(Bloomberg) -- Global finance for climate adaptation measures around the globe is so minimal that doubling its current rate would reduce the sum of what’s needed by only 5% to 10%, according to a new analysis by the UN Environment Program. 

Rising greenhouse gas emissions are fueling more extreme weather around the world, increasing the need for funding to insulate communities from the impacts. Researchers found an annual gap of between $194 billion and $366 billion for projects that could help society adapt to climate change. That’s 50% higher than previous estimates and 10 to 18 times higher than the current level of global public finance, which was $21 billion for 2021. The number of new projects funded through the UN climate process — roughly 300 to 450 a year — leveled off within the last decade after consistent prior growth since 2007. 

UN Secretary General António Guterres asked governments to tax “the windfall profits” of fossil fuel companies and direct some of the proceeds to people already suffering “loss and damage” from climate impacts. 

“Fossil fuel barons and their enablers have helped create this mess; they must support those suffering as a result,” he said in a statement.  

For the first time, the annual report examines loss and damage as a function of failure to adapt. For years, developing countries have pushed rich countries to negotiate for loss and damage funding at annual climate talks. It took a growing global recognition that climate change has arrived — and a historic flood tragedy in Pakistan in the summer of 2022 — for developed countries to agree broadly to establish a fund. When diplomats resume their meetings in Dubai at the end of this month, they are expected to face  hard questions around fleshing out the program. Among the thorny issues on the docket are who funds the program, what institution oversees it and how to cope with the kinds of damage that resist quantification, such as loss of life, territory, Indigenous knowledge and biodiversity.

“Lack of conceptual clarity is a clear barrier to making political and operational progress on loss and damage,” the report states. 

The report authors implore developed countries to increase the flow of adaptation financing to developing countries that are suffering some of the worst impacts of climate change despite contributing the least to the problem. At the 2021 climate talks in Glasgow, rich countries pledged to double their adaptation outlays, to $40 billion by 2025, a figure separate from evolving loss and damage debates.

Beyond wealthy countries funding adaptation projects, the report identifies other sources that include developing country direct spending, large companies and other private sector sources and migrants’ remittances home. The researchers also suggests novel pathways to raise funds when conventional sources fall short, including levying fees on shipping and aviation, debt relief, taxes and debt swaps. The report throws weight behind pushes to reorganize the global multilateral financial system, such as the Bridgetown Initiative put forward by Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, that would make it easier for developing nations to access money for disaster recovery and adaptation. 

“Adaptation” includes a wide range of activities that countries may undertake to reduce the effects of extreme heat waves, more intense storms, rising sea levels, floods, drought and other ravages worsened by greenhouse gas pollution. Total funding for adaptation is small compared to commitments to prevent emissions — just $49 billion in direct finance versus $586 billion for mitigation, according to the Climate Policy Initiative. 

Protective measures save lives and money — and they’re also a powerful tool to fight economic and social inequality. A $16 billion increase in adaptation funding for agriculture would prevent 78 million people from suffering from starvation or hunger. Billion-dollar investments in coastal flood protection tend to save about $14 billion in prevented damage. 

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