Least developed countries get less than 3% of money needed to transform to face climate change

Press release, 14 July 2021
Research finds little evidence of initiatives being led by local communities.

The 46 least developed countries have received less than 3% of the funds they need to transform their societies and economies to adapt to climate change, according to new research published today by IIED.

'Follow the money' shows that between 2014 and 2018, just US$5.9 billion of primary climate adaptation finance reached these countries, a huge shortfall on the estimated $40 billion per year that they need to adapt to the changes in climate that are now inevitable. The estimate of $40 billion is based on figures compiled more than five years ago and so is likely to be inadequate.

The $5.9 billion figure only includes programmes where adaptation was the primary objective of the funding. It represents less than 20% of climate finance reported by donors for adaptation to least developed countries (LDCs). LDCs may have received up to a further $29 billion for adaptation as part of broader overseas development assistance programmes, but that would still leave a shortfall of $165 billion.

While almost half of the $5.9 billion received was for programmes and projects designed to allow local people to make some decisions, the research found little evidence of initiatives being led by local communities.

Countries in the developed world made a pledge in 2009 to provide $100bn a year of climate finance to developing countries by 2020, which has not been met. Recent G20 meetings failed to result in the announcement of any further contributions despite the clock ticking down to the crucial COP26 in Glasgow. New commitments are particularly needed from Australia, Italy and the United States.

IIED climate change researcher Marek Soanes said: “This research shows that as temperatures continue to rise, the poorest and most marginalised people, who are most affected, are not getting the funds they need to adapt to climate chaos.

“Despite being least responsible for creating climate change, they are often excluded from making decisions about adapting to this new reality, and cannot get hold of or control the resources they need to build their own resilience.”

Less than 3% of the money was intended to tackle gender inequality head on and only 2% targeted Indigenous Peoples.

Researchers found low levels of transparency among donors about where their funding was going, what it was funding and who was making the decisions so in reality the amounts reaching local communities could be much lower.

Soanes said: “Donors need to be much more transparent about how much funding they are giving to climate adaptation and who is controlling the money so the international community can clearly see if the needs of the most vulnerable are being met.”


This press release was updated on Monday, 19 July 2021. It originally stated that further climate adaptation funds as part of overseas development assistance were $49.1 billion, leaving a shortfall of $145 billion.

Media enquiries

For more information or to request an interview, contact Sarah Grainger: sarah.grainger@iied.org or 07503 643332.

Notes to editors

Follow the money: tracking least developed countries’ adaptation finance to the local level was authored by Marek Soanes, Clare Shakya, Sam Barrett, Dave Steinbach, Nora Nisi, Barry Smith and Josie Murdoch.

Researchers only included public climate adaptation finance that invested in projects where adaptation was its primary objective; they did not include projects whose secondary objective was adaptation, or Paris-aligned official development assistance (ODA).

IIED recognises the rest of LDC adaptation finance flows – up to a possible $49.1 billion in total – as Paris-aligned ODA, not climate finance. A stronger and more stringent definition of climate finance will help ensure it is separate from – and therefore additional to – ODA and foreign direct investment.

Read an explanation of the estimate of $40 billion per year needed for climate adaptation in LDCs was generated.