In 2009, the world’s richest nations pledged to mobilize US $ 100 billion per year by 2020 to help developing countries cope with climate change. The funding would be used to adapt to the impacts of climate change and reduce or prevent emissions.

The world’s poorest countries are expected to be hardest hit by extreme climate change such as droughts, floods and cyclones. And African countries are among the most vulnerable to these impacts on food security, health, economies and ecosystems. For example, crop yield loss projections are more important for tropical regions of Africa. And the poorest populations in sub-Saharan Africa are most at risk of malnutrition.

At the same time, Africa’s contributions to greenhouse gas emissions causing global warming are among the lowest in the world.

Without financial support, climate change is expected to push tens of millions more Africans into extreme poverty by 2030.

Our new research, based on data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), tracked adaptation funding to African countries from 2014 to 2018. Funding came from governments in rich countries and banks. development. The work is important because there has not been an in-depth mapping of climate finance in Africa to date.

We have identified five ways that funding for climate change adaptation in Africa is insufficient. They are: the quantity; variation between countries; neglect of certain sectors; difficulty spending funds and getting into debt.

Adaptation funding does not match needs

About US $ 5 per year, per person. This is what adaptation finance was for every African between 2014 and 2018, for a total of less than US $ 5.5 billion per year.

African governments estimate they will need at least $ 7.4 billion a year by 2020. They also expect they will need a lot more as the world warms, reaching tens of billions of dollars per year by 2050.

It is clear that the world’s poorest countries will be the hardest hit by climatic hazards and extreme weather events. The World Bank estimates that sub-Saharan Africa will face the highest adaptation costs per unit of gross domestic product (GDP). This is due to lower GDPs and higher adaptation costs for water resources, due to changes in rainfall regimes.

But we found that funding from 2014 to 2018 targeting adaptation (US $ 16.5 billion) was only about half of the funding to reduce emissions (mitigation), which was US $ 30.6 billion. US dollars. While mitigation finance is important because it addresses the root cause of climate change, for African countries that are already facing severe climate impacts, increased finance for adaptation is urgently needed.

Some countries are more vulnerable than others

Donors have not strategically targeted adaptation finance to the most vulnerable African countries. Per capita funding levels are almost the same for least developed and more developed countries.

Graph showing adaptation commitments for African countries.

In general, the least developed countries are also more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Niger, Somalia, Chad, Sudan and Liberia are among the most vulnerable countries in the world. Yet they receive less than $ 5 per person per year to adjust to extreme weather conditions.

Not all sectors in need receive adaptation funding

Only two sectors, agriculture and water supply and sanitation, received half of adaptation funding. To some extent, this matches the expected vulnerability and exposure of these sectors to climate impacts. In addition, African governments prioritize these sectors in their climate plans.

But the money must also go to sectors such as education, health and biodiversity and have gender equality as the main objective. Healthy and educated people are more resilient to climate shocks, both socially and economically. And healthy natural ecosystems reduce direct and indirect climate risks. Funded programs that empower women and take into account the unique needs and priorities of women and men have been shown to be more effective.

Unspent adaptation funding

We need to make sure that the funding does what it is supposed to do once it reaches poor countries, instead of having negative impacts as some publications suggest. But our research shows that most don’t even reach countries. Only 46% of adaptation funding committed in Africa has actually been disbursed.

In contrast, funding for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions was spent at a rate of 56%. And 96% of the overall development finance that donors committed to Africa during the same period has actually been spent.

This suggests major obstacles to spending on climate projects, especially for adaptation projects. The literature that has examined this problem in more detail suggests that governments in less developed countries are often not able to properly plan purchases. They often have to adhere to strict funding conditions and guidelines, find matching funding within agreed timeframes, or adhere to the rigid rules of multilateral climate funds.

Adaptation finance drives up debt

More adaptation finance was provided in the form of loans (57%) than grants (42%). Poor and often highly indebted countries are generally expected to repay money to adapt to the vagaries of the weather that they have done very little to cause.

Besides climate justice, on a practical level, grant-based finance has higher disbursement rates than loans. Adaptation finance could make a bigger difference if it was provided more in the form of grants.

Look ahead

Climate finance is probably the biggest key – or obstacle – to the success of the upcoming UN climate conference COP26 in Glasgow in 2021. The OECD has found that the pledge of $ 100 billion a year for developing countries development by 2020 lacked $ 20 billion.

But our research suggests that climate finance is more than just a global number. The money must match the needs, in terms of amount and purpose. It must go to all areas where it is necessary to put people in a better position to deal with the impacts of climate change.

Donors and recipients need to identify and address the issues that prevent money from making a real difference on the ground. And donors need to reconsider the quality of funding, especially if it is provided in a fair and efficient form.

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