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COP26: Climate emergency demands policy shift to adaptation, say leaders

Global leaders on Monday, September 6, 2021, gathered in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, to participate in the Global Centre on Adaptation (GCA) High Level Dialogue themed: “An Adaptation Acceleration Imperative for COP26”. With less than a hundred days to go until the world’s most significant summit on climate change, the Dialogue established that the success of COP26 will be determined by whether, for the first time, climate adaptation is elevated to an equal priority with the mitigation of carbon emissions.

Global Centre on Adaptation (GCA)
Participants at the Global Centre on Adaptation (GCA) High Level Dialogue

Patrick Verkooijen, CEO of the Global Centre on Adaptation, who convened the Dialogue, said in his opening remarks: “We are now living in the eye of the storm – adapting the world to our climate emergency is essential for our safety even as we tackle a global pandemic. 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. Millions of lives and the safety of communities around the world are already at stake.”

Over 50 leaders from the international climate and development community attended the Dialogue which concluded with a Communique adopted in the presence of the Dialogue’s Co-Conveners, Chair of the Board, 8th Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; CEO of the Global Centre on Adaptation, Patrick Verkooijen; Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva; and Co-Chair of the Board, UN High-Level Climate Champion on Private Sector for COP26, Feike Sijbesma.

The recent report from the IPCC warned a major worsening of climate impacts is coming a decade earlier than previously anticipated with unprecedented and some irreversible changes. It highlighted those certain impacts, such as extreme heat spells, would double in scale over the next decade, demanding unprecedented acceleration and investment in adaptation and resilience to counteract the growing climate emergency.

“We should be very clear that there is no issue with the Paris Agreement itself. It has been exactly the framework we needed, if only it could be lived up to. What we need to do is rebuild confidence and trust to work together under the Paris regime.” remarked Ban Ki-moon, 8th Secretary-General of the United Nations and Chair of the Global Centre on Adaptation. “Countries are ready for new ambition on adaptation, and they are ready for much scaled up financing for adaptation too. For this, solutions already out there need to be shared and put into place.”

Ban Ki-moon further noted that the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Programme (AAAP), created by GCA in partnership with the African Development Bank and backed by the African Union, serves as a template for the ambition and approach that needs to be scaled across all regions of the world.

President of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chair of the African Union, Felix-Antoine Tshisekedi noted: “At the peak of the corona pandemic, there was a collective political will, by all countries, to address the crisis. Countries developed stimulus packages, for which over $20 trillion have been mobilized. If we show the same commitment, the same political will, we can also raise the $100 billion per year that was pledged at COP15 in 2009 and re-echoed at COP21 in Paris in 2015 to help developing countries to fight climate change.

“This should have commenced last year. Going to COP26, I look forward to seeing $200 billion on the table for developing countries. Without it, poor developing countries cannot fight the battle against climate change. The Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program, led by the Global Centre on Adaptation and the African Development Bank, is a crucial mechanism to make good use of the $100 billion per annum that will have to come to the developing world.”

He also announced that, under the auspices of the African Union, he will chair a Leaders Event for friends of Africa’s adaptation during COP26. The event, jointly organized by the African Union, GCA and the African Development Bank, will catalyse the acceleration of action, financing and partnership necessary to achieve a transformative shift in adaptation on the ground in Africa.

Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, in opening the day’s proceedings, noted: “The time to move forward on adaptation is now. In the run up to COP26, we need to translate our ambitions into firm action, planning, financing and implementation.”

During the closed-door Dialogue, the global leaders present confirmed the imperatives for COP26:

  • Ambition: adaptation ambition must be fully aligned with science and the realities of the climate emergency and must be constantly raised year on year in a pathway that COP26 can establish.
  • Finance: clear delivery on the UN-agreed annual $100 billion where financial flows for adaptation must be a on a par with financial flows for mitigation and the leveraging of pandemic recovery resources for maximum climate benefit including considering partial channelling of the $650 billion of newly allocated IMF Special Drawing Rights.
  • Partnerships: Forge the partnerships necessary to deliver and mainstream bold climate adaptation action over the next decade as countries continue to grapple with the growing climate emergency building on the examples of GCA, African Development Bank and African Union’s Africa Adaptation Acceleration Programme.

Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, who chaired the meeting, spoke about how finance is integral to adaptation ambition.

She said: “Accelerating climate action in emerging markets and developing economies requires the international community to continue to deliver on the $100 billion pledge made in Paris, and even more. As part of these efforts and following the IMF’s historic allocation of $650 billion of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), including around $275 billion to low- and middle-income countries, we are discussing with our members the possibility of channelling some of these SDRs into creating a new Resilience and Sustainability Trust. This Trust could help vulnerable countries undertake the necessary transformational reforms to address climate and other structural challenges.”

Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said: “We need massively scaled-up investment in adaptation and resilience. This is absolutely critical for those at the frontlines of the climate crisis. Yet only 21% of climate finance is channelled to adaptation efforts. Of the $70 billion that developing countries need now to adapt, only a fraction is being provided. Adaptation costs to the developing world could rise to as much as $300 billion a year by 2030 (….)

“We also need to accelerate the development of initiatives such as the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Programme jointly developed between the Global Centre on Adaptation and the African Development Bank, that have the potential to deliver rapid and transformative results that protect lives and livelihoods. The Programme will galvanise climate resilient actions to address the impacts of Covid-19, climate change and the economy. I welcome this much needed support for people of Africa. We have a moral imperative to close this gap.”

Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group, echoing her remarks, said: “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 mobilise 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 Programme, the African Development Bank and the Global Centre on Adaptation will mobilise an additional $12.5 billion to galvanise and scale-up climate-resilient actions through proven innovative solutions which address the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and the economy.

“The $650 billion issuance of the Special Drawing Rights 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.”

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director general of the World Trade Organisation, noted the key role of trade in facilitating climate adaptation, saying: “International trade and supply chains must be an integral part of our efforts to build climate resilience. Mainstreaming trade into climate adaptation strategies will lower the cost of adaptation while ensuring that countries can continue to use trade as a driver of development and poverty reduction.”

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, UK Minister and International Champion on Adaptation and Resilience for the COP26 Presidency, supported the Dialogue’s focus on adaptation ahead of COP26.

She stated: “Now is the time for us all to come together and focus on delivering a landmark COP setting the trajectory for the next crucial decade and the tools that will help us all deliver on our commitments. Adaptation and resilience must be in that future (….) The Global Centre on Adaptation continues to be at the forefront of developing those solutions bringing the best minds and climate leaders together to deliver them and making access to finance fast will be critical to delivery to enable resilience against those climate shocks.”

Huang Runqiu, Minister of Environment and Ecology, People’s Republic of China, said: “We must raise the importance of adaptation to be at the same level as mitigation, actively implement adaptation measures, work together and help each other, and collaboratively reduce the adverse impacts of climate change on human society.”

In closing remarks Feike Sijbesma, UN High-Level Climate Champion on Private Sector for COP26, and Co-Chair of the GCA, noted: “Adaptation is everybody’s business. We must think about how we can integrate businesses better into our adaptation and resilience-building efforts; and at the same time encourage a constructive role for the private sector in supporting adaptation efforts by governments and non-government actors.”

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