The first week of COP26 has been characterised by big, bold statements; $130 trillion of private sector finance has been committed to net zero, $12 billion of public finance has been committed to forest protection between 2021 and 2025, and $8.5 billion has been committed to the clean energy transition in South Africa. These pledges have all focused on how we can effectively reduce emissions, thereby mitigating its effects.
However, climate change is a reality that is being faced by millions already, and through an unfortunate roll of the geographic dice, one that is being felt mostly in areas that are both least able to adapt to it and have contributed least to its’ effects. The image of a Tuvaluan minister making his speech waist-deep in ocean water has perhaps been one of the most striking from the 8 days of talks so far.
This eightieth day then, was a key one for nations such as these, as focus shifted to mitigation’s often forgotten sibling – adaption.
Adaptation will require investment that many developing countries can scarcely afford. It was therefore an early positive when the UNFCCC announced that the governments of many of the wealthiest nations had collectively committed $232m to the Adaptation Fund, the highest single mobilisation to the Fund since its’ inception in 2010.
Additional commitments were also made by the UK, committing a $274m funding package for climate adaptions in the Asia-Pacific region, and £50m for small island states to develop resilient infrastructure. Finally, a partnership announcement between the Global EverGreening Alliance and Climate Asset Management delivered $150m for nature-based adaptation solutions in Africa.
The funds will be funnelled towards improving climate resilience across the 9 sectors that the adaptation fund provides funding for, which includes aspects such as coastal management, resilient agriculture, water development and disaster risk reduction.
It is likely that the committed funds will be used to accelerate the existing pipeline of projects that the Adaptation Fund manages, ranging from scaling up of climate-resilient rice production in West Africa, to nature-based water adaptation programmes in Lebanon.
It depends who you ask. While the mood music amongst developing country leaders was generally positive, many remain sceptical of adaptation funding commitments, and possibly with good reason. They have had their fingers burnt before, with the $100bn of climate finance ratified by the UN in 2015 remaining unfulfilled 6 years later. Developed countries may point to inefficient allocation of the funding that has been provided to date as a reason for the current reluctance to spend huge sums of money. We can’t yet know who to believe, but the stakes are high; get this wrong and millions more people will be facing climate-induced hardship that they could have been insulated from.
On Monday, the UN’s Race to Resilience campaign unveiled a new set of metrics for non-state actors to assess their climate resilience. This global partnership was established at the start of the year, with the aim of building the resilience of 4 billion people to climate shocks by 2030. It takes a bottom-up approach, aiming to build resilient companies, cities, and natural systems, with the overarching goal of increasing resilience at an individual level.
This framework will aim to make resilience disclosures easier, which will be a good thing for both public and private sector entities, who have often struggled to define and assess their resilience. This framework will hopefully encourage a wave of resilience assessments, particularly in vulnerable communities.
This represents a good first step to enable entities to measure their resilience to climate impacts and will make resilience disclosures more coherent. But take the example of an instance where resilience is identified as being low and capacity for adaptation is also constrained – what happens then? Measuring resilience is important, but without the ability (and possibly access to finance) to take actions to increase this resilience, it is like being told you are in a car that will crash but will not be allowed to put on a seatbelt.
Just 3 years ago, in 2018, dozens of the fashion industry’s big-hitters signed the UN’s Fashion Charter on Climate, requiring signatories to cut emissions by 30% by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2050. Considered as an ambitious statement then, come 2021 it looked increasingly outdated. Thankfully, the charter has now been updated, with signatories needing to slash emissions in half by 2030, and reach net zero by 2050, an increase in stringency from the previously agreed carbon neutrality. Additional new requirements have been inserted which mandate 100% renewable electricity procurement and coal-free supply chains by 2030.
Fashion brands, of course – but the nature of the targets speaks to a wider impact across the value chain. This is consistent with the direction of travel of decarbonisation commitments, it is now no longer enough to simply manage the impact of your operations alone. Delivering a coal-free supply chain will require full visibility of all aspects of it, something that fashion brands have notoriously struggled with. The many supporting businesses that sit within the supply chain will now come under increasing pressure to report on their own emissions and ensure that their operations align with the Fashion Charter.
A 50% reduction by 2030 targets brings these commitments in line with a 1.5-degree trajectory, and net zero by 2050 will hopefully be a reality for all sectors of the economy. However, as is often the case, the devil will lie in the detail. Renewable energy commitments look great, but accounting tricks that only achieve paper rather than real-world emissions reductions will increasingly be scrutinised and those who fall foul will be called out. A framework for businesses to ensure robust renewable energy commitments would enable a faster transition in this space.
more than a word.