adaptation cycle

Climate impacts – such as super-charged hurricanes, floods, and wildfires – are becoming an increasingly urgent reality. Global leaders have called for urgent action on climate adaptation, and a global commission finds adaptation can deliver $7.1 trillion in benefits

The Global Commission on Adaptation has warned Tuesday: Nations rich and poor must invest now to protect against the effects of climate change or pay an even heavier price later.

The GCA report, Adapt Now: A Global Call for Leadership on Climate Resilience, finds that investing $1.8 trillion globally from 2020 to 2030 in five areas of climate adaptation could yield $7.1 trillion in net benefits.

The report highlights many economic, social and environmental benefits of adaptation

The last generation, the first generation

“We are the last generation that can change the course of climate change, and we are the first generation that then has to live with the consequences,” former UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who chairs the commission, said at the report’s launch in Beijing.

“Delay and pay, or plan and prosper,” he said, sharing a catchphrase from the commission.

“I sincerely hope that President Trump will return to Paris climate agreement and do something good for humanity,” said Ban.

At the launch, Chinese environment minister Li Ganjie – whose country is the world’s top carbon polluter – called adaptation practices “an inherent requirement of China’s sustainable development”.

“Global actions to slow climate change are promising but insufficient,” the report stated. “We must invest in a massive effort to adapt to conditions that are now inevitable.”

Leaders from the GCA have called on governments and businesses to take urgent action to innovate and advance climate adaptation solutions in light of new research findings.

The report puts forward a bold vision for how to transform key economics systems, making them more resilient and productive.

The ratio

The Commission finds that climate adaptation can produce significant economic returns: the overall rate of return on investments in improved resilience is high, with benefit-cost ratios ranging from 2:1 to 10:1, and in some cases even higher.

Five areas

The five areas of climate adaptation the report considers are: early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure, improved dryland agriculture, mangrove protection, and investments in making water resources more resilient. These represent just a portion of the total investments needed and total benefits available.

Recent events have shown that climate change affects people everywhere. Furthermore, without action, millions of people will be pushed further into poverty, leading to increased conflict and instability.

International problem

“Climate change doesn’t respect borders: it’s an international problem that can only be solved with co-operation and collaboration, across borders and worldwide. It is becoming increasingly clear that in many parts of the world, our climate has already changed and we need to adapt with it,” said Ban Ki-moon.

“Mitigation and adaptation go hand-in-hand as two equally important building blocks of the Paris Climate Change Agreement,” he added. “Adaptation is not only the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do to boost economic growth and create a climate resilient world.”

Positively, climate adaptation can deliver a “triple dividend”— it avoids future losses, generates positive economic gains through innovation, and delivers additional social and environmental benefits.

Address inequality

Without action by 2030, climate change could push more than 100 million people in developing countries below the poverty line, said the report.

The report further calls for adaptation that addresses underlying inequalities in society and brings more people, especially those most vulnerable to climate impacts, into decision-making on adaptation. The reality is that the people and communities most affected by climate change did the least to cause the problem, making adaptation imperative.

Launched with events in over 10 capitals and cities around the world, including Majuro, Beijing, New Delhi, Geneva, Mexico City, Ottawa, Wainibuka, Washington D.C., among others, the Commission’s report highlights the many economic, social and environmental benefits of climate adaptation. For example:

Restore mangrove forest

At least a third of the mangrove forests globally have been uprooted for tourism or aquaculture.

Restoring mangrove forests in places like Thailand, India and the Philippines protects coastal communities from deadly storm surges while providing critical habitats to local fisheries and boosting prosperity.

Room for the River

The Netherlands “Room for the River” strategy moved dikes inland, widened rivers and created water-absorbing plazas. These projects manage and slow floodwaters, while providing innovative public use spaces and revitalizing neighborhoods.


In Zimbabwe, farmers using drought-tolerant maize were able to harvest up to 600 kilograms more maize per hectare than with conventional maize. The additional harvest was enough to feed a family of six for nine months and provided US $240 in extra income, helping them send their children to school and meet other household needs.

