Oxfam response to World Bank’s new estimate of cost of adaptation to climate change in developing countries

Published: 30th September 2009

In response to the World Bank's new assessments on the cost of climate change adaptation, announced this morning at the UN Climate Talks in Bangkok, Oxfam Senior Climate Policy Adviser Antonio Hill said:
“The World Bank’s new assessment on the scale of finance needed to help developing countries adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change – $75-100bn per year on average from 2010-2050 – is a vital and timely contribution to the current negotiations under way in Bangkok.
The new figures should send a crucial message to rich country negotiators - to acknowledge that enough money must be put on the table well before Copenhagen, as developing countries will not sign on to a deal without it.  At the same time, people need to realize that these costs can still be lowered – if rich countries move faster to keep warming as far below 2 degrees C.
The World Bank’s assessment gives us a more robust picture of the massive amounts of money needed in countries that are least able to cope with the effects of climate change they did little to cause.
However, the World Bank study suggests that adaptation costs will increase  over time. From our work on the ground with people in developing countries, Oxfam knows that immediate finance is needed right now. Rising sea levels are already forcing people to move from their homes in the Pacific. Farmers throughout Africa are coping with the devastating consequences of prolonged drought.
Since prevention is cheaper than cure, there are strong arguments for providing more resources early on when it will make the biggest difference.
Unless developing countries receive enough support in the short-term, costs in 2045 will be to compensate for actual damages – not to prevent them.
Rich countries have, disappointingly, committed a tiny fraction of what is needed - less than US $300 million per year will go to the UN Adaptation Fund by 2012 – less than the amount that one state in Germany is spending on adaptation, and paltry amounts through other multilateral and bilateral channels.

Rich countries have to get serious - no finance, no deal

When you consider the trillions of dollars found to bail out banks for the financial crisis, the paltry sums offered by developed countries are insulting to poor countries who lack the resources to cope with an increasingly hostile climate not of their making.
The European Commission’s proposal of 2 - 15 billion Euros a year by 2020 is grossly inadequate on the low end, but especially as it suggests funds should be taken from existing aid commitments.
If rich countries raid aid to finance adaptation, vital spending on vital areas such as health and education will suffer and millions more people will be plunged into poverty.
With the exception of Norway, other developed countries have failed to put forward sound proposals on financing sources as yet.
The climate change agreement to be negotiated by governments this December must include an early commitment to a transparent, accountable Global Fund of at least US $50 billion a year for adaptation.”

Other analysis

Oxfam is pleased that the study recognises the importance of incorporating women into adaptation efforts.  Women are hit harder than men from climate change due to their greater reliance on natural resources, and are already key innovators in their own communities, whether it be helping their communities respond better to disaster in Bangladesh, or spearheading campaigns for forest and watershed protection in the Philippines.
The study also makes several assumptions that could affect the true cost of adaptation. We need to expect that true costs could be two to three times this figure:

  • It only looks ‘hard’ physical actions such as infrastructure costs. Institutional capacity building - such as educating farmers on water management - are not included, but need to be included in cost estimates;
  • The World Bank estimates do not consider the cost of catastrophic climate impacts, ie. no sudden shocks or faster development of warming than is currently anticipated, and the potentially larger adaptation implications of unexpectedly rapid change;
  • Impacts to economic sectors such as tourism are not taken into account.
The World Bank’s assessment gives us a more robust picture of the massive amounts of money needed in countries that are least able to cope with the effects of climate change they did little to cause.
Antonio Hill
Oxfam Senior Climate Policy Adviser