“Every year, we struggle to afford two-square meals and drink clean water,” says Rajendra, a farmer in the district of Supaul in Bihar. According to him, floods have always been a part of their lives; however, their intensity and irregularity have increased recently.
This is not just the story of Rajendra in Supaul, Bihar, but it is the same story for several Rajendra’s across the globe who are dealing with various stresses which climate change is putting on us.
The recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change highlights that the planet is collapsing. It states that even in the most optimistic scenarios, the temperature post-2080 is likely to be higher by 1.0°C to 1.8°C. Such a temperature rise would lead to massive destructions globally, with rising seawater levels, resulting in floods in various parts of the world, collapsing ecosystems and wreaking havoc on humankind in general.
In such a state, what is the case for optimism?
Climate adaptation has emerged as a ray of hope for innumerable communities as an effective tool to fight changing climate. However, it is disheartening that climate adaptation is always seen as the second-best alternative when it comes to climate action.
It was in the city of Copenhagen (2009) when the leaders of developed nations committed to mobilising $100 billion per year to finance climate action in developing countries. The goal formalised in Cancun (2010) and later reiterated in Paris (2015) remains unfulfilled.
A recent report by OECD highlights that in 2019, total climate finance mobilised by the developed countries was to the tune of $79.6 billion. An additional jump of 20 billion would be required to meet the $100 billion goals.
Looking at the figure more closely, we see that mitigation and adaptation finance have risen significantly after adopting the Paris accord. However, despite this increase, adaptation finance still represents only one-third of the total climate finance.
With roughly a few days left for the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties 26 (COP26), it is prudent to recognise that climate adaptation is no longer a future story. The climate impact stories we have been listening to for years are occurring in reality in various developed and developing countries.
While the developed nations possess the critical technologies and finance to increase their adaptive capacities and reduce their vulnerabilities, developing countries often bear the most damage.
In addition to the availability of accessible finance, it is critical to make the available finance more sustainable in terms of the implementation timeframe. While most of the finance in the form of grants are currently mobilised for 1–3 years, these need to be made more long-term and goal-oriented.
Another critical factor for effective utilisation of adaptation finance is the correct usage of the funds. For effective adaptation, funds must be directed to the local communities that are the most vulnerable and are experiencing higher climate risks than others. Local communities, with individuals like Rajendra, who have limited access to resources, are often the ones that are given the least funds to cope with the risks of climate change.
Thus, it is vital to understand how adaptation finance flows to the community level to ensure their needs are met.
Even with the latest developments with respect to COP26, it is unstated but evident that climate mitigation, i.e. Net-Zero, is a “sanguine” option for many countries. The developing nations participating in COP26 must not blindly echo their voices with developed nations; instead, they must emphasise equitable billing of both the climate actions.
The opinion of developing countries must reflect the stories of thousands like “Rajendra” who are suffering in silence because of climate change.