25 January 2021
UNEP’s Adaptation Gap Report Focuses on Nature-based Solutions
Photo Credit: Leighton Lum
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The UNEP’s Adaptation Gap Report finds that although three-quarters of countries have some adaptation plans in place, financing for and implementation of adaptation action are falling far short of what is required to prevent serious climate-related costs, damages, and losses.

The report places special focus on Nature-based Solutions, which, it finds, must receive significantly greater funding and attention, given the low-cost benefits they bring to climate change adaptation, society, and biodiversity.

Capping a year that was one of the three warmest on record, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) released its fifth Adaptation Gap Report, finding that although many nations have advanced in adaptation planning, developing countries face a significant gap in adaptation finance.

The importance of national-level adaptation planning processes, the report notes, is reflected in the the Paris Agreement on climate change, which commits all countries to report on progress. According to the publication, 72% of countries have adopted at least one national-level adaptation planning instrument, and most developing countries are now preparing National Adaptation Plans (NAPs). However, as in previous years, the pace at which public and private adaptation finance is increasing is being outpaced by increasing adaptation costs. The report estimates that developing countries currently face USD 70 billion in adaptation costs, a number expected to rise to USD 140 billion – 300 billion by 2030 and USD 280 billion – 500 billion by 2050.

Among “encouraging” developments, the report mentions that the Green Climate Fund (GCF) has allocated 40% of its total portfolio to adaptation and is increasingly crowding-in private sector investment. Additionally, the implementation of adaptation projects is advancing. Almost 400 adaptation projects financed by multilateral funds serving the Paris Agreement have taken place in developing countries since 2006. While earlier projects rarely exceeded USD 10 million in value, since 2017, 21 projects have been valued more than USD 25 million. The report caveats this by finding that only 3% of the 1,700 adaptation initiatives surveyed had reported a real reduction in climate risks to local communities.

The report lauds the increasing momentum to ensure a sustainable financial system with the advancement of new tools such as sustainability investment criteria, climate-related disclosure principles, and the mainstreaming of the incorporation of climate risks into investment decisions.

The Adaptation Gap Report 2020 places special focus on Nature-based Solutions (NbS), which promote protection, sustainable management, and restoration of ecosystems to reduce climate risks and ensure human well-being and biodiversity benefits. The report finds NbS lack funding proportional to the role they play in adaptation. Although support for green initiatives with some NbS component has risen over the past 20 years at the Global Environment Facility (GEF), GCF, Adaptation Fund, and International Climate Initiative (IKI), of USD 94 billion spent on climate change mitigation and adaptation, only USD 12 billion was spent on NbS.

The report concludes by noting that achieving the 2°C temperature target of the Paris Agreement could limit climate change-induced losses in annual economic growth to 1.6%, compared to 2.2% losses that would occur with 3°C warming. The report also calls for sustainability and climate to play a central role in COVID-19 pandemic recovery packages, and for updated nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to include net-zero commitments from all nations. [Publication: Adaptation Gap Report 2020] [Executive Summary] [UNEP Press Release]

By Gabriel Gordon-Harper, Thematic Expert on Climate Change and Sustainable Energy

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