Climate aid to poor countries is dwindling at a time when developing nations are facing mounting risks from storms, floods, wildfires, drought, extreme temperatures and other environment-related climate crises, according to a report released Thursday by the United Nations.
The report, published by the U.N. Environment Programme, estimates that developing countries will need $215 billion to $387 billion a year this decade to cope with the realities of a warming world — a range that is 10 to 18 times higher than what wealthy countries committed in aid in 2021, the most recent year for which figures are available.
That gap in funding for climate preparedness is leaving the world exposed, according to the report.
“Lives and livelihoods are being lost and destroyed, with the vulnerable suffering the most,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement. “Yet as needs rise, action is stalling. Today’s report shows the gap in adaptation funding is the highest ever. The world must take action to close the adaptation gap and deliver climate justice.”
The assessment was released ahead of the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference, commonly referred to as COP28, which will be held from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12 in Dubai. Climate funding is expected to be part of negotiations at the summit.
Funding to developing countries stood at $21 billion in 2021, a 15% decline over the previous year. As a result, the gap in funding for climate adaptation and resilience is widening as needs are also rising precipitously, the U.N. report found.
“We are in an adaptation emergency. We must act like it. And take steps to close the adaptation gap, now,” Guterres said.
The report’s authors also detailed how global progress on adaptation is slowing rather than accelerating in addressing the urgent threats posed by climate change.
Arguments for increasing climate aid to developing nations are rooted in the fundamentals of climate justice. Countries that have historically emitted the smallest share of the greenhouse gas emissions that are to blame for global warming are already disproportionately affected by rising seas and other climate crises.
Last year, a separate U.N. report warned of the increasing risk that climate change poses to human health, infrastructure and the stability of food and water resources. In it, 270 scientists from 67 countries issued a stark message: urgent action on climate change is needed “to secure a liveable future.”
Last year’s assessment found that while climate change will affect every corner of the planet, people in Africa, Asia, South America and Central America are particularly vulnerable.
“Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future,” Hans-Otto Pörtner, a climatologist and one of the authors of the 2022 report, said at the time.