UNEP Report: Adapting to Climate Change Could Cost $500B Yearly by 2050

A new United Nations Environment (UNEP) report, the second in UNEP’s series of Adaptation Gap reports, assesses the difference between the financial costs of adapting to climate change in developing countries and the amount of money actually available to meet these costs—a difference known as the “adaptation finance gap”. This report finds that the cost of adapting to climate change in developing countries could rise to between $280 and $500 billion per year by 2050, a figure that is four to five times greater than estimates put forth by a 2010 World Bank study. This Adaptation Finance Gap report, which was written by authors from 15 institutions and reviewed by 31 experts, builds upon these earlier estimates by reviewing national and sector studies.

Adaptation costs are already two to three times higher than current international public funding for adaptation, states the report. While dedicated climate funds are breaking down the barriers to investing in adaptation projects in developing countries, contributions to these funds are low when compared to the contributions made to funds that mitigate climate change. One such fund aiming to correct this, the Green Climate Fund, was set up by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and has a stated goal of splitting funding equally between mitigation and adaptation efforts.

The Paris Agreement on climate change includes several key provisions designed to advance adaptation. Three are particularly momentous: the adoption of a global goal on adaptation, the commitment to increase developed country funding to developing countries and the requirement that all parties draw up and regularly update adaptation plans and strategies. The Paris Agreement also calls for a balance between adaptation and mitigation finance and support in a bid to meet longstanding demand for adaptation finance from developing countries.

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