World’s most vulnerable people on track to get $11 each to adapt to climate change

Bigger and better pledges are needed from richer countries at upcoming negotiations.

Press release, 02 November 2022

The increase in finance to help people in the world’s poorest countries adapt to climate change, which was promised by richer countries at negotiations in Glasgow last year, would bring the total amount available per person to US$11 per year, according to analysis from IIED released in the run up to this year’s negotiations in Egypt, known as COP27. 

At COP26 last year, richer countries promised to double adaptation finance to $40bn in total per year by 2025. This was a huge improvement on the $20bn reached by 2019 but still a long way from the promise made in Copenhagen 13 years ago, to provide $100bn in climate finance every year by 2020, with half of that amount ringfenced for adaptation.  

If the $40bn target is met and the 46 least developed countries (LDCs) receive the same share as they have previously, they would receive $12.8bn in 2025. Factoring in population rise, this would amount to about $11 per person per year.

IIED research in Bangladesh – one of the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change – shows that in some areas, households are spending on average the equivalent of $93 per year to protect against flooding and storms, including on measures like raising floors or building shelters for their livestock.

Clare Shakya, director of IIED’s climate change research group, said: “Increased pledges of finance to help people adapt to rising sea levels, scorching temperatures and more frequent floods were a welcome step forward in Glasgow but we cannot afford to stop there. The money already on the table has to be seen as a floor, not a ceiling. 

“As global temperatures creep higher and higher, the climate change they cause becomes exponentially more powerful, threatening the lives and livelihoods of more people and making it harder for them to adapt. We need a concerted effort at these negotiations to set new levels of climate finance from 2025 onwards, and these must reflect what developing countries see as their needs and priorities in the face of climate change.”

In 2015, IIED estimated that the LDCs would need around $93.7bn a year to fund the investments in their Nationally Determined Contributions – the plans every country is asked to submit to the United Nations setting out how they will tackle climate change. That’s over seven times more than the LDC countries are projected to receive even with the doubling of climate adaptation finance.

IIED has worked closely with partner countries in the global South to look at the ways in which additional finance could be spent cost-effectively. At national scale, social protection schemes and devolved climate finance (DCF) programmes are two cost-effective options that could increase resilience significantly. 

DCF initiatives make climate finance available to local governments and allow local communities to set their own priorities, such as improving the management of land and water resources so that the impacts of shock events are reduced for everyone among the local population.

Senegal, Kenya, Mali and Tanzania have developed DCF approaches – and the average cost per person was just $3.21 per year. This estimate is a minimum annual cost, and schemes would benefit from having more resources available.

Social protection schemes can cover things like giving people cash transfers and food aid so that they don’t have to sell their assets to cope with climate-related shocks and might also reduce the chances of people migrating to escape climate disasters like flooding and drought.

India’s national social protection scheme guarantees 100 days of paid work per year or 150 days if there is an extreme weather event. The daily cost in 2021 was $4.31 per person. The daily cost of Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Programme between 2015 and 2020 was just $1.09 per person. To provide social protection schemes for everyone living in extreme poverty in the least developed countries would cost $57bn per year.