Climate change implies a kind of mathematical formula: for every 0.1°C increase in global temperature, it will be more expensive and more difficult to adapt to its impacts. And if you consider that we have already increased the global temperature by 1.1°C since the pre-industrial era, it is easy to conclude that adaptation to the changes to come will be increasingly urgent. Above all, when recent reports such as that published by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) warn that, even taking into account all the commitments made by countries to combat global warming, we are still on a path that will lead to a rise in temperatures between 2.4 and 2.6°C by the end of the century. It should be remembered that this would be far from the limit of 1.5°C, which would keep us in a relatively safe area.
“Among the many things that will be at stake during the next United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) is adaptation,” says Maritza Florian, climate change, biodiversity and ecosystem services specialist at WWF Colombia. “Especially for a region like Latin America which, despite not contributing a large percentage of the emissions generated by climate change [solo alrededor del 8%]Yes, it is very vulnerable.” From Sunday November 6 to Friday November 18, more than 190 countries from around the world will meet in Egypt, at COP27, to try to shed light on how to face, plan for and reduce the risks of the biggest crisis of humanity: global warming.
According to the expert, adaptation will be an important item on the agenda of this meeting. First, because it will be discussed how to measure how far countries have progressed on this issue. In contrast to the reduction of emissions, to date there is no consensus on which indicators or criteria to measure this. “This is a process that to some extent adapts to the interests of the context, so there is likely to be a very technical discussion on how to reflect progress towards the global adaptation goal,” adds Isabel Cavelier, a former COP negotiator. and co-founder of the Colombian think tank Transforma.
Second, because it will be checked whether the countries meet the goal they set last year, at the COP26 held in Glasgow (United Kingdom): to double the money allocated to adaptation. Climate finance is one of the hottest and most elusive issues in climate negotiations, and adaptation has lost out. According to the “adaptation gap” report also generated by UNEP in 2021, just for 58 countries to adapt to warming, around $70,000 million is needed each year. However, according to OECD calculations, by 2020, of the total funds allocated to developing countries, only 17% was for this purpose. In other words, even if the target were to double as countries have promised, reaching some $40 trillion by 2025, silver could be missing.
“Latin American countries were the ones who started talking about adaptation in the context of the Paris Agreement negotiations, and the mention of it was a surprise because many wanted it to be just an agreement to reduce emissions,” recalls Jimena Nieto Carrasco, who was part of the Colombian of the delegation that participated in the negotiations on the Agreement and is currently a member of the Compliance Committee of the Paris Agreement. And it is important that Latin America does not lose this leadership. Not just because it’s a real urgency, but because it’s a region that’s home to six of the most biodiverse countries in the world: because it’s a biologically diverse region in general. “Two global crises are converging and worsening here: the climate crisis and the loss of biodiversity,” says Ninel Escobar, director of climate change at WWF Mexico.
Having biodiversity is a double-edged sword. Protected areas and species conservation, and what are known in the climate world as ‘nature-based solutions’, have proven to be among the most effective adaptation strategies. But as WWF’s Living Planet 2022 report reminds us, Latin America and the Caribbean is also the area where the greatest loss of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish has been observed, with an average of 94% between 1970 and 2018. In addition, since similar to temperature rise and adaptation, biodiversity loss is also at greater risk with temperatures just 0.1°C higher.
Added to this are other development challenges facing Latin America that are linked to the effects of global warming: poverty, the gender gap, inequality, land and housing conflicts. “Adaptation also has to do with the socioeconomic aspect, with making sure it is implemented and reaches the most marginalized population groups,” says Daniel Morchain, Global Director of Climate Change Adaptation at The Nature Conservancy (TNC). “The idea of the progress of one country, one continent, is connected with reality. And with warming, that’s a changing reality. Therefore, progress must be adapted to what we know today,” he adds. For this reason, he launches an idea that could be useful to the negotiators who will meet over the next two weeks to know how to measure adaptation: that every project that is being done asks from the beginning: “Is gender taken into account? Does it increase inequality? That would be a good way to start.