Now is the time to accelerate adaptation

While the world races to cut emissions as quickly as possible, it is clear we will only absorb and rebound from climate risks if we accelerate adaptation actions. The Adaptation and Resilience Breakthroughs, collectively developed with Non-State Actors and announced today, present an adaptation solutions agenda with clear and coordinated actionable targets towards making 4 billion vulnerable people more resilient by 2030. By High-Level Climate Action Champions for COP26 and COP27, Nigel Topping & Mahmoud Mohieldin | September 21, 2022

The urgency and the complexity of the climate crisis – and the increasing challenges facing the world, from inequity to biodiversity loss – demand actions of unprecedented depth and scale; a holistic approach that considers the full spectrum of the SDGs and places us on a climate-resilient development pathway.

From deforestation-free supply chains and electric vehicles, to green steel and green hydrogen, we are seeing many ambitious actions by State and Non-State Actors (NSA) alike to reach net zero by 2050. But even as we strive to meet the goals for the Paris Agreement – a 1.5C world will still not protect us from climatic changes already in motion.  And prudent risk management demands that our actions today are leaving us better prepared for the possibility of higher levels of climate change.

Adaptation action and resilience must accelerate, building at pace and at scale now, if we are to prepare for the future impacts we know are coming. We must forge deeper alignment, collaboration and a common vision for a resilient world in which people  don’t just survive climate shocks and stresses but thrive in spite of them. 

Time is not on our side. Millions of people are already experiencing the economic, social and ecosystem fallout of climate breakdown, with a disproportionate impact for societies’ most vulnerable. In 2021 alone, extreme weather driven by climate change caused over US$170 billion in damages. 

It has been estimated that an increase of at least 590% in annual climate finance is required to meet all internationally agreed climate objectives by 2030 and to avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change. 

To achieve that, adaptation finance – particularly from the private sector – must rapidly scale, with flows to the most vulnerable people. UNEP estimates that the annual adaptation costs in developing countries to be $115-330 billion by 2030. Of the $29.5 bn annual climate finance committed to Africa in 2019 and 2020, only 39% – $11.4bn – was targeted at adaptation activities. From this, a mere 3% came from the private sector.

Accelerated adaptation and resilience will allow people, nature and infrastructure to withstand the impacts to come. NSAs – communities, cities, companies are already responding by undertaking actions that have delivered social, economic and environmental benefits and avoided maladaptation. 

However, it is often unclear what these dispersed actions are achieving at the system level and where and how adaptation finance is most needed. A set of milestones are therefore needed to help give direction to these transformative solutions for tangible and attainable outcomes by 2030 for adaptation of both natural and human systems. 

This rationale has already proved successful; 2030 Sector Breakthroughs were developed in 2021 by the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions to accelerate system transformation for decarbonization.

Today, the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions and NSA members of the Marrakesh Partnership introduce the Adaptation and Resilience Breakthroughs designed as an agenda of solutions to accelerate adaptation action and ensure resilience is increased in food and agriculture, oceans, water, human settlements and infrastructure systems by 2030.  The Breakthroughs focus on delivering impacts and aligning the work of NSA by articulating what key actors must do, and by when, to deliver the system change needed. 

The Breakthroughs were identified jointly with NSAs, reflecting existing and new global science-based initiatives along with local knowledge. At the core is the recognition that adaptation is often locally-driven, but globally relevant, and the actions address equity, diversity and justice. The Breakthroughs will be used as a key tool to strengthen and align the increasing NSA adaptation action to maximise impact that benefit people and nature. This agenda will accelerate the Race to Resilience’s global goal of making 4 billion vulnerable people more resilient by 2030.

To achieve this step change we will help coordinate action between different players across economic, natural and social systems. Through radical collaboration, the UN Climate Champions and the community of NSAs will showcase and work together on the highest impact initiatives and projects currently in operation. We will identify bottlenecks and priority areas that require more impactful projects and help channel additional finance into initiatives that will form the basis for achieving the Breakthroughs. 

The following are a set of clear, actionable and ambitious Adaptation and Resilience Breakthroughs with 2030 Outcome Targets reflecting the leadership of the Marrakesh Partnership NSAs and other global initiatives. The breakthrough solutions address system transformation opportunities in food and agriculture, ocean, water and nature, human settlements and infrastructure, including the two cross-cutting enablers planning and finance: 

  1. Climate resilient, sustainable agriculture increases yields by 17% without expansion of the agricultural frontier, improving livelihoods including of smallholder farmers.
  2. The share of food production loss and per capita food waste is halved (relative to 2019) increasing food security
  3. Protection of 45 m ha lands and inland waters, 2 bn ha sustainable management and 350 m ha restoration of land, securing indigenous rights and local communities with use of nature-based solutions to improve water security and livelihoods.
  4. Financial institutions tap into nature-based solutions investment opportunities of USD 354 billion/year needed by 2030. By 2025, financial institutions eliminate commodity-driven deforestation from portfolios contributing to halting land conversion.
  5. 1 bn people have better design, construction and access to finance to live in decent, safe, affordable and climate resilient homes
  6. Smart & early warning systems reach 3 billion people 
  7. USD 4 billion invested to secure the future of 15 million hectares of mangroves globally, through collective action on halting mangrove loss, restoring half of recent losses, doubling protection of mangroves globally and ensuring sustainable long-term finance for all existing mangroves, leading to increased resilience of coastal communities to storms and enhanced livelihoods.
  8. A diverse set of clean and climate resilient energy generation sources enable affordable access to electricity for 679 million people who lack it and higher quality access for 1 billion underserved people 
  9. 2.2B people access low-cost, clean vehicles and mobility solutions through the expansion of affordable resilient public and private transport services
  10. 10,000 cities have evidence-based, actionable adaptation plans
  11. Global property and casualty insurance sector has an industry capabilities framework, actively supports project implementation, and institutionalises a longer-term industry approach to climate adaptation

We seek to continue refining these outcome targets and would welcome every input. By COP27, we will have an updated and expanded list. By COP28, we aim to show the progress being catalysed by the Race to Resilience campaign and the Adaptation and Resilience Breakthroughs and how these informed the Global Stocktake and the Global Goal on Adaptation processes. 

Making 4bn vulnerable people and communities’ climate resilient by 2030 might seem ambitious, even far-fetched. However, when different actors – across a sector – move in synchronisation to support a rapid transition, a positive ambition loop between state and non-State actors is activated. 

If we keep moving together, united by a common goal that benefits us all, it is entirely possible that we achieve it; that we not only weather the storms to come, but all of us prosper in spite of them.

Download the Adaptation and Resilience Breakthroughs, and see our publications here.

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