By Vatican News staff reporter
Some progress has been made, but more is needed to protect economies and societies from the increasing impact of climate change.
That’s the warning contained in the fifth edition of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Adaptation Gap Report, which was released on Thursday.
UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen stressed that in 2020 floods, droughts and storms had wrought havoc on the lives of 50 million people; while wildfires devastated forests and communities amid a global pandemic.
"The only way to minimise these costs and damages is to race to adapt," she said. "While we may be gathering pace, we are still losing this vital race."
UN agencies have stressed that adaptation is required, together with an increased effort to reduce climate-heating emissions.
According to the report, adaptation includes a number of key actions in order to keep people, buildings, and the environment safe from climate extremes.
These range from early warning of storms and heatwaves, to planting drought-resilient crops.
The report highlighted what are known as "nature-based solutions," which conserve and restore ecosystems, such as forests and coastal reefs.
These are seen to be economical ways of helping countries adapt to climate change while bringing economic benefits to communities.
Costs in developing countries
The findings showed that annual adaptation costs in developing countries are estimated at $70 billion, but the figure could reach up to $300 billion in 2030, and $500 billion in 2050.
The report added that almost three-quarters of nations have some adaptation plans in place, but financing and implementation fall “far short” of what is needed.
Stepping up public and private finance for adaptation is, therefore, urgently needed, the report stressed.
Impact of pandemic
The UNEP Executive Director urged governments, as they prepare initiatives to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, to spend stimulus cash prudently in order to make infrastructure and people more resilient in the face of hastening climate change.
As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to spread around the world, the UNEP report warned, the global outbreak had pushed adaptation to climate change down the political agenda.
It noted that in the long-term, the economic downturn would put more pressure on government finances and could weaken resolve on climate action.
Referring to a recent call by the U.N. secretary-general, Ms Andersen underlined the need for “a global commitment to put half of all global climate finance towards adaptation in the next year … This will allow a huge step up in adaptation, in everything from early warning systems to resilient water resources to nature-based solutions,” she said.