Put adaptation atop climate change agenda, leaders urge ahead of COP26

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CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation, Patrick Verkooijen, said adapting the world to the climate emergency was essential for world safety. PHOTO/GCA

By PATRICK MAYOYO

All countries should step up climate adaptation initiatives while mitigating carbon emissions in the global effort to combat climate change, global leaders said.  .

The leaders made the clarion call in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, on Monday at a meeting of the Friends of the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA). The agenda was the acceleration of adaptation solutions ahead of November’s United Nations global climate summit, COP26 in Glasgow, United Kingdom.

The meeting was also the occasion to inaugurate the largest floating office in the world in Rotterdam’s Rijnhaven, which will serve as the headquarters of the Global Center on Adaptation, a ceremony that was attended by H.R.H King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands.

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

The meeting concluded with a communiqué adopted in the presence of the Dialogue’s co-conveners, namely, Chair of the GCA Board, 8th UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation, Patrick Verkooijen; Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kristalina Georgieva; and UN High-Level Climate Champion on Private Sector for COP26, Feike Sijbesma.

The participants, some of whom joined remotely, included President Felix Antoine Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chair of the African Union; Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice President, European Commission; Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations; Huang Runqiu, Minister of Environment and Ecology of the People’s Republic of China; and Dr Akinwumi A. Adesina, President of the African Development Bank.

In August, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 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.

“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,” Mr Verkooijen said.

Mr Verkooijen stressed that adapting the world to the climate emergency was essential for world safety.

While Africa is responsible for a mere 5 percent of global emissions, the continent bears a disproportionate negative impact of climate change. This includes changing rainfall patterns, droughts, floods, and other natural disasters.

President Felix Antoine Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo said Africa cannot eradicate hunger if it only expects to ‘eat when it rains. PHOTO/courtesy

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 mobilize us,” Timmermans said. “Adaptation and mitigation are two sides of the same coin.”

Addressing the financing aspects of climate adaptation, Dr 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.

“The African Development Bank’s share of adaptation finance has increased from 49 percent in 2018 to 55 percent in 2019 and 63 percent 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,” Dr Adesina said.

The ADB boss said through the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program, the African Development Bank and the Global Center on Adaptation the bank would mobilize 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,” he added.

Dr Adesina said the multilateral development banks can significantly leverage 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,” he noted.

Also addressing financing, GCA Board Chair Ban Ki-moon said 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,” Ban Ki-moon added.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva. PHOTO/IMF

The leaders underlined 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 said Africa must focus on climate change adaptation initiatives.

“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,” Tshisekedi said.

The Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, shared 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,” Okonjo-Iweala said.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, a co-convener of the meeting, spoke on the divergence between rich and poor countries and proposed 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,” Georgieva said.

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