Climate Change Is Happening. We’ve Got to Pay More to Adapt.
World leaders and financiers are signing up to net-zero pledges. But there’s still an urgent need to help the most vulnerable cope with global warming.
Global warming is here and the world is not ready.
The need to adapt to a transforming climate used to be seen as a distraction from the more urgent goal of preventing change. Today, it’s clear adaptation can no longer wait. Floods, droughts, severe hurricanes and a heat dome in the Pacific Northwest this year alone have been a reminder that reality is already expensive and unpredictable, and getting more so. Both mitigation and preparation require attention to avoid increased hunger, insecurity and mass migration.
A United Nations report released last week during the Glasgow climate talks said adaptation costs in developing countries were now five to 10 times greater than the current amount of public finance being invested. The gap is widening as costs rise, and could hit as much as $500 billion a year by 2050 for those same emerging economies, facing the greatest burden relative to their resources. It’s climate justice at its most basic.
So why are we not investing more to help the whole world to cope?
Accord to the Heinrich Böll Foundation, out of $3.4 billion in spending approved last year by major multilateral climate funds and spent across 151 countries, $1.6 billion went to mitigation projects and just under $900 million spent on projects that tackled both mitigation and adaptation. Less than $600 million was approved for adaptation projects alone. Or consider the funds promised by the rich world to developing nations: Not only is the figure falling short of the $100 billion-a-year target, but only a quarter went specifically towards adaptation. Too much of that, meanwhile, is still provided as loans, which indebted countries can ill-afford. Preparation makes up an even smaller percentage of overall global climate finance.
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