Climate adaptation

Accelerating action for resilient economies and communities

The role of business in helping us adapt is more urgent than ever as we face the impacts of climate change. Extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, storms and wildfires show that climate change is no longer a distant threat. Slow-onset impacts, such as sea level rise, decreasing water resources, glacial retreat, ocean acidification or land degradation, are equally devastating for people and their livelihoods. According to the IPCC, approximately 3.3 to 3.6 billion people — half of the world —  are highly vulnerable to climate change, with communities in the Global South and small island developing nations being disproportionately impacted. 

The Adaptation Gap Report shows that at least 84 per cent of UNFCCC Parties have established adaptation plans, strategies, laws and policies. Financing, however, to turn these plans and strategies into action is still not up to par, as international adaptation finance flows to developing countries are 5–10 times below estimated needs. 

This is why the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has called for a breakthrough in adaptation and resilience. Adaptation cannot be the neglected half of the climate equation. Fifty per cent of climate finance needs to be directed toward adaptation needs and regions that need it most, and communities need to be protected through early-warning systems.

To accelerate action on adaptation, the High-Level Climate Champions for Climate Action launched the Race to Resilience campaign, which aims to catalyze action to build the resilience of four billion people by 2030. Companies can join the Race To Resilience by joining an approved partner initiative.

Business actions for climate change adaptation

Businesses are increasingly aware of exposure to risks linked to climate change. According to the World Meteorological Organization, there have been more than 11,000 disasters due to weather, climate and water-related hazards over the past fifty years at a cost of some USD 3.6 trillion. The private sector must step up by addressing their climate risks and prioritizing adaptation — not only to protect their workers and the communities they operate in but also to ensure the success of their businesses now and in the future. Beyond risk mitigation, adaptation action is also a business opportunity, as demand for adaptation products and services will open up new markets. 

Every company should start by screening its operations, assets and supply chains for specific climate risks before designing an adaptation plan with strategies to address each threat. As companies engage in adaptation action, they must strive to achieve a just transition and avoid redistributing risk or leaving workers, their communities and downstream suppliers behind.

Disclosing climate risks is now a requirement for companies to access capital. To climate-proof their business and ensure long-term viability, companies must implement the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures recommendations and mainstream climate risks in all investment decisions.

Water resilience action

Water is perhaps the most visible and direct way climate change impacts our planet. One of the Race to Resilience partner initiatives, the Water Resilience Coalition was founded in 2020 as an industry-driven, CEO-led coalition of the CEO Water Mandate that aims to elevate global water stress to the top of the corporate agenda. During the UN 2023 Water Conference, the CEO Water Mandate launched the Business Leaders Open Call to Accelerating Action on Water to integrate resiliency thinking into companies’ policies and foster collective action in water-stressed basins.

Ocean resilience action

The world depends on a healthy, productive and resilient ocean. The private sector can play a crucial role in accelerating ocean-based climate solutions, which serve adaptation goals ranging from protecting and restoring mangroves, coral reefs and seagrass to developing urban coastline protection and low-trophic aquaculture. Take action and be part of the ocean solution with the Ocean Stewardship Coalition and the Global Seaweed Coalition.

Loss and Damage

As our planet continues to get hotter, all communities will increasingly suffer losses and damage from climate beyond their capacity to adapt, with financial needs estimated at up to USD 400 billion per year. For climate-stricken countries to access finance, a major transformation of global financial institutions is needed beyond operationalizing the fund established at COP27. 

The private sector has a vital role to play. Possible contributions include providing special funds for supply chain and employees when hit, voluntary contributions based on historical emissions, facilitating access to insurance and more. Companies can advocate for Governments to leverage their tax systems and repurpose fossil fuel subsidies to mobilize more finance for loss and damage.

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