Story at a glance

  • In a new report, the UN notes that more progress is needed to help combat climate change.
  • It specifically underscores the importance of nature-based solutions.

In a new report released Thursday, the United Nations warned that countries need to work faster and allocate more resources toward adapting to climate change across both public and private sectors.

Outlined in the agency’s Adaptation Gap Report 2020, U.N. researchers underscore that despite some progress made in countries around the world adopting national adaptation strategies, levels of engagement and commitment vary.

Citing 2020’s natural disasters as some of the most cataclysmic on record and the record-breaking heat, U.N. authors emphasize the need for increased action amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 


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Many of the discrepancies outlined in the report are between developing countries with less funding for adaptation initiatives and more economically developed countries.  

“Developing countries need funding for their adaptation efforts, yet finance remains low,” Inger Andersen, the executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme wrote. “The pace of adaptation financing is indeed rising, but it continues to be outpaced by rapidly increasing adaptation costs.”

The report also outlined a need for nature-based solutions to climate change, which the U.N. defines as actions that protect or restore natural or modified ecosystems to bring human and biodiversity benefits simultaneously. 

Nature-based adaptation strategies can act as a low-cost solution for mitigating climate risks. Examples of nature-based adaptation include reforestation; coral reef, wetland, mangrove and dune preservation and reconstruction. Restoration projects that work to maintain natural ecosystems are meant to help reduce heat-related risks in urban environments, as well as protect against other risks like drought, runoff and coastal flooding. 

While the report found that a majority of countries had developed and implemented a plan to counteract the hazardous effects of climate change, researchers noted that many of these national-level adaptation frameworks are lacking momentum.

“An extensive analysis of adaptation actions surveyed in scientific articles showed that the majority were in early stages of implementation,” Andersen stated. “Only 3 per cent reported evidence of real reductions in climate risks posed to the communities where the projects were being implemented.”

This comes as financing available for adaptation strategies is growing, but costs are as well. The U.N. points out that the lingering economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is likely going to strain sustainable funding needs.

Andersen adds that the various COVID-19 economic stimulus packages passed around the world could have implemented a climate-resilient and low-emissions recovery framework, but broadly did not.

“Climate adaptation is now fully part of climate policy action across the world with widespread adoption and continued development of national, subnational and sectoral adaptation planning instruments,” the report’s introduction concludes. “However, the effectiveness and adequacy of planning, finance and implementation differ depending on national circumstances and climate risk profiles and will require greater effort.”


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Published on Jan 14, 2021