Unep warns of climate change funding crisis

Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, Ibrahim Thiaw participates in a press conference during the on-going UN COP20 and CMP10 conference in Lima, on December 5, 2014, on a study by UNEP warning about the costs of adaptation to climate change in developing countries. PHOTO | CRIS BOURONCLE |

What you need to know:

  • Bigger budget on the way should countries fail to take steps to address global warming
  • Steiner said the new report “underlines the importance of including comprehensive adaptation plans in the agreement.”

LIMA, Saturday

Developing countries may need up to $500 billion per year by 2050 to adapt to the ravages of climate change, dwarfing previous estimates, a UN report said Friday.

The figure was about 20 times today’s public spending on climate adaptation, according to the United Nations Environmental Programme (Unep) that warned of a “significant funding gap after 2020.”

And the number could be further inflated if countries fail to meet the UN target of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

“The impacts of climate change are already beginning to be factored into the budgets of national and local authorities,” Unep executive director Achim Steiner said in a statement.

“The escalating cost implications on communities, cities, business, taxpayers and national budgets merit closer attention as they translate into real economic consequences,” he added.

In 2012-13, the amount of global public finance committed to adaptation was about $23-26 billion, of which 90 per cent went to developing countries.

Adaptation support is a key sticking point at UN negotiations under way in Lima to hammer out the broad outlines of a new world pact to curb global warming. Poor countries most vulnerable to climate-change-induced impacts — extreme weather events, floods, droughts and sea-level rise — are demanding that a rich nation commitment to adaptation and finance help be written into the pact.


But many developed countries insist the deal, due to be signed in Paris in December 2015 to enter into force by 2020, should focus on mitigation — meaning efforts to curb planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

Steiner said the new report “underlines the importance of including comprehensive adaptation plans in the agreement.”

The UN’s top climate science body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has projected adaptation costs in developing countries to reach $70-100 billion per year by 2050, based largely on World Bank figures from 2010.

But the new Unep report said this was likely a “significant underestimate”, even if warming can be limited to two degrees Celsius this century — which many scientists say is unlikely.

Data gathered by research institutions, based on a wider and more detailed database, found that “at a minimum, the costs of adaptation are likely two to three times higher,” it said.

And on some calculations, based on national-level rather than global-level studies, “adaptation costs could climb as high as $150 billion by 2025/2030 and $250-500 billion per year by 2050” — and double that if the global average temperature rise is allowed to approach 4 C.