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Funding climate change adaptation

Funding climate change adaptation

Written by

Sinéad Dwyer, Zoe Johnson, Raimund Zühr, Joshua Aje

Published on

September 23, 2021

This Donor Tracker ‘Toolkit’ is intended to support advocates in the lead up to COP26, as they make the case for why donors should do more to fund climate change adaptation through their ODA.

It contains three parts:

  • The Baseline

the baseline

  • Cases for Investment

cases for investment

  • The Outlook

the outlook

In November of 2021, the UK will host delegates from around the world at the 26th United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26). After 18 months dominated by COVID-19, this conference represents a critical moment to reengage the global community on the climate crisis.

COP 26 has a packed agenda. All signatory countries are being asked to put forward ambitious targets for emission reductions by 2030 to enable the world to reach net-zero by 2050. World leaders will also evaluate their progress against previous climate agreements such as the unmet commitment of high-income countries to mobilize US$100 billion in climate finance per year by 2020 and deliberate on new targets. Delegates are also being asked to finalize the Paris Rulebook to finally ensure its full implementation, six years on from the original signing of the Paris Agreement.  

On top of these important agenda points, delegates urgently need to agree on how to increase financial support to communities around the world to adapt to the impacts of climate change. The plethora of extreme weather events seen around the world in the last few months should serve as a reminder to everyone that investing in climate change mitigation alone is no longer a sufficient response to this crisis. Climate change is now “widespread, rapid, and intensifying” and its impacts are being felt in every inhabited region of the world; July of 2021 was earth’s hottest month ever recorded, record-breaking floods devastated areas of Western Europe and China, and wildfires raged in the sub-Artic. As the latest report of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) makes clear, many of these changes are both “unprecedented” and “irreversible” over a very long timescale meaning that we must adapt to them.

The Paris Agreement recognized that adaptation is an integral part of the global response to climate change. It established a global goal on adaptation committing “to enhance adaptive capacity and resilience” and “to reduce vulnerability, with a view to contributing to sustainable development”. According to the latest UN Environment Programme Adaptation Gap Report, countries are making progress on embedding adaptation into their national policy and planning. In 2020, 72% of countries had adopted at least one national-level adaptation planning instrument; however, implementing these plans requires funds and, unfortunately, the costs of adaptation are growing faster than the financing. Annual adaptation costs in low- and middle-income countries are expected to increase from US$70 billion in 2020 to between US$140 billion and US$330 billion in 2030, before rising to the range of US$280 billion to US$500 billion by 2050. Although global financing for adaptation has increased, it remains far below the levels required to confront the scale of the problem. The Climate Policy Initiative tracked only US$30 billion of annual financing for adaptation globally on average in 2017/18, compared to US$537 billion for climate mitigation.  The vast majority of this funding came from public actors and was invested domestically. Official Development Assistance (ODA) makes up only a small component of this funding but, as argued in this toolkit, there are compelling arguments for why donors should be doing more.

While the global community has been busy making commitments and signing agreements, our climate has continued to change and the damage to ecosystems, livelihoods, and global health security now represents an additional cost that must be addressed. With so many low- and middle-income countries among those worst affected, it is now more important than ever that donor countries step up their support for these at-risk communities.

To learn more about donors' international climate finance, read the Donor Tracker sector page on climate and the dedicated section in each of our Donor Profiles. For the latest news on donors' climate-related commitments, read our Policy Updates. Be sure to sign up for an account and to subscribe to our Weekly Digest to receive these updates, tailored to your interests, directly to your inbox every week.

Sinéad Dwyer

Sinéad Dwyer

Zoe Johnson

Zoe Johnson

Raimund Zühr

Raimund Zühr

Joshua Aje

Joshua Aje

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