Climate adaptation cost to increase up to $250-500bn annually by 2050: says UNEP’s new adaptation report

By Saleem Shaikh | Photo credit: Saleem Shaikh

LIMA, Peru: The price of adapting to changing climate in developing countries is expected to be at least two to three times more than what are the previous estimates, no matter emission of the heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere is reduced pretty enough to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius, a U.N. report said on Friday (Dec 5).

Adaptation costs, The study said, could increase up to $150 billion a year by 2025 to 2030, and $250-500 billion per year by 2050, when compared with previous estimates of $70-100 billion per year by 2050.

“As world leaders gather in Lima during two-week global climate change conference that began on Dec. 1 to take the important next step in reaching a global climate change treaty, this report highlights the significance of incorporating comprehensive adaptation plans in the agreement,” Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said in a statement.

In Peru at the global climate conference that runs through next week, many developed countries want to focus on mitigation – action to reduce emissions.

Yet, they sound afraid of including a global goal on adaptation in the new deal set to be agreed in Paris next year, as this 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 reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and temperatures  rise towards 4 degrees Celsius, adaptation costs could be double the worst-case figures by mid-century, the report warned in strong words.

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

The 49 least-developed countries and small island developing states are likely to have far greater adaptation needs than other parts of the world, the report notes.

Without early efforts to adapt 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 and they would have to continue to safeguard themselves against the vagaries of the climate chagne,” 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 increasing, 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 highlights shortfalls in the technology and knowledge needed for countries to adapt to climate impacts.

The report highlights that most technologies needed in the near term, such as water conservation and more resilient crop varieties, already exist but there are major barriers to people adopting them.

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