Global leaders  have stressed the critical urgency of climate adaptation.

In a meeting of the Friends of the Global Centre on Adaptation (GCA), they discussed the acceleration of adaptation solutions ahead of November’s United Nations global climate summit, COP26.

More than 50 leaders from the international climate and development community have expressed the need to forge a clear “adaptation acceleration imperative for COP26”.

In August, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its most comprehensive assessment report ever, issuing a somber warning that planetary heating could reach 1,5°C in the next decade, as climate impacts worsen.

Patrick Verkooijen; MD of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), points out that adapting the world to the climate emergency is essential for world safety. “We are now living in the eye of the storm…From now on we are fighting a battle on two fronts: we have to fight to slash emissions while investing the same level of energy to adapt to a global climate emergency.”

While Africa is responsible for a mere 5% of global emissions, the continent bears a disproportionate negative impact of climate change. This includes changing rainfall patterns, droughts, floods, and other natural disasters. They affect agriculture and reduce food security. The leaders agreed that action on climate adaptation was even more urgent in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We need the world to come together and be very specific…We should see this as a combination of opportunities that should mobilise us,” says Frans Timmermans, executive vice-president of the European Commission. “Adaptation and mitigation are two sides of the same coin.”

Addressing the financing aspects of climate adaptation, Adesina told participants that African countries had to make climate adaptation a key element of their recovery plans if they are to build back better from the Covid-19 pandemic.

He says: “The African Development Bank’s share of adaptation finance has increased from 49% in 2018 to 55% in 2019 and 63% in 2020. We are on track to mobilize the target of $25-billion between 2020 and 2025 to support investments that address climate change and promote green growth.

“Together, through the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program, the African Development Bank and the Global Centre on Adaptation will mobilise an additional $12,5-billion to galvanize and scale up climate-resilient actions through proven innovative solutions which address the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, and the economy.

“In addition, the $650-billion issuance of the Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) by the IMF presents a unique opportunity to also provide some SDR resources to the multilateral development banks. The multilateral development banks can significantly leverage these SDRs several times and use their sector-wide knowledge and vast experience on policy-based operations to support countries to put in place policies that drive climate adaptation and resilience. This will complement the role of the IMF as it uses SDRs for macroeconomic stability.”

GCA board chair Ban Ki-moon comments: “The goal of transferring $100-billion per year from wealthy countries to developing economies is yet to be met…The adaptation agenda is not sufficiently supported…Our task is to rebuild confidence and trust…We should be constantly seeking to raise ambition.”

The leaders underline the three imperatives of the meeting – ambition, financing, and partnerships, all aimed at ensuring adaptation and mitigation in parallel.

President Felix Antoine Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo and chairperson of the African Union, comments: “Africa must not be left behind. Climate change affects all our development goals. Adaptation should be an essential part. We cannot eradicate hunger if we can only eat when it rains.”

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), shares new ideas for managing climate through mainstreaming trade as a means to support adaptation.

“It is important to mainstream resilience into global trade to support economic diversification and green economy; the World Bank and IMF should come together with the WTO in a common approach along those lines.”

International Monetary Fund MD Kristalina Georgieva proposes mandating the integration of climate adaptation in consultations with vulnerable countries. “Hard is not impossible. Adaptation needs to be put on equal footing with mitigation. Our big idea is to get the wealthy countries to on-lend for the big purpose of sustainability.”