SCMP: At COP26, participants are no longer just talking about the “race to zero” or carbon neutrality. The “race to resilience” – a UN-backed campaign to catalyse global ambition towards helping the most vulnerable communities survive and thrive amid climate stresses – has also been incorporated into the UN climate conference’s official agenda.
The “race to zero” and “race to resilience” campaigns are, of course, interconnected because adverse climate events impede our efforts to decarbonise. For instance, it is pointless to build a house with high energy efficiency that will be washed away during storm surges or major flooding.
Thus, the world surely needs to build strong adaptation capacity to ensure that our efforts to reach net zero remain resilient against climate uncertainties.
However, adaptation funding has lagged significantly for two main reasons. First, decision-makers lack climate vulnerability data, leaving them with too little information to create holistic funding allocation plans.
Second, public funding is far from sufficient. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), total climate finance mobilised by developed countries for developing countries, where the need is greatest, was US$79.6 billion in 2019. Of this, adaptation finance was only US$20.1 billion.
Delegates at COP26 should, as a first step, allocate half of all global climate finance towards adaptation. The UN Environment Programme expects the annual adaptation costs in developing countries, currently estimated to be US$70 billion, to rise to US$140-300 billion in 2030 and to US$280-500 billion in 2050.
To effectively channel climate finance towards resilience, we should clearly delineate what climate finance means. Then, developed countries and international organisations must work hard to address how adaptation outcomes can be measured.
While mitigation is based on comparing emissions to a given baseline, adaptation projects are based on highly uncertain events. To that end, the Insurance Development Forum is launching the Global Risk Modelling Alliance, as announced at COP26. The alliance will be a public-private partnership providing vulnerable country governments with an open-access risk modelling platform to strengthen their physical climate risk management capabilities.
Science-based risk modelling will improve understanding and benchmarking of infrastructure risk, facilitate the deployment of nature-based solutions and harmonise global standards. This effort will hopefully mobilise capital quickly and effectively on the global race to resilience.
Originally published on SCMP on 13 Nov 2021. Written by Lawrence Iu.