Anne-Marie Trevelyan said that the COP26 summit in Glasgow was a “moment to build a movement,” and stressed that “we can’t afford to fail,” with vulnerable countries already suffering the worst impacts of climate change.
Addressing a ministerial dialogue on adaptation action on the eighth day of the climate conference, the UK government’s champion for adaptation and resilience at COP26 cautioned that the world was “behind” on adaptation, which aims to build a climate-resilient future, particularly in those countries and regions most at risk.
“We are all here because human activity - our activity - is changing the global climate,” she said. “The world’s most vulnerable nations and poorest communities are already struggling to cope with those changes.
“Some will be able to adapt, but many will not, and I am struck by the reality that people on the frontline of climate change are suffering hardship. Some are losing their livelihood, others their lives.”
“We must and we can do more. We have to get ahead.”
Sabra Ibrahim, a COP26 special envoy for the Maldives, warned ministers that the island nation lacks the money to address either its immediate or long term challenges, and criticised those who have dragged their heels over providing finances for poorer nations.
“Resources that were pledged for adaptation have not materialised,” she told delegates. “We acknowledge that progress has been made, but when the world can raise trillions in the face of Covid-19, we question the pace and commitment.”
Patrick Verkooijen, CEO of the Global Centre on Adaptation, told the event that today’s generation was “living in the eye of the storm.”
“Even if the world is able to stay within 1.5C, and this is a must, not a wish, the world must adapt,” he said.
It comes as Ms Trevelyan announced the UK government was directing £274 million to help some of the most vulnerable countries to fight the impact of climate change.
The funds will be invested in Asia and the Pacific region to help communities better prepare, with a £15m adaptation fund created for developing countries and £1m set aside to support the humanitarian response to climate change.
The UK government said the tranche of funding, which will come from a foreign aid budget which has been subject to recent cuts, will help up to 14.4 million people to better adapt to climate change.
In reality, however, that £290m is a drop in the ocean of what is required, and what is being demanded by developing countries.
A recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development showed that in 2019, just 25 per cent of climate finance from developed countries went towards adaptation, with the rest allocated to reducing carbon emissions.
Amina Mohammed, the UN’s deputy secretary general, told the meeting that the allocation for adaptation measures needed to reach at least 50 per cent.
Poorer nations have called for $100 billion (£74bn) a year in financial help, arguing they are already suffering.
A $100bn pledge was made by wealthier nations as long ago as 2009, but plans to have the money in place by 2020 have fallen short, with the revised target now 2023.