Nations rich and poor must invest now to protect against destructive climate change impacts already in the pipeline or pay an even heavier price later, a global commission led by former UN head Ban Ki-moon warned Tuesday.
Spending $1.8 trillion across five key areas over the next decade would not only help buffer the worst impacts of global warming but could generate more than $7 trillion in net benefits, the report from the Global Commission on Adaptation argued.
“Global actions to slow climate change are promising but insufficient,” the report concluded. “We must invest in a massive effort to adapt to conditions that are now inevitable.”
Investing now in early warning systems, climate-resistant infrastructure, mangrove protection, better agriculture and improving fresh water resources would pay for itself several times over, it said.
Mangroves — tropical tidal water forests — protect, for example, against storm surges and act as nurseries for commercial fisheries, but at least a third of them globally have been uprooted for tourism or aquaculture.
Without action by 2030, Ban told journalists, “climate change could push more than 100 million people in developing countries below the poverty line”.
“People everywhere are experiencing the devastating impacts of climate change,” said Microsoft founder Bill Gates, co-chair of the report along with World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva. In the 25-year history of UN climate negotiations, adaptation has trailed far down the agenda compared with “mitigation”, or the reduction of carbon emissions.
It was long seen as an issue only affecting poor and developing nations.
But recent massive inland flooding and a string of record-breaking hurricanes in the United States, along with ferocious heatwaves in Europe and Japan, have shown that wealth is not an adequate shield.
“This is not just in the developing world but the developed world too,” said Dominic Molloy, a co-author of the report from Britain’s Department for International Development.
But a new focus on adapting should not detract from the need to slash carbon pollution, he added.
“We absolutely need to do both, reduce emissions and adapt,” Molloy told AFP. “The purpose of this commission was to raise the visibility of adaptation, not shift away from mitigation.”