Investing in climate adaptation 'can deliver $7.1 trillion in benefits'

By agency reporter
September 15, 2019

At a time when the impacts of the climate crisis, such as super-charged hurricanes, floods, and wildfires, are becoming increasingly clear, leaders from the Global Commission on Adaptation are calling on governments and businesses to take urgent action to innovate and advance climate adaptation solutions in light of new research findings.

The report, Adapt Now: A Gobal Call for Leadership on Climate Resilience, puts forward a bold vision for how to transform key economics systems, making them more resilient and productive. The Commission finds that climate adaptation can produce significant economic returns: the overall rate of return on investments in improved resilience is high, with benefit-cost ratios ranging from 2:1 to 10:1, and in some cases even higher.

The analysis specifically finds that investing $1.8 trillion globally in five areas from 2020 to 2030 could generate $7.1 trillion in total net benefits. The five areas of climate adaptation the report considers are: early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure, improved dryland agriculture, mangrove protection, and investments in making water resources more resilient. These represent just a portion of the total investments needed and total benefits available.

Recent events have shown that climate change affects people everywhere. Furthermore, without action, millions of people will be pushed further into poverty, leading to increased conflict and instability.

“Climate change doesn’t respect borders: it’s an international problem that can only be solved with co-operation and collaboration, across borders and worldwide. It is becoming increasingly clear that in many parts of the world, our climate has already changed and we need to adapt with it”, said Ban Ki-moon, eighth Secretary General of the United Nations and Chair of the Global Commission on Adaptation.

“Mitigation and adaptation go hand-in-hand as two equally important building blocks of the Paris Climate Change Agreement,” he added. “Adaptation is not only the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do to boost economic growth and create a climate resilient world.”

The report says that climate adaptation can deliver a “triple dividend”— it avoids future losses, generates positive economic gains through innovation, and delivers additional social and environmental benefits. The report further calls for adaptation that addresses underlying inequalities in society and brings more people, especially those most vulnerable to climate impacts, into decision-making on adaptation. The reality is that the people and communities most affected by climate change did the least to cause the problem, making adaptation imperative.

“Climate adaptation is critical. Without it, we will not find peace on our planet”, said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and a Commissioner of the Global Commission on Adaptation.

“The findings call for scaled-up investment in nature-based solutions for climate adaptation. We need to accelerate action and increase political support for building climate resilience because  when we invest in nature, it protects us.”

The Commission’s report highlights the many economic, social and environmental benefits of climate adaptation. For example:

  • Restoring mangrove forests in places like Thailand, India and the Philippines protects coastal communities from deadly storm surges while providing critical habitats to local fisheries and boosting prosperity.
  • The Netherlands 'Room for the River' strategy moved dikes inland, widened rivers and created water-absorbing plazas. These projects manage and slow floodwaters, while providing innovative public use spaces and revitalising neighbourhoods.
  • In Zimbabwe, farmers using drought-tolerant maize were able to harvest up to 600 kilograms more maize per hectare than with conventional maize. The additional harvest was enough to feed a family of six for nine months and provided US $240 in extra income, helping them send their children to school and meet other household needs.
  • Reducing flood risks in urban areas lowers financial costs, increases security, and makes investments more viable that would otherwise be too vulnerable to climate risks. London’s Canary Wharf and other developments in East London would have been impossible without flood protection from the Thames Barrier.

In order to ensure that climate impacts, risks and solutions are factoring into decision making at all levels, the report calls for revolutions in three areas: understanding, planning and finance. It also explores how these major system changes can be applied across seven interlocking systems: food, the natural environment, water, cities, infrastructure, disaster risk management, and finance.

At the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit in September, the Commission will make several announcements and unveil additional 'Action Tracks', outlined in the report, covering areas from food security to resilience, disaster risk management, and finance.

On 24 September, at an event hosted by the Dutch Government at UN Headquarters, the Commission will also announce the start of the “

'Year of Action', which aims to build on the report’s recommendations to mobilise action on climate change ahead of  the Climate Adaptation Summit in October 2020 in the Netherlands.

* Read Adapt Now: A Gobal Call for Leadership on Climate Resilience here

* UN Environment Programme


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