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UNEP seeks climate adaptation, nature-based solutions funding boost

18 January 2021 Keiron Greenhalgh

A substantial ramping up of climate adaptation funding and planning, especially for nature-based solutions (NBS), is needed to slow climate change as costs rise, according to the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), particularly as adaptation's impact declines compared with mitigation the warmer the globe becomes.

The UNEP Adaptation Gap Report 2020, the multilateral agency's fifth such report, found that while planning by countries has advanced, gaps remain in the financing for developing countries and bringing adaptation projects to the stage where they offer "real protection" against climate impacts such as droughts, floods, and rising sea levels.

UNEP defines climate adaptation as "the process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects. In human systems, adaptation seeks to moderate or avoid harm or exploit beneficial opportunities. In some natural systems, human intervention may facilitate adjustment to expected climate and its effects."

But as climate change accelerates "adaptation costs are increasing at a higher rate than adaptation-oriented financial flows. This suggests that the adaptation finance gap seems to be widening, despite the increasing levels of funding to support adaptation planning and implementation," it said.

Annual adaptation costs in developing countries are estimated at US$70 billion. This figure is expected to reach $140-$300 billion in 2030 and $280-$500 billion in 2050, it said.

The UNEP provides funding for such projects, but the private sector needs to be encouraged to ramp up its efforts, Patrick Verkooijen, Global Centre on Adaptation CEO, said during a briefing coinciding with the report's launch.

One example of UNEP support saw the Gambian government develop a project to combat the increasing risk of forest fires. The project involved restoring degraded forests and farmland, establishing ecologically sustainable businesses to stimulate investments in environmental services, and integrating adaptation measures into sectoral policies that encourage/support the maintenance of healthy ecosystems that enhance resilience to climate impacts.

Companies are increasingly including NBS into their planning including French energy companies Total and EDF, whom are members of the act4nature coalition.

NBS such as watershed restoration, agroforestry, rehabilitation of rangelands and coastal marsh management need to play a stronger role in planning, especially in nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and national adaptation plans (NAPs), UNEP said, adding that the NBS finance base needs to be amplified, strengthened, and diversified by deploying innovative mechanisms that combine different funding sources. Successful implementation of NBS requires effective governance and institutions to manage public goods, frequently related to secure land tenure and access rights, it said.

Impact of the pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has diverted government and agency attention away from climate change in the past 12 months, but stimulus packages offer an opportunity to regain momentum, according to officials.

There is no vaccine for climate change, said Inger Andersen, UNEP executive director, but "nations must prioritize a green post-pandemic recovery."

"Let's be sure we put the [stimulus] money to work in climate adaptation areas … [we're] seeing it in places, but not enough … let's not miss this opportunity," she added during the 14 January briefing.

However, so far, "dirty initiatives" have outnumbered green initiatives by a factor of four to one in post-pandemic responses, said Verkooijen, and all interested parties "need to make up for lost ground" caused by the pandemic. The trillions of dollars set to be spent on recovery are a "once in a lifetime opportunity" to use climate adaptation measures, he said.

NDCs may no longer be viable due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Henry Neufeldt, head of impact assessment and adaptation, UNEP DTU Partnership, said during the briefing. Adaptation has fallen down the political agenda due to the pandemic, he said. The pandemic will affect adaptation planning, finance and implementation, he added. The UNEP DTU Partnership provides advisory services to developing countries seeking to deliver on the Paris Climate Agreement. It is located at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU).

NBS for adaptation can cost less than hard engineered approaches- such as coal-fired power plant closures or carbon capture and sequestration projects-for addressing climate hazards and generate substantial economic benefits, according to the UN agency. When well-designed and implemented, they have the potential to generate larger returns in a broad economic sense because of the multiple societal benefits they deliver in addition to reducing climate risk, it said.

NBS play a vital role in creating multiple co-benefits for disaster risk reduction, gender equality and sustainable livelihoods, as well as for building climate resilience, according to the report, adding that NBS support ecosystem services and complement decarbonization.

Posted 18 January 2021 by Keiron Greenhalgh, Editor, Energy and Natural Resources Group, IHS Markit

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