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IMF head says faster emissions cuts can curb 'dramatic' adaptation needs

by Laurie Goering | @lauriegoering | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 2 November 2021 19:20 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO: A woman stands in a flooded street in the aftermath of Cyclone Kenneth in Pemba, Mozambique, April 28, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

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"If we don't take charge of our own destiny in this decade, it doesn't matter how beautiful our plans for 2050 are," says Kristalina Georgieva

By Laurie Goering

GLASGOW, Nov 2 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Adapting to fast-worsening climate change impacts will require not just more cash for hardier infrastructure, crops and other systems but also far more rapid cuts to planet-heating emissions, said the head of the International Monetary Fund.

"The more you mitigate, the less dramatic the circumstances will be," Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the IMF, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview at the COP26 U.N. climate summit.

Surging losses of land and income will drive growing migration, she warned, with "people trying to get to places where they can have more security".

"Climate refugees are already part of the flow of people moving outside of Africa - and the numbers are going up," she said.

But so far, global pledges to reduce emissions add up to between a third and two-thirds of what is needed to stay below 2 degrees Celsius of warming, the less-ambitious aim of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, she said.

That is translating into swiftly rising costs to adapt to extreme weather and higher seas, with the U.N. Environment Programme estimating $140 billion-$300 billion will be needed annually by 2030 for developing nations to cope with impacts.

At least $30 billion-$50 billion of that is needed just for sub-Saharan Africa, according to IMF estimates, Georgieva said.


Sea level rise and worsening floods are already costing $3.8 billion a year in West Africa, with total losses across the continent running at about $7-8 billion a year, said Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank Group.

That includes $2 billion in damage in southern Africa from cyclones in recent years, as well as losses of a million hectares of crops to locusts and other damage from floods in East Africa and more land becoming desert in the Sahel, he said.

President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the current head of the African Union, said finding funding to help Africa cope with the rising harm was crucial.

"The fight against climate change cannot be won unless it is won in Africa," he told a Tuesday event on accelerating African adaptation at COP26.

The British government announced at the event it would allocate climate finance to unlock up to $1.2 billion for adaptation in Africa, adding there would "be more to come".

Shifting course would require global financial changes to drive emissions cuts, Georgieva said - from ending an annual $600 billion in direct fossil fuel subsidies to more countries putting a price on carbon to ensure the costs of climate damage are factored into products.

Huge amounts more private investment are also required to boost clean energy, strengthen climate resilience and other needed changes, she said.

Last year, climate-related investment rose by 50% globally - but still amounted to only a quarter of 1% of a total $49 trillion in investment funds, she said.

Adopting better standards for reporting on climate-related financial stability risks will be key, something the IMF is working on with other bodies including the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, she said.

She urged all countries to act as fast as possible to tackle climate threats and speed up efforts to reduce emissions.

"Rich countries have to do more, emerging markets have to do more, poor countries have to be helped to do more," she said.

"If we don't take charge of our own destiny in this decade, it doesn't matter how beautiful our plans for 2050 are – they will not materialise," she added.

(Reporting by Laurie Goering @lauriegoering ; editing by Megan Rowling. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate)

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