At least half of climate finance must be spent on helping countries adapt to climate change, says UN secretary-general

Environment

An iceberg is seen at the shore of a graveyard in Nuuk, Greenland, September 13, 2021.
Hannibal Hanschke | REUTERS

To mitigate the effects of climate change, the world will have to spend at least 50% of total climate finance on adaptation, such as shoring up land at risk from rising sea level and relocating people whose homes cannot be saved, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday.

The problem is particularly acute in developing countries.

“Developing countries received only $16.8 billion in 2018 — compared to adaptation costs of some $70 billion,” Guterres said.

“We must commit at least 50% of climate finance to adaptation.”

The annual costs of climate adaptation in developing countries are expected to grow to as much as $300 billion by 2030, he said.

Guterres, who was addressing the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, also said the Earth is on a disastrous course because countries are not doing nearly enough to cut carbon emissions.

“The world is on a catastrophic pathway to 2.7 degrees of heating,” Guterres said. “We need a 45% cut in emissions by 2030 to reach carbon neutrality by mid-century.”

The latest Nationally Determined Contributions report, slated for publication on Friday ahead of the COP 26 conference in November, contains information about what countries must do to reach the goals set out in the 2015 climate agreement signed in Paris. According to that report, emissions are still increasing, Guterres said.

“Today’s data implies an increase of 16% in emissions in 2030 compared to 2010 levels,” he said.

Guterres called out coal production.

“If all planned coal power plants become operational, we will not only be clearly above 1.5 degrees — we will be well above 2 degrees. The Paris targets would go up in smoke,” Guterres said. “We need coalitions of solidarity — between countries that still depend heavily on coal, and countries that have the financial and technical resources to support transitions.” 

He also warned of a “high risk of failure of COP26,” referring to the international meeting from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12 in Glasgow, Scotland.

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