COVID-19 and the dynamics of climate change adaptation

Adeze Ojukwu

COVID-19 has continued to rattle the world and ram its economy, since its stormy advent in 2019.

Most countries are still grappling with the pandemic, which has zapped incalculable amounts of monies and materials.

The deadly virus remains ferocious, according to experts, despite the development of vaccines, with the emergence of new mutant variants and second wave of the infection, in several regions.

Sadly COVID-19 deaths have surpassed two million worldwide, according to latest figures.

Presently many vulnerable nations, as Nigeria and those within the ‘Global South,’ cannot meet their fiscal commitments and targets, with widespread social, travel and commercial restrictions.

The health catastrophe, not only devastated most businesses, but gulped resources meant for other sectors.

Climate change is one example. Indeed the entire environment industry was not spared, as many mitigation projects were halted, due to inadequate funds.

With most countries operating on survival mode, lean budgets and dearth of raw materials, most governments can ill-afford to propel ecological pursuits.

Nevertheless, the imperatives to boost funding for planetary concerns, cannot be shoved aside, despite the raging outbreak and its attendant woes.

Nigeria is considerably impacted by climate change, with erosions, flooding and gas flaring in the South, while the north experiences heat waves, desertification, land-related conflicts.

The nation is also fraught with low agricultural yields, harvest losses, drought and rain variability, due to the blazing atmosphere.

Analysis by Carbon Brief shows that it ‘received $136m in climate finance from other countries in 2016. That year, the world’s wealthiest nations gave a total of £75bn in climate finance – and the largest recipients were India, Bangladesh and Vietnam.’

According to the research agency, more than half of the climate funds given to Nigeria in 2016 came from the European Union(EU).

‘The EU donated a $58m grant to aid Nigeria in the development of its energy policy and a $40m grant to help improve its preparedness for extreme weather events that year.’

‘Other projects financed in Nigeria include $25m for the development of a credit system for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, $5m for a sustainable fuelwood management system and $3m for scaling up hydropower.’

Meanwhile, ‘temperatures have risen by around 1.6C since the start of the industrial era – higher than the global average, the group reported.’

‘Depending on the rate of future climate change, temperatures could rise by a further 1.5-5C by the end of the century.’

According to Dr. Okechukwu Igboeli, a veterinarian and professor at University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, persistent short-falls and failure to confront these challenges, pose huge existential problems to man and the entire ecosystem.

Prof Igboeli has significant academic and practical experience in entrepreneurship and research commercialization. Prior to joining the Science and Business program, he founded and led the drug discovery company, True Spring Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Lamenting over the nation’s environmental mismanagement, Igboeli, an alumnus of University of Nigeria Nsukka(UNN) said ‘Nigeria has one of the highest rates of energy poverty worldwide, with epileptic electricity supply, forest depletion and power failure.’

Despite several pledges, various administrations have failed to fix the nation’s energy deficiency.

According to him the recent economic recovery plan, should focus on addressing energy crisis, by funding the rapid expansion of solar power and eco-friendly alternatives.

These issues came to the fore, last Thursday, during the launch of The United Nations Environment Programme(UNEP) Report.

The 2020 Adaptation Gap Report, ‘underscored the need for governments to ‘step up action and adapt to new climate reality.’

‘As temperatures rise and climate change impacts intensify, nations must urgently step up action to adapt to the new climate reality or face serious costs, damages and losses.’

‘Though countries have made progress in planning for climate change adaptation, there are significant financing shortfalls in getting them to the stage where they provide real protection against droughts, floods and rising sea levels the report revealed.’

While announcing the release of the study, UNEP Executive Director, Dr Inger Andersen said ‘the hard truth is that climate change is upon us.’

‘Its impacts will intensify and hit vulnerable countries and communities the hardest, even if we meet the Paris Agreement goals of holding global warming this century to well below 2 degrees Celsius and pursuing 1.5 degree Celsius,’ Andersen warned.

He reiterated the urgency for global commitment. For instance ‘annual adaptation costs in developing countries are estimated at $70 billion, but the figure could reach up to $300 billion in 2030, and $500 billion in 2050.’

The report revealed that ‘almost three-quarters of nations have some adaptation plans in place, but financing and implementation fall ‘far short’ of what is needed ‘

Indisputably, ‘stepping up public and private finance for adaptation is very important.’

‘As the Secretary-General has said, we need a global commitment to put half of all global climate finance towards adaptation in the next year,’ Ms. Andersen added.

‘This will allow a huge step up in adaptation, in everything from early warning systems to resilient water resources to nature-based solutions.’

Adaptation, which is a key pillar of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, ‘aims to reduce countries’ and communities’ vulnerability to climate change by increasing their ability to absorb impacts.’

The study also ‘underscored the importance of nature-based solutions as low-cost options that reduce climate risks, restore and protect biodiversity, and bring benefits for communities and economies.’

Its analysis of four major climate and development funds: the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the Adaptation Fund, and the International Climate Initiative (IKI), suggested that support for green initiatives with some element of nature-based solutions has risen over the last two decades.

‘Cumulative investment for climate change mitigation and adaptation projects under the four funds stands at $94 billion. However, only $12 billion was spent on nature-based solutions, a tiny fraction of total adaptation and conservation finance,’ it added.

Cutting greenhouse gas emissions will reduce the impacts and costs associated with climate change, according to the report.

Additionally, ‘achieving the 2 degrees Celsius target of the Paris Agreement could limit losses in annual growth to up to 1.6 per cent, compared to 2.2 per cent for the 3 degrees Celsius trajectory.’

UNEP urged all nations to pursue the efforts outlined in its December 2020 Emissions Gap Report, which called for a green pandemic recovery and updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that include new net-zero commitments.

‘However, the world must also plan for, finance and implement climate change adaptation to support those nations least responsible for climate change but most at risk,’ it advised.

While the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to hit the ability of countries to adapt to climate change, UNEP said ‘investing in adaptation is a sound economic decision.’

The nation’s administrators will do well to heed this advice.

.Ojukwu is a Fellow of Hubert H Humphrey Fellowship, publisher, editor and serial newspaper columnist. She is a campaigner for environmental conservation and improved socio-economic and health services for all citizens. She is also an advocate for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGS). Please kindly send feedback to [email protected]

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