Building Trust on climate finance

Republished article by Jamil Ahad Director of intergovernmental affairs, the United Nations Environment Programme New York. Originally published in Dawn, January 25th, 2024

There is no doubt that climate change is one of humanity’s most complex challenges and needs to be urgently tackled. But is the world faltering in forging a cohesive response? The year 2023 was the hottest recorded, with the annual average global temperature climbing 1.45 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Intergovern­mental Panel on Climate Change reports indicate that world temperatures could tip over the 1.5°C threshold by 2030. Prospects of failing to realise the targets of the Paris Agreement are getting starker. Such a scenario could have irreversible catastrophic consequences.

Climate change is already exacerbating existing crises and triggering new ones. The nexus between climate change and socioeconomic issues is increasing poverty, inequality, and hunger in the Global South. The inextricable link between climate and heath is responsible for the rise of infectious diseases and aggravation of chronic health conditions. Floods and droughts displace people, deprive them of a means of living and subject them to mental stress. According to the World Bank, by 2050, climate change would have internally displaced 216 million people, mostly in Africa and Asia.

A fresh account of how climate change-related risks continue to rise each year is furnished by the World Economic Forum’s risk report for 2024, released this month under the WEF theme ‘Building Trust’. This year, like the last, the first four global risks in terms of severity are related to climate change. These are extreme weather events, critical changes to Earth’s systems, biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse, and natural resource shortage, in that order, as well as pollution, which ranks 10 on the list of 34 global risks. The report warns that connections between climate change risks and other risks “may collectively evolve into a ‘polycrisis’ centred around natural resource shortages by 2030”.

The report found that the impact of climate change could result in the loss of $12.5 trillion to the world economy and lead to an additional 14.5m deaths by 2050, mostly due to extreme weather events, including floods, heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, and tropical storms.

The inadequacy of climate finance is deepening the mistrust.

Floods, “the highest acute risk of climate-induced mortality”, are estimated to claim 8.5m lives by 2050. Droughts, the second leading cause of climate-related mortality, are estimated to cause another 3.2m deaths. In terms of economic losses, heatwaves top the list with an estimated loss of $7tr to the world economy by 2050. Being the most vulnerable and least prepared, South Asia and Africa will bear the brunt of these human and economic losses. In countries most vulnerable to climate change, floods, intense heatwaves, prolonged dry spells, and droughts are adversely impacting lives in terms of health and livelihood. Air pollution and heavy smog are making people sick and badly disrupting economic activity in Pakistan and other parts of South Asia.

While urgent climate action is needed, efforts of the international community to control global warming are dampened by geopolitical tensions, conflicts, inflation, and economic fragility, further exposing the population to the severity of extreme weather events.

Noting the lack of “deep and concerted progress on climate targets”, the WEF re­­p­ort says, “growing demands on public- and private-sector resources from other crises will reduce the speed and scale of mitigation efforts over the next two years alongside insufficient progress towards the ad­­aptation support required for those com­­munities and countries increasingly affected by the impacts of climate change”.

The inadequacy of climate finance, a major contentious point in climate negotiations, is deepening the mistrust between the developed and developing nations. Slow progress in mobilising adaptation funds is preventing concerted global climate action. Even if the already committed amounts for adaptation are realised, these will be too little too late to bridge the gap between available and required resources, which stands between $194bn and $366bn per year and is widening.

The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that developing countries’ financial needs for adaptation will soar from $215 billion to $387bn by 2030, and rise significantly by 2050. A global response to climate change will only be effective when adaptation in the Global South is prioritised besides mitigation measures in the industrialised countries. COP28 reiterated the call for doubling adaptation finance by 2025 and scaling it up even further.

For building trust, reducing risks, and controlling a further rise in global warming, it is vital to mobilise and deliver funds for adaptation to developing countries. The lives and hopes of billions of people depend on it.


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