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World isn’t spending nearly enough money to prepare the most vulnerable countries for climate extremes, UN reports

By Rachel Ramirez, CNN

(CNN) — Measures to adapt to climate change in the developing world are slowing on all fronts even as the impacts of the crisis are accelerating, creating a widening gap that leaves billions of people increasingly vulnerable to extreme heat, worsening storms and sea level rise, a UN report published Thursday shows.

The estimated costs to fully prepare low-income nations for the worst effects of a rapidly heating planet are now 10 to 18 times greater than the amount of money that is currently flowing to these regions, according to the United Nations Environment Programme’s annual “adaptation gap” report. That’s a more than 50% larger gap than UNEP had estimated in its 2022 report.

The developed world agreed more than a decade ago to transfer at least $100 billion a year to developing countries to help both with their green transitions and efforts to adapt to the climate crisis. That pledge was reaffirmed in the 2015 Paris Agreement, but the target has never been met.

Poorer nations have also complained that too little of the $100 billion is devoted to so-called adaptation — preparing for the worsening harms of the climate crisis, including deadly heat, flooding, storms, wildfires and rising oceans.

The flow of adaptation finance declined by 15% to $21 billion in 2021 – the most recent year UNEP has data for – though its authors noted the Covid pandemic may have deflated climate finance spending that year. UNEP estimates the actual need is between $194 billion and $366 billion a year, and is projected to rise dramatically by 2050 as the planet warms.

“The urgency is becoming very clear,” Andrea Hinwood, UNEP’s chief scientist, told CNN. “The advice we have is that in the next eight years, we need to be working as hard and fast as we can to do as much as we can to prepare us for the out-years, where some of the challenges we’re facing are going to be harder.”

Unless the gap between what’s needed and what’s provided is closed, the world will more rapidly reach the threshold where people can no longer adapt to their changing climate, according to the report.

The issue — as well as who should pay for the loss and damage created by the climate crisis — is expected to be a key sticking point in climate negotiations at the COP28 talks in Dubai this December.

“In the next talks, there has to be a discussion about some new goals for adaptation,” Hinwood said, “but also perhaps a renewed commitment in terms of the funding and the finance that should be flowing to adaptation in developing countries.”

Developed nations bear a greater historical responsibility for the human-induced climate crisis, but developing nations and small-island states are suffering the worst impacts.

A recent study showed that 55 of the world’s most vulnerable economies have already experienced losses and damages of more than $500 billion in the last two decades from the climate crisis.

“If we don’t fund adaptation, we then get ourselves into a situation where we can no longer adapt,” Hinwood said. “Developed countries who are still emitting greenhouse gases per capita levels that are massively more than developing countries need to show leadership here. Whatever efforts we put in place now will pay back down the track.”

The report shows that the world can still prevent the mounting economic toll climate disasters could bring. Every billion dollars invested in infrastructure to protect people from coastal flooding could save $14 billion in economic damages, according to the report. And for every $16 billion invested in agriculture each year, 78 million people could be alleviated from climate crisis related starvation or chronic hunger.

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