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Manuele in Mozambique displays the rotten remains of his maize crop, which was destroyed by Cyclone Idai. Concern WWManuele in Mozambique displays the rotten remains of his maize crop, which was destroyed by Cyclone Idai. Concern WWManuele in Mozambique displays the rotten remains of his maize crop, which was destroyed by Cyclone Idai. Concern WW

At what cost? Why we must scale up action on climate change

At what cost? Why we must scale up action on climate change

In light of the ‘At What Cost?’ report, Concern’s Senior Resilience Policy Officer, Sally, explains why the global community must start to invest appropriately in tackling the climate crisis.

It’s difficult to start this blog without referring to the global coronavirus pandemic. Undeniably this will be the defining feature of 2020 and the future. Yet, whilst we are understandably focused on the pandemic – the impacts of which will have devastating impacts on people’s lives globally – it is not happening in isolation.

The start of this year saw an estimated 168 million people already in need of humanitarian assistance. This number – the highest in decades – is driven by conflict, economic shocks and climate extremes.

These challenges have not stopped during the pandemic, particularly those driven by climate change. In June, one of the worst storms in decades hit Bangladesh. As I write, across India, Nepal and Bangladesh, 9.6 million people have been affected by monsoon floods. The impact of monsoon floods will compound the effects and risks of Covid-19, and increase the chances of transmission in already highly vulnerable communities.

Without immediate ambitious action, the escalating climate crisis will continue to act as a ‘threat multiplier’, deepening global inequalities and disproportionately affecting the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries. The International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) estimates that, by 2050, an estimated 200 million people each year will need humanitarian aid because of climate-related disasters alone.

Are we helping the world’s most vulnerable people cope with climate change?

In 2009, because of their culpability for the climate crisis and their responsibility to support climate action, wealthy countries committed to mobilise $100 billion in annual climate finance by 2020 to assist low-income countries to address climate change.

To mark the deadline of this commitment, the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance, of which Concern is a member, has published an analysis of the last decade of global Official Development Assistance (ODA) invested in building people’s resilience to climate change.

The report asks two questions:

  1. Is the international community meeting the commitments it made in 2009?
  2. Is funding for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction going to the people and countries that need it most?

What the report found

The findings of our analysis were shocking and yet unsurprising; there is insufficient investment into preparing the world for the impacts of climate change - and this money is not going to the countries and people that need it most.

Using publicly available data to compare climate change adaptation (CCA) and disaster risk reduction (DRR) finance per capita of those living in extreme poverty and climate vulnerability (ND-GAIN index), we found that:

  • Countries most vulnerable to climate change are not receiving preferential targeting from donors for climate change adaptation
  • There is no correlation between the amount of money received for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction by people living in extreme poverty and the climate-vulnerability of a given country. This means funds are not being targeted according to need.
  • The majority of the countries most vulnerable to climate change received less than $20 per person per year in climate change adaptation financing from 2010–2017.

Addressing the funding gap

By 2030, climate change adaptation costs are expected to range between $140 billion and $300 billion a year, and rise to between $280 billion and $500 billion a year by 2050. For the more severe projected scenarios of the impacts of global warming, these figures are expected to be much greater.

This money is needed across a wide range of areas; from helping people diversify their livelihoods and adapt farming practices to strengthening flood protection, infrastructure and planning.

The longer adaptation and risk reduction efforts are put off by chronic underfunding in CCA and DRR, the more difficult and expensive it will be to manage adaptation needs and the harder it will be to save lives and mitigate suffering.

The gap in CCA and DRR financing must be closed if the global community is serious about protecting the future wellbeing of those most at risk from climate change. We risk leaving people behind if we do not better target funding according to need.

The benefits of this approach

From Concern’s programmes working with the poorest people in some of the most climate vulnerable countries, we’ve seen that it’s possible to make tangible progress and make positive impacts on people’s lives, despite the huge challenges they face. For example, in Burundi we are working with communities to reduce risk and vulnerability by developing disaster risk reduction plans, as well as supporting them to develop new skills, and diversify their livelihoods and diets. This has led to improvements in women’s empowerment, improved living conditions and progress on food security.

Investing in helping people to cope with climate change should not be seen as a cost. By supporting people and countries to prepare for climate change and reduce their risk to hazards, investments can have multiple benefits (what some are calling a “triple dividend”). Losses are avoided when disaster strikes, economic activity is stimulated thanks to reduced disaster impacts, and economic, social and environmental co-benefits are felt.

What should happen next?

As a humanitarian and development organisation, Concern is familiar with the need to balance responding to immediate needs with taking actions for the longer term. But we cannot let more time pass without scaled-up action on climate change.

The report's recommendations call on donor countries to:

  1. Build climate change resilience into Covid-19 recovery plans
  2. Honour existing commitments and invest $50 billion by the end of 2020 to help the world's poorest people cope with climate change
  3. Set ambitious new targets for climate finance for the next five years to meet growing needs. Within this, double the climate finance going to the most fragile and climate vulnerable countries
  4. Take a long-term investment approach to fragile and climate vulnerable countries, supporting them to adapt to the impacts of climate change and build resilience to natural hazards.


Climate chaos could have devastating impacts on the world’s most fragile nations, such as more intense and frequent weather-related hazards like floods and droughts. We must act decisively and invest appropriately to tackle this crisis.

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