The Adaptation Gap Report estimates that the annual costs of adaptation in developing countries could range from $ 140 billion to $ 300 billion per year by 2030, and rise from $ 280 to $ 500 billion by 2050.9. Coping with these costs will require a drastic increase in the flow of public and private funding. Research must justify funding for adaptation, demonstrate returns on investment, and ensure its implementation where it is most needed. Unlocking finance depends on prioritizing the various adaptation investment options, assessing synergies and trade-offs between climate action and development goals.
Actors differ as to what counts as useful information and in what form. Some agencies have internal units that analyze and distill academic literature, but others need more tailored advice on project proposals. Multilateral, national and private funding sources all have distinct knowledge needs, risk appetites, and ways of using evidence. For example, three quarters of global climate finance is deployed in the home countryten. In the short term, research can work with climate finance to strengthen the evidence base and appetite for adaptation-based investments. Even the relatively large Green Climate Fund still relies heavily on adaptation grants and has only two approved projects that leverage private sector funding.11.
We note some frustration with the burden of proof placed on potential adaptation investments, the requirement to provide detailed climate scenarios on specific impacts, vulnerabilities and risks in order to receive funding. Adaptation planning and project proposals are based on understanding specific climate hazards, livelihoods and assets at risk, and how investments will address those hazards and create value. Scenarios can also examine how a project might fare over a range of potential climate futures, thereby anticipating the limits of adaptation or avoiding poor adaptation. Although quite logical in principle, the preparation of such a climate justification can become cumbersome if the information has to be continually redone. Streamlined approaches are needed, grounded in climate science, but which can be updated as the climate system and its impacts evolve.
Our discussions also identified instances where the proposals were not funded due to a lack of historical climate data. Data collection is essential to strengthen the case for adaptation, in tandem with research that collects, preserves and archives data so that short and long-term learning can ensue.
To guide climate finance, it takes rigorous science, sending the right signals to the market and removing barriers to investment. Ultimately, research has a role to play in ensuring that all financial flows comply with the Paris Agreement and are supported by solid evidence, not just flows intended to help developing countries. The research community can help local people, policy makers, farmers and urban planners make informed decisions by co-developing climate risk information, vulnerability assessments and adaptation pathways.