By Whitney Akinyi

As the world braces itself for the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) talks in Dubai, a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) warns that the gap in financing climate adaptation is far larger than previously estimated.

Titled “Adaptation Gap Report 2023: Underfinanced. Underprepared,” the report sheds light on the pressing need for enhanced climate adaptation efforts amid accelerating climate change impacts and risks.

The Adaptation Gap Report reveals that the adaptation finance needs of developing countries now surpass international public finance flows by a staggering 10-18 times. This discrepancy is over 50% higher than previous estimates.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres emphasizes the urgency of the situation, calling it an “adaptation emergency.” Lives, livelihoods, and ecosystems are under threat, with the most vulnerable communities bearing the brunt of climate extremes.

The report estimates the current adaptation finance gap to be between $194 billion and $366 billion per year. Failure to bridge this gap has significant implications for losses and damages, especially for those least equipped to cope with the consequences.

Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, highlights the intensifying climate impacts, including record-breaking temperatures, devastating storms, floods, heat waves, and wildfires. These disruptions underline the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and intensify adaptation efforts.

Despite a global push, adaptation finance flows to developing countries declined by 15% in 2021, reaching only $21 billion. This decline is concerning, given pledges made at COP26 to provide approximately $40 billion per year in adaptation finance support by 2025.

The report emphasizes the importance of innovative approaches to finance adaptation. Investing in climate resilience can prevent losses and damages, with every billion dollars invested against coastal flooding leading to a $14 billion reduction in economic damages. Similarly, investing $16 billion annually in agriculture could prevent millions from suffering due to climate impacts.

The report identifies seven key strategies to increase financing for climate adaptation, including leveraging domestic expenditure, tapping into international and private sector finance, remittances, support for small and medium enterprises, implementing the Paris Agreement’s Article 2.1(c), and reforming the global financial architecture.

The creation of a new loss and damage fund is a crucial instrument to mobilize resources. However, more innovative financing mechanisms are required to achieve the necessary scale of investment.

In the face of the climate crisis, the Adaptation Gap Report 2023 underscores the dire need for immediate, comprehensive, and innovative action. The financial divide between the need for adaptation and the available resources is widening, and the consequences are already being felt across the globe. As we approach COP28, the report serves as a stark reminder that the time to act is now, and the world must commit fully to protecting vulnerable communities and the planet from the escalating impacts of climate change.