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News spotlight: UN report concludes climate adaptation is ‘too little, too slow’

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Editor's note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Conservation News shares a recent news story that you should know about.

Climate risks are growing, but global efforts to adapt to them are not keeping pace.

That’s the big-picture takeaway from a new United Nations report, which underscores the funding needed by developing nations to reduce their exposure to climate disasters, John Ainger reported in Bloomberg News.

The report, candidly titled “Too Little, Too Slow,” sounds the alarm ahead of U.N. climate negotiations, which began this week in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. It says ambitious, accelerated action to adapt to climate change is “paramount.” 

But who’s going to pay for that action is a point of contention.

Recently, a group of countries most vulnerable to climate change — known as the V20 —  made headlines when they said they are considering halting their debt payments to wealthier nations. They instead called for a “debt-for-nature swap” — a mechanism that allows a developing country’s foreign debt to be forgiven in exchange for commitments to invest in conservation. 

The U.N. climate negotiations are expected to focus on financing for climate adaptation, among other issues.

While wealthier, developed nations are to blame for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions, the burden of adapting to climate impacts disproportionately falls on poorer nations, where threats are growing increasingly urgent

The costs of adapting to those threats are as much as 10 times higher than what developing countries are currently receiving in finance — and the gap is widening, according to the report. U.N. estimates indicate $340 billion per year could be needed by 2030 from donor nations — and that number could reach $565 billion by 2050. 

“It is high time for unprecedented coordination among recipient governments, development partners and other financiers,” U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.

Achieving this will require multiple approaches or what the U.N. report calls “hybrid solutions” — including leveraging nature, one the most cost-effective, and often-overlooked, allies in climate adaptation. 



Nature can play an important role in helping communities adapt to climate change. Forests prevent landslides caused by thawing permafrost. Wetlands capture rainwater and store it for times of drought. Mangroves protect coastal towns and villages from storm surge.

In the Philippines, for example, Conservation International is installing sediment trapping fences and structures for attenuating wave strength, working to combat the risk to local communities of climate-based disasters like typhoons. This approach, known as “green-gray” infrastructure, works with nature, not against it.

“As climate change accelerates, nature-based activities must work in tandem with more conventional man-made infrastructure,” Jennifer Howard, vice president of Conservation International’s blue carbon program told Conservation News. “Green-gray infrastructure can help strengthen a community’s protection against extreme floods, storms and rapid sea-level rise.”

Read the full story from Bloomberg News here.

Max Marcovitch is a staff writer at Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates. Also, please consider supporting our critical work.