1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Spotlight on adaptation ahead of Paris

Ruby RussellNovember 25, 2015

Oxfam warns global warming could cost developing countries $1.7 trillion a year in damage by 2050, as nations prepare to put in place a new global climate agreement at the Paris summit.

Drought in East Africa, 2011. Photo by Arnaud Finistre/ABACAPRESS.COM
Image: picture-alliance/abaca

Adapting to climate change could cost developing countries at least $790 billion a year by mid-century, according to a new report from Oxfam.

"What is striking is that these figures show just how much the costs for developing countries increase based on the inadequacies of current pledges compared to a 2-degree (Celsius) scenario," Tim Gore, head of food and climate policy at Oxfam, told DW.

"It really makes a huge difference whether Paris is the end of the story or just the beginning."

Current climate mitigation pledges submitted ahead of the UNFCCC climate talks, set to begin Monday, will only limit global warming to close to 3 degrees Celsius. Oxfam says that would mean developing countries need an extra $270 billion to adapt, on top of the roughly $520 billion of costs associated with the 2-degree target.

The charity is calling for an emphasis on increasing countries' climate mitigation targets, joining other environmental and development organisations in insisting pledges must be reviewed and stepped up every five years.

Flooding in Bangladesh
In Bangladesh, tens of millions of people could be displaced by climate change in the coming decadesImage: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Abdullah

If this does not happen and insufficient funds are made available for adaptation, developing countries will face $1.7 trillion – or 1.3 percent of GDP – in economic damage annually by 2050, according to the report.

Rural poor hit hardest

Oxfam says poorer countries with fewer resources to adapt will be hit hardest by rising sea levels and extreme weather events. But the poorest people in richer and middle income countries will also suffer.

"The economies of countries like India, South Africa and China are growing rapidly but they also have the biggest share of the world's poorest people. Many of them live in rural areas and are dependent on agriculture which is risk from climate impacts like flooding and droughts. Every country needs to take action to mitigate these effects," said Gore.

In its report, Oxfam calculates that if currently available adaptation funds – based on climate finance made available in 2013 and 2014 – were divided between the world's 1.5 billion smallholder farmers in developing countries, each would receive just $3 per year.

Isaac Kabongo, director of the Ecological Christian Organization in Uganda, told DW those already feeling the impacts of global warming doubted the commitment of rich countries responsible for the bulk of climate change emissions to help poorer nations adapt.

"Developed countries need to do a lot more," he said. "We see a lot of resistance to increasing funds for climate adaptation. But here in Uganda, for example, subsistence farmers are already unable to feed themselves and homes and schools are being washed away by floods from melting glaciers. We need action taken yesterday."

Flooding in Cambodia. (c) Apiwat Sukpimontri
In Cambodia and Vietnam, rice paddies that are vital for food production are being lostImage: Apiwat Sukpimontri/USAID Mekong ARCC Project

As well as a mechanism to increase climate targets over time, Oxfam is calling for rich countries to take the lead on the long-term goal of phasing out fossil fuels, and increased commitments and new sources of revenue for climate finance.

Boosting African resilience

Oxfam welcomed an initiative launched this week by the World Bank to raise $16.1 billion to boost Sub-Saharan Africa's resilience to climate change.

The World Bank said current adaptation funds for the region of $3 billion per year "at most" need to rise to between $5 and $10 billion in the short term, and up to between $20 and $100 billion by mid-century depending on the rate of climate change.

"This is good news and exactly the signal we need for COP21," said Gore. "This will be a big boost to adaptation efforts in the near term and the fact that it is set to be scaled up over time makes it a really good initiative."

Drought in east Africa, 2009. (c) TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images)
Around the world, the rural poor, and subsistence farmers in particular, are among the most vulnerable to climate changeImage: Getty Images/AFP/T. Karumba

Much of the additional funding is to come from the International Development Association (IDA), along with contributions from other development organizations, governments and private sector.

Gore said it was positive that the World Bank had acknowledged that the additional funds needed to come primarily from the public money.

Still, speaking from Kampala, Kabongo said the World Bank had failed to take a comprehensive look at the climate impacts across all sectors of society and therefore underestimated the funds needed to adapt.

"The scientific evidence is very clear," Kabongo told DW. "But we are yet to see that translated into meaningful commitments – either on mitigation or climate finance. The situation for people in developing countries is much worse than many heading to COP21 seem to realize."