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It’s adaptation (financing), stupid!

Hurrican aftermath, USA

At the beginning of the conference, Oxfam published a report outlining the profound impacts of extreme weather events such as flooding and cyclones: more than 20 million people are displaced each year by such events. Meanwhile, Zambia and Zimbabwe are currently facing the worst drought in a century, with tremendous impacts on the Victoria Falls.

Whereas the international negotiations are bogged down with discussions on how to communicate adaptation activities, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has published a report that outlines in the costs of doing nothing: the bill for climate-linked disasters alone could reach $20 billion every year by 2050. At the same time, the Global Commission on Adaptation found that there are tremendous co-benefits to adaptation activities: e.g. supporting early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure, improved dryland agriculture, mangrove protection, and investments in resilient water resource management. Adaptation activities could generate USD 7.1 trillion in total net benefits – but an initial investment of USD 1.8 trillion is needed.

It remains enormously challenging to effectively steer financial resources to the local level, where they are most needed. This is particularly alarming because vulnerabilities to the effects of climate change are highly localised, and the greatest impacts will be seen on the local level. Nevertheless, despite their needs, local entities often lack the financial resources to plan and implement adequate adaptation measures. In a recent analysis, adelphi shed some light on promising elements of so-called elevator functions – these are specific strategies or operating principles within programmes that aim to channel funding effectively through vertical administrative levels from the international to the local level, where the money can have maximum impact. The report also found widespread agreement that the bottom-up approach to adaptation needs to involve businesses and stakeholders on the ground in emerging and developing countries. This is essential for driving climate adaptation finance as local companies and communities are directly affected by climate change. Here, innovative bottom-up adaptation financing approaches are necessary – e.g. the approach taken for Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in the context of the SEED initiative.

These are only two of the many possible entry points for informing adaptation governance as well as international negotiations in Madrid and beyond, and to ensure appropriate responses to the ongoing climate emergency.