large, most donor countries would have to spend less than 0.1 percent of GDP in 2020 and around 0.2 percent by 2025 to meet them - amounts that pale into insignificance alongside defence spending or bank bailouts, the group said.
The report also calculates the amounts rich countries should give based on their historical greenhouse gas emissions and estimates of future adaptation needs in the developing world - what it calls their "fair share".
The United States, for example, should increase its contributions by more than 154 times, from the $0.44 billion it gave in 2013 to $67.5 billion in 2025, ActionAid said.
And climate-summit host France would need to boost climate change grants to developing nations by more than 75 times, from $0.07 billion in 2013 to $5.5 billion in 2025, it added.
"People in poor countries can't just be left alone to face a crisis they did not cause," Brandon Wu, ActionAid's climate finance expert, said in a statement.
"Adequate climate finance will be a key barometer of success for the world's leaders at the climate summit in Paris next month."
(Reporting by Megan Rowling; editing by Laurie Goering. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)