Climate change is stopped through mitigation — reducing greenhouse gas emissions, halting deforestation and ecosystem loss, and engaging in degrowth economics.
But surviving climate change depends on adaptation.
How do countries adapt to rising sea levels, severe heat waves, worsening droughts, extreme storms, and other cascading effects? What about disrupted food systems, growing water scarcity, the demise of species, and explosive urban migration?
These are some of the questions that world leaders are grappling with at the Climate Adaptation Summit this week. The event, taking place Monday and Tuesday, marks a pivotal moment in the movement for climate adaptation, the first time a global summit has been held on the topic.
It signals the growing government and corporate commitment to adaptation, especially in the aftermath of the hottest decade in recorded human history. The United Nations calls on countries to make the next 10 years the “decade of ecosystem restoration,” an effort that would revolve partly around adaptation.
Severe climate change has already been locked in because of the scale of greenhouse gas emissions released to date. Adapting to these consequences will be country-specific and evolving. It will mean restoring degraded land and marine spaces, but also transforming urban planning, agriculture, and economic development.
Global Citizen collaborated with the Dutch government on a series of panels in which IFAD goodwill ambassadors and Global Citizen advocates Idris Elba and Sabrina Elba spoke with Alexander De Croo, prime minister of Belgium, and Dag Inge Ulstein, Norway's minister for international development, about adaptation efforts globally, particularly how they relate to smallholder farmers.
“There is no challenge that is more global than climate change and it can only be solved globally through international cooperation,” Ulstein told the Elbas.
“I think that climate change and pandemics are overwhelming proof of our interdependence with countries and citizens from every corner of the world,” he added. “Because, you know, nobody is safe from the virus until everybody's safe, and the same applies to climate change.”
The Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA), which will release a report outlining adaptation proposals and suggestions culled from the summit, estimates that adaptation will cost the world $300 billion per year by 2030.
That’s a significant price tag, but it’s less than the expected financial consequences of just letting climate change run its course. By the middle of the century, the cumulative impact of droughts, flooding, extreme storms, and the like will cost the global economy an estimated $7.9 trillion. The GCA reports that $1.8 trillion in adaptation investments would prevent these costs entirely.
In 2020 alone, roughly 50 million were affected by storms, floods, and droughts, according to a report by GCA. More urgently, failing to adapt would jeopardize food systems and water sources, the foundations of life.
The report says that countries are beginning to wake up to the importance of adaptation — three-quarters of countries have included adaptation in government planning, and multilateral climate funds have supported more than 400 adaptation efforts globally since 2006.
Organizations like the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) are helping smallholder farmers adapt by providing them with resilient seeds, technology and equipment, access to grants and loans, and more.
IFAD warned in a recent report that 1.7% of climate finance goes toward helping farmers adapt despite their vulnerability to droughts, heat waves, flooding, growing pests, and extreme storms.
“It is unacceptable that small-scale farmers who grow much of the world’s food are left at the mercy of unpredictable weather patterns, with such low investment to help them to adapt,” said Gilbert F. Houngbo, president of IFAD, in a press release.
“They do little to cause climate change, but suffer the most from its impacts. Their increasingly common crop failures and livestock deaths put our entire food system at risk. It is imperative that we ensure they remain on their land and sustainably produce nutritious food. If not, then hunger, poverty and migration will become even more widespread in the years to come,” he said.
IFAD launched a fund called ASAP+ at the Climate Adaptation Summit this week. The fund seeks to raise $500 million to address threats to food security and help 10 million people adapt to climate change, while applying adaptive practices to 4 million hectares of degraded land and sequestering around 110 million tons of carbon dioxide over the next two decades.
“We don't have the comfort of time,” De Croo said in his virtual interview with the Elbas. “If we want to be able to tackle this, we need to find ways for the technology that is under development, that is ready to be tested, to roll it out on such a massive scale to be able to also have a massive effect.”