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Adapt or die, Global Commission warns

Publish date: 17 September 2019
Issue Number: 623
Diary: Legalbrief Environmental
Category: Climate Change

Investing $1.8trn over the next decade – in measures to adapt to climate change – could produce net benefits worth more than $7trn. A BBC News report notes that this is according to a global cost-benefit analysis setting out five adaptation strategies. The analysis was carried out by the Global Commission on Adaptation – a group of 34 leaders in politics, business and science. They say the world urgently needs to be made more ‘climate change resilient’. The commission, led by former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, World Bank CE Kristalina Georgieva and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, argues that it is an urgent moral obligation of richer countries to invest in adaptation measures that will benefit the world. The report says those most affected by climate change ‘did least to cause the problem – making adaptation a human imperative’. Its primary aim is to put climate change adaptation on to the political agenda around the world. And to do this, it sets out ‘concrete solutions’ and an economic plan. These investments, the commission says, would contribute to what they call a ‘triple dividend’ – avoiding future losses, generating positive economic gains through innovation, and delivering social and environmental benefits. Commenting on the report's findings, Ban said climate change ‘doesn't respect borders’.

Full BBC News report

‘Delay and pay, or plan and prosper,’ Ban is quoted by a report on the Mail & Guardian Online site as saying. He was sharing a catchphrase from the commission. Investing now in early warning systems, climate-resistant infrastructure, mangrove protection, better agriculture and improving fresh water resources would pay for itself several times over, the report said. Without action by 2030, climate change could push more than 100m people in developing countries below the poverty line, said the report. At the launch, Chinese Environment Minister Li Ganjie – whose country is the world’s top carbon polluter – called adaptation practices ‘an inherent requirement of China’s sustainable development’. Dominic Molloy, a co-author of the report and a researcher at the Global Centre for Adaptation, said the new focus should not detract from the need to slash carbon pollution. ‘We absolutely need to do both, reduce emissions and adapt,’ Molloy said. ‘The purpose of this commission was to raise the visibility of adaptation, not shift away from mitigation.’ Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change noted that the two are inextricably linked. ‘A failure to reduce emissions will mean mounting costs of adaptation,’ he warned.

Full report on the Mail & Guardian Online site

Ban cited Bangladesh’s response to two devastating cyclones as a good example of the way countries can adapt to environmental threats. A Cape Times report notes that following the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in 1970 and 1991, Bangladesh reinforced flood defences, built shelters and trained volunteers, sharply cutting the death toll in storms. He also pointed to the recent environmental devastation in the Bahamas as more proof of the importance of preparing for climate change. ‘Just one cyclone devastated the country,’ Ban said. ‘Of course there’s a very good way of weather forecasting but when these countries are well-prepared in infrastructures and provide some shelters, then we could have reduced as much as possible the damages that we have seen now’. The commission said protection measures had allowed valuable land to be used in places such as the Netherlands and London that would otherwise have risked flooding. While rich countries already had the means to invest in such measures, poor nations risk losing out, the group said. ‘If we don’t act now, climate change will supercharge the global gap between the haves and have-nots,’ said Ban. Christiana Figueres, a former UN official who helped forge the 2015 Paris accord, said talk on adaptation had for years been neglected, compared with efforts to mitigate, or lessen, climate change.

Full Cape Times report (subscription needed)

‘Governments and businesses need to radically rethink how they make decisions,’ Ban said at a press conference. ‘We need a revolution in understanding, planning and financing that makes climate risk visible,’ an Engineering News report quotes him as saying. Critical to the 15-month window between now and next year’s UN talks is what the report calls a ‘year of action’. It plans to set up pilot adaptation projects to demonstrate how ‘de-risking’ infrastructure plans will both help avert losses and contribute to revenue generation, said Shemara Wikramanayake, a commission member and managing director and CEO of Australian financial services giant Macquarie Group. ‘Investment is required in adaptation, given that climate change is on us,’ Wikramanayake said. Ginning up projects and financing with official institutions is a crucial goal over the next year, she said, adding that ‘then we can catalyse greater private investment’. The new report is meant to bring urgency to incorporating climate risk into virtually everything governments and companies do. The commission called for a sweeping readjustment of the global economy. ‘Financial resources for adaptation investments will have to come in a co-ordinated manner from across the entire financial system,’ they write. Over the next 15 months, the commissioners will seek funding for ‘action tracks’ they said are necessary to prepare people for a Climate Adaptation Summit in the Netherlands in October 2020 and the subsequent UN negotiations.

Full Engineering News report