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Do commitments for adaptation in the region meet national needs and expectations?


  • While adaptation finance has grown exponentially, it has not kept pace with financing in mitigation and other sectors.
  • Adaptation pilot projects exist, but they urgently need to be scaled up nationally.

Adaptation to the impacts of climate change has received far less attention in the UNFCCC and its COPs than mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. This reflects a marginalization of the most vulnerable, least polluting countries and their needs. 

In the Glasgow Climate Pact agreed at COP26, adaptation was symbolically mentioned ahead of mitigation. But developing countries, including those in the Asia–Pacific region, remain disappointed by the unsatisfactory delivery of adaptation funding commitments. For example, in 2015, developed countries pledged to provide US$100 billion annually for adaptation and mitigation by 2020, but they have so far delivered only about 80 percent of this, according to the most recent data.

At COP26, parties agreed that the proportion of the US$100 billion allocated for adaptation would double by 2025 to around US$40 billion. Governments also pledged a record US$356 million to the UNFCCC’s Adaptation Fund, which was created in 2001 under the Kyoto Protocol. While this sum was three times greater than that of the previous funding round, it is far from what is needed. The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that, by 2030, developing countries will need US$140 billion to US$300 billion each year to cover adaptation costs.

The experts discussed how adaptation is more of a financial challenge than a technical one. Various technologies for adaptation are now available, and countries are willing to share them. Governments have increasingly put enabling policy structures in place, but funding is the bottleneck hampering real progress. 

“Funding bodies have lots of requirements and procedures in order to access adaptation funding, which takes a long time, almost two to three years to reach the actual beneficiaries. And lots of opportunities are lost in between. I think many countries, especially the least developed countries, have experienced that.” – Jigme Tenzin, Principal Agriculture Officer, Department of Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, Bhutan

The experts said that adaptation financing structures need to be different from those for mitigation finance or even traditional development aid. This is because, although adaptation needs are embedded in national adaptation plans, they are often local in nature. Financing mechanisms may need to be designed in a more sophisticated way, with connected yet discrete levels—from local to subnational, national, regional and global. 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report, in 2021, reiterated the case for rapidly increasing adaptation funding and programmes, particularly in the context of forests and rural communities. Although adaptation pilot projects exist, the experts had yet to see the widespread scaling up at the programmatic and national levels that is required to climate-proof landscapes and address the threats facing vulnerable people and ecosystems. 

“Very little is done on adaptation in forestry and agriculture. Too much time has been spent on pilot [initiatives] that offer no tangible solutions. This is partially because it is easy to get funding for pilots but not for large projects.” Promode Kant, Adjunct Professor, Advanced Institute of Wildlife Conservation, and Director, Institute of Green Economy, India