The cost of climate adaptation

Unless global pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emission are increased, developing nations will have to pay $270-billion extra each year to adapt to the impacts of climate change, says a new report by Oxfam.

The report, ‘Game-changers in the Paris climate deal” was released earlier this week. Oxfam said: “There is likely to be a climate deal in Paris. The emission pledges that more than 150 governments have put on the table this year show that global climate ambition is increasing.

But much more is needed, as it’s a deal that could still lead to around 3°C of warming. New Oxfam-commissioned research estimates that compared with 2°C, developing countries could be faced with an additional $600-billion per year in economic losses by 2050, and see their adaptation finance needs raised by almost $300-billion per year by the same date.”

Oxfam noted that six years on from Copenhagen, COP21 in Paris is not being hailed as the silver bullet that will save the climate. “Expectations for Paris are much lower than they were for Copenhagen, increasing the likelihood of a deal, but raising alarm that it will fall far short of what is needed,” said Oxfam.

It added that unlike Copenhagen, countries have tabled their emissions reductions pledges before Paris, in the form of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). While Oxfam welcomed this, it also noted it was clear that these targets woulf not keep temperature rises below 2°C, much less 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels –  which more than 100 countries say is needed and is recognised as an option for the Paris agreement. “Even if all countries meet their INDC commitments, the world is likely to warm by a devastating 3°C or more, with a significant likelihood of tipping the global climate into catastrophic runaway warming,” it said.

In Copenhagen, the commitment to mobilize $100-billion per year by 2020, combined with a Fast Start Finance pledge of $30-billion, saved the summit from being a complete disaster. The Oxfam report said there had been some progress towards meeting the $100bn commitment in recent months, with Germany, France, the UK and others making new pledges up to 2020, but overall, the money had been slow in coming, and adaptation finance had consistently been neglected.

Oxfam estimates that public climate finance provided by developed countries was around $20-billion on average in 2013–2014. Of that, adaptation’s share was only around $3- 5-billion – woefully less than 50%, which Oxfam says must be a minimum.

Developing countries are also contributing significant amounts through their own domestic budgets, and in the case of Ethiopia, Tanzania and others, this amounts to more than they are receiving from international support, the report said.