Who will pay the tab for climate change in 2022?

Chao Phraya flooding.
Chao Phraya flooding.
Image: Reuters/Chalinee Thirasupa
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As temperatures rise, Thailand’s Chao Phraya basin faces dual threats—severe floods are growing more likely at the same time that climate change is putting people living there at higher risk of drought.

To help the area adapt, a $34 million project, financed by the Green Climate Fund, is scheduled to wrap up in the summer of 2022 to improve water management and protect farmers in the Yom and Nam sub-river basin. The GCF, the world’s largest climate fund, aims to approve $3 billion in funding next year.

Projects like the one in Thailand are what authorities had in mind in 2009, when they came up with a plan to mobilize some $100 billion each year for climate finance that would help poorer countries cope with rising temperatures induced by emissions from rich nations. The problem, as most experts see it, is that there needs to be more money, and many more projects like the one in the Chao Phraya basin if people in developing countries are to avoid severe hardship in the coming years. Rich countries came up short of the mark in 2019, the most recent year that data are available, dishing out some $79.6 billion of climate financing.

Will they live up to their pledge in 2022?

COP climate finance promises

The COP26 climate summit in 2021 offers a glimpse of what to expect from climate finance in the future. There was at least a recognition at the gathering in Glasgow that more needs to be done, especially when it comes to adaptation financing, which helps developing countries prepare for and deal with the effects of higher global temperatures, said Liane Schalatek, associate director of the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, a policy think tank headquartered in Berlin. Money has tended to flow to mitigation—adaptation finance’s sexier cousin—which involves things like switching to renewable energy.

“It finally acknowledges that for far too long we’ve neglected adaptation finance,” Schalatek said. Even so, she says the commitments from industrialized nations, of around $40 billion annually by 2025, remain well short of what’s required.

“Obviously in developing countries there’s an urgency to act on resiliency, building, and adapting to climate change impacts. And that, for many developing countries, is actually the priority, not necessarily some of the mitigation measures,” Schalatek said.

The key in 2022 is to assess whether there’s any follow-up on the glittery promises made at the COP summit. Recent history shows that governments have a record of coming up short and that efforts to track how the money is used have been deeply lacking. There needs to be proof that it’s more “than a one-time press release.”