Half of climate finance should go towards adaptation, UN secretary general says

UN secretary general Antonio Guterres has called for a breakthrough in climate adaptation.

Donor countries and multilateral banks should allocate half of their climate finance to adaptation and resilience in developing countries, UN secretary general Antonio Guterres told world leaders on Monday at the Climate Adaptation Summit hosted by the Netherlands.

“We are already witnessing unprecedented climate extremes and volatility, affecting lives and livelihoods on all continents,” Guterres said in a video message.

Over the past 50 years, there have been more than 11,000 disasters caused by weather, climate and water-related hazard claiming over two million lives and resulting in some $3.6 trillion in losses, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Guterres urged them to commit to this goal by the UN climate change summit, Cop26, due to be held in Glasgow in November, and to deliver on it by 2024.

“Adaptation cannot be the neglected half of the climate equation,” he said.

As of now, a mere 20 per cent of financial flows related to climate change goes to adaptation measures such as early warning systems and infrastructure.

A report by the UN Environment Program released earlier this month warned that countries, particularly developing ones, were lagging far off behind in protecting themselves against climate risks such as floods, hurricanes and droughts.

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Guterres reminded developed countries of their commitment made in Paris to mobilise $100bn dollars a year in climate finance to help poorer countries to tackle and adapt to climate change.  These are the most affected yet have the least access to climate finance, with least developed countries and small island developing states representing only 14 per cent and two per cent of global flows, he warned.

Some of the support measures he highlighted include debt relief and dept-for-adaptation swap. “Support for adaptation and resilience is a moral, economic and social imperative,” he added.

Guterres also stressed the need to scale-up early warning systems, and risk-informed early approaches. Even 24 hours warning of a coming storm or heatwave can help in preventing 30 per cent of losses, according to the Global Commission on Adaptation, he said, adding that one in three people is not well covered by early warning systems.

The virtual summit, taking place until 26 January, will convene private actors, international organisations, and heads of state including those of Germany, France, the UK, India, South Korea, Argentina and Costa Rica. Other prominent figures such as new US climate envoy John Kerry, former UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, Pope Francis and business magnate Bill Gates will also be speaking at the meeting.