Climate Resilience Is a “Must-Have”

Image of Ban-Ki Moon

COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of life, including climate change. In the wake of this pandemic, essential climate adaptation projects have been left on hold, funding has slowed, lockdowns have caused construction work to come to a standstill and supply chain disruptions have left companies without the tools or technical assistance they need.

In the meantime, climate change continues to progress. And extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, droughts and wildfires, have only compounded the problems countries have experienced in responding to COVID-19.

“We need to do more; 2020 was a year of surging heat, intensifying drought and rampant wildfires,” Ban Ki-moon, former United Nations Secretary-General and chair of the board for the Global Centre on Adaptation (GCA), said during the virtual Climate Adaptation Summit 2021. “Climate change is happening now and much faster than we thought, causing cascading risks alongside the fallout from COVID-19. Building resilience to climate is not nice to have, it is a must-have.”

The summit, led by Ki-moon, set out an agenda on how to build forward better to have a climate-resilient future by 2030.

“Global problems require global solutions and acting now protects our future world for everyone,” said Ki-moon. “Climate change doesn't respect borders. It is an international problem that can only be solved with global cooperation, collaboration across borders worldwide. We need to accelerate our efforts to tackle the impacts of climate change before we are past the point of no return.”

The Power of an Infrastructure Push

Research by the IMF found if a green and resilient infrastructure push is coordinated around the world, the result could be a 0.7% boost to the global gross domestic product (GDP) in the first 15 years of COVID-19 recovery. The push would also create millions of jobs and address growing inequalities. This is especially important in developing countries that have been especially vulnerable to the crisis.

To help make the recovery more sustainable for everyone, a series of climate adaptation initiatives was launched at the summit.

One of these projects was a joint venture between the African Development Bank and the GCA. The organizations have set up the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program (AAAP) for developing agriculture systems, which is designed to protect against climate change as well as improve infrastructure. The program also supports youth-led climate adaptation entrepreneurship and youth participation in policies. 

The African Development Bank plans to commit US$25 billion between 2020 and 2025, of which at least 50% (US$12.5 billion) will support climate adaptation and resilience-building. The bank and GCA will use this funding to leverage an additional US$12.5 billion with other key partners to support African governments, the private sector and civil society to scale up effective adaptation solutions. 

The organizations have already been working on projects on the continent. They have supported an initiative in Ghana that analyzed how prepared the country’s infrastructure is for climate change. 

Other ventures by the bank also include a US$20 billion Desert to Power project to create a solar zone in the Sahel (the region separating the Sahara Desert and the tropical savannas), which is the largest in the world. 

Getting Back to Nature

Nature-based solutions (NBS) are also big on the agenda when it comes to building back better and creating resilience to climate change. A Project Preparation Facility (PPF) has been designed that will build a pipeline of city-led NBS projects for climate adaptation.   

The facility will provide financial and technical assistance to city leadership, civil society and infrastructure operators to plan and design NBS. 

Increasingly, projects need to focus on protecting our water systems, as research has shown more than 90% of natural disasters are from drought, flooding, heavy storms or hurricanes. Demand for water is expected to rise by 55% by 2050, with the number of people living with water scarcity growing to 3.1 billion. 

The summit saw the launch of a Water Adaptation Hub set up by the GCA to share knowledge between sectors and to accelerate water adaptation interventions globally. 

“We need to invest more on adaptation on early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure, agriculture, water security and planting more mangrove trees to keep shores from being washed away,” said Ki-moon. Reaching the most vulnerable is not only critical for addressing poverty, but also in tackling imminent food security and climate issues. This is just the beginning.