Climate adaptation costs soaring, funding to fall short - UN

by Megan Rowling | @meganrowling | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 5 December 2014 19:03 GMT

A worker of SABESP, a Brazilian enterprise of Sao Paulo state, that provides water and sewage services to residential, commercial and industrial areas looks at the cracked ground of Jaguary dam in Braganca Paulista, 100 km from Sao Paulo January 31, 2014. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

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Climate adaptation in developing countries is likely to cost two to three times more than previous estimates

By Megan Rowling

LIMA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The cost of adapting to climate change in developing nations is likely to be at least two to three times higher than previous estimates, even if planet-warming emissions are cut enough to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius, a U.N. report said on Friday.

The study said there was a chance that adaptation costs could climb as high as $150 billion a year by 2025 to 2030, and $250-500 billion per year by 2050, compared with earlier estimates of $70-100 billion yearly by 2050.

"As world leaders meet in Lima to take the critical next step in realising a global agreement on climate change, this report underlines the importance of including comprehensive adaptation plans in the agreement," Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said in a statement.

At the climate negotiations in Peru that run through next week, many developed countries want to focus on mitigation - action to reduce emissions.

They fear that including a global goal on adaptation in the new deal due to be agreed in Paris in a year's time will lead to demands for firm targets for more adaptation funding.

But developing nations insist adaptation should be put on an equal footing.

"Climate change negotiations have been focused so far on mitigation, but it is very important to take into consideration the adaptation factors because everybody - regardless of the level of development - is being hit by climate change," said Ibrahim Thiaw, UNEP's deputy executive director.

If no new efforts are made to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and temperatures head towards 4 degrees Celsius, adaptation costs could be double the worst-case figures by mid-century, the report warned.

Ambitious and immediate action to reduce emissions "is the best insurance against an insurmountable future adaptation gap", Steiner wrote in a foreword.

ACT NOW TO NARROW GAP

The 48 least-developed countries and small island developing states are likely to have far greater adaptation needs than other parts of the world, the report said.

Without early efforts to adjust to more extreme weather and rising seas in these countries, the gap between what is happening and what needs to happen to protect people, assets and ecosystems will widen, it warned.

"Poor people unfortunately are getting shafted as we speak ... and they will have to continue to fend for themselves," said Saleemul Huq, director of the Dhaka-based International Centre for Climate Change and Development. "The world is not coming to their rescue."

Funding for adaptation from public sources is rising, reaching $23-26 billion in 2012-2013 but there will be a significant gap after 2020 unless new and additional finance is made available, the report said.

It also identified shortfalls in the technology and knowledge needed for countries to adapt to climate impacts.

Most technologies required in the near term, such as water conservation and more resilient crop varieties, already exist but there are major barriers to people adopting them, the report said.

Knowledge on climate change and adaptation also needs to be used more effectively, and packaged in a way that makes it more accessible to decision makers, UNEP said. (Reporting by Megan Rowling; editing by Laurie Goering)

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