Urban flood

Reducing flood risks in urban areas lowers financial costs, increases security, and makes investments more viable that would otherwise be too vulnerable to climate risks. London’s Canary Wharf and other developments in East London would have been impossible without flood protection from the Thames Barrier.


In order to ensure that climate impacts, risks and solutions are factoring into decision-making at all levels, the report calls for revolutions in three areas: understanding, planning and finance.

It also explores how these major system changes can be applied across seven interlocking systems: food, the natural environment, water, cities, infrastructure, disaster risk management, and finance.

Action Tracks

At the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit in September, the Commission will make several announcements and unveil additional “Action Tracks,” outlined in the report, covering areas from food security to resilience, disaster risk management, and finance.

Year of Action

On 24 September, at an event hosted by the Dutch Government at UN Headquarters, the Commission will also announce the start of the “Year of Action”, which aims to build on the report’s recommendations to mobilize action on climate change ahead of the Climate Adaptation Summit in October 2020 in The Netherlands.

The GCA aims to inspire heads of state, government officials, community leaders, business executives, investors and other international actors to prepare for and respond to the disruptive effects of climate change with urgency, determination and foresight.

Composed of 34 Commissioners and convened by 20 countries, the GCA brings together leaders from political, business, multilateral, and scientific worlds to identify solutions and drive action.

Led by Ban Ki-moon, Bill Gates and World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva the GCA is co-managed by the Global Center on Adaptation and the World Resources Institute.

Adaptation trailed far down the agenda

In the 25-year history of UN climate negotiations, adaptation has trailed far down the agenda compared with “mitigation”, or the reduction of carbon emissions.

It was long seen as an issue only affecting poor and developing nations.

Wealth is not an adequate shield

Recent massive inland flooding and a string of record-breaking hurricanes in the U.S. along with ferocious heatwaves in Europe and Japan have shown that wealth is not an adequate shield.

Dominic Molloy, a co-author of the report and a researcher at the Global Centre for Adaptation, said the new focus should not detract from the need to slash carbon pollution.

“We absolutely need to do both, reduce emissions and adapt,” Molloy told AFP. “The purpose of this commission was to raise the visibility of adaptation, not shift away from mitigation.”

Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change noted that the two are inextricably linked.

“A failure to reduce emissions will mean mounting costs of adaptation,” he told AFP.

The costing

The report’s $1.8 trillion adaptation price tag for the period 2020-2030 is not an estimate of global needs. It covers only warning systems and the four other areas identified.

The $7.1 trillion dividend is based on the World Bank calculation that the value of damage caused by climate crisis is increasing, averaged across the globe, at about 1.5 percent per year.



Countercurrents is answerable only to our readers. Support honest journalism because we have no PLANET B. Subscribe to our Telegram channel



  1. Resting solely on the shoulders of ghgs is not enough. Recognise that world dam dynamics is playing a primary role,World Bank,take note. See Ramaswami Ashok Kumar/ complete profile by google search.

  2. Alvaro Fonseca says:

    Adaptation is a necessary concern in dealing with the climate crisis. However, I was suprised to read this text from Contercurrents team without a hint of criticism on the top-down approach taken by GCA and on the fact that no mention is made on mitigation measures. This latter issue was brought up e.g. by Fiona Harvey in The Guardian: “The view that adapting to inevitable climate change should be our priority, over futile and ruinously expensive attempts to cut emissions, has been spread by those who want to continue to emit CO2, come what may.” Moreover the report does not address the root cause of the climate crisis: the global economic system dependent on growth! The latter aspect has been emphasized e.g. in the latest warning from the Alliance of World Scientists. On the other hand, considering some of the leading members of GCA (e.g. Bill Gates, Kristalina Georgieva) I’m not surprised no mention is made to the global economic and financial system.
    Alvaro Fonseca (Lisbon, Portugal)