The International Climate Adaptation Summit needs to deliver for developing countries adapting to climate change

Sketchnotes taken during the climate adaptation webinar
Blog by Nafkote Dabi, Climate Change Policy Lead
Publié: 15th janvier 2021

Thursday the 21st of January Oxfam organized a webinar about climate adaptation with speakers from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Uganda. You can find the video summary underneath.

Muhammad Ali lived as a fisherman in Karo Ghanghro village in Pakistan. He used to provide for his family through income earned from fishing, especially the valuable fish species which now have been migrating in deep sea due to mangrove deforestation. Fishing was a long-held tradition which supported not only his family, but his ancestors and the entire community. However, repeated sea intrusion in Karo forced Ali to leave his degraded land, his home and to move to a nearby town. Soon after, more  flooding displaced Ali and his family to Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest city. Ali may now have ‘settled’  in Karachi but he still longs for the life he knew as a child; one he thought he would one day give to his children.

Ali’s story is not unique. Entire communities have migrated away from coastal areas repeatedly hit by cyclones and floods since the 90s. Around the world for small-scale fishing and farming communities, whose livelihoods depend on predictable climates, weather-related disasters have negatively impacted peoples security, their homes, their incomes, their health, and taken lives. If people  survive one climate disaster, they may well be forced to flee after another.

With the Climate Adaptation Summit taking place from January 25-26, Oxfam and its partners urges developed countries to strengthen and deliver on their commitment to provide much-needed assistance to developing countries to adapt to an already changing climate. Given the devastating impacts of extreme and erratic weather events adaptation support is critically important to vulnerable countries and to people living in poor communities. To people like Ali, who are already experiencing the worst impacts of the climate crisis. Without adaptation assistance, the lives and livelihoods of communities, especially communities whose existence is intimately intertwined with nature, are at risk and, their food security is compromised. Developed countries whose sensational wealth is founded on  burning fossil fuels and whose economies continue to fuel the climate crisis, there is a moral and ethical responsibility to assist vulnerable countries to adapt to a changing climate, and to improve the lives and livelihoods of communities at risk.

Communities’ ability to adapt to climate is undermined by repeated climate related disasters

People around the world have been adapting to change since time immemorial and continue to show strength and ingenuity: re-building mangroves to reduce damaging storm surges, adapting seeds and farming techniques to cope with changing weather conditions, re-planting trees to reduce soil erosion. Good adaptation practices can save lives and livelihoods, but there is a cost attached to it. While people living in poverty deploy the resources, traditional knowledge and skills that they have, much more is needed. Small scale producers need finance to insure their crops and support to adapt their seed and crop varieties, communities need accurate and timely communications  to prepare for floods, to dig drainage and to build flood defenses, amongst others. The onus is on rich countries to deliver their share of the financial resources required.

The adaptation costs for communities and countries are high but the climate finance from rich countries is woefully inadequate

Over a decade ago, developed countries committed to ramp up climate finance to $100bn per year by 2020, to assist developing countries adaptation and to support them reduce their emissions. This goal is an important  part of the Paris Agreement. However, the delivery falls short. To begin with, the finance mobilized is inadequate and not enough to address the climate emergency, or to reduce emissions nor to support communities to adapt. Secondly, of the reported public climate finance, only an estimated 25% went to adaptation as opposed to 66% for mitigation. Adaptation finance is critical if we are to support vulnerable countries and frontline communities impacted by the climate crisis. Money for adaptation is needed to save lives and support sustainable livelihoods. From the small amount collected, even less goes for adaptation in the agriculture sector, which is not enough  to address the needs of rural communities in developing countries.

In addition to being wholly inadequate, it is alarming that most climate finance, 80%, comes in the form of loans, and other non-grant instruments. This means that the world’s poorest countries and communities are driven into debt  to protect themselves from the excess carbon emissions of rich countries. Finance that should be helping countries respond to climate change is  harming them and  contributing to rising – and in many countries, unsustainable – debt levels. Developed countries have to ensure that adaptation finance has to be provided as  grants.

Adaptation finance is needed to support vulnerable countries and poor communities to adapt to the climate crisis

Oxfam urgently calls on the international community and high level political leaders gathering at the Climate Adaptation summit to deliver at minimum the following:

  • The CAS should enhance the understanding amongst governments that significantly more adaption finance is needed to meet the Paris Agreement commitment to ‘achieve a balance between adaptation and mitigation’. It is critical to ensure 50/50 for mitigation and adaptation. Adaptation is a survival matter for developing countries.
  • Governments convening at the CAS should accept that adaptation assistance  cannot be in the form of loans. Grants are a lifeline for adaptation action and lacks the same potential to attract private finance as mitigation. The world’s poorest countries should not be forced to take out loans to protect themselves from the impact of rich countries’ excess carbon emissions.
  • The CAS should increase understanding of how to ensure that climate adaptation finance really reaches  local communities and supports them to better address the gender specific  needs of women and men. In order to strengthen the adaptive capacity of communities, locally-appropriate, gender-sensitive adaptation plans and funds are needed, to reduce vulnerability to climate impacts and to strengthen resilience.


Only with significant and sustained financial support, can coastal and rural communities like Karo Ghanghro village in Pakistan, where Ali lived, effectively adapt to changing and extreme weather conditions. The moral duty is on rich countries and the international community to provide adequate support to developing countries adapting to the climate crisis. This support must reach the most vulnerable groups and frontline communities, who have contributed the least to climate change, but are exposed to its impacts disproportionally. Only with guaranteed support for people like Muhammad Ali and his fellow community members can the climate transition be truly just, with a bright future for all.

Watch the full recording of the webinar