'Climate adaptation is not defeat, it’s defence'

10:36 am on 29 March 2019

The level of global action to adapt to climate change must be ramped up to meet the scale of the problem.

There's increasing ocean inundation in Marshall Islands - here downtown area of Majuro Atoll in 2014

There's increasing ocean inundation in Marshall Islands - here downtown area of Majuro Atoll in 2014 Photo: supplied/Isaac Marty

That's the view of the head of the Global Center on Adaptation who stopped over briefly in the Marshall Islands this week.

Patrick Vekooijen visited Majuro as part of global consultations with world leaders on strategies to step up action on the adaptation front.

"Adaptation is not happening at the scale and speed the world needs," he said.

Climate adaptation includes numerous initiatives ranging from agriculture production to innovative city design to coastal protection to hold back rising seas.

The Global Center on Adaptation manages the Global Commission on Adaptation that is chaired by former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and includes Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine and two dozen other world leaders.

Mr Vekooijen said the Marshall Islands is now developing an adaptation plan, which is an essential step in the process to getting greater world focus on this need.

He said "this is a test case and the world is watching to see how robust it is".

Mr Vekooijen said while some people view climate adaptation as giving up, that's not the case.

He said it is not defeat, but defence.

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that even if the world meets the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, there will be dramatic climate impacts globally, he said.

Even if the world can hold the planet's warming to 1.5 degrees Centigrade, it is projected there will be 142 million climate refugees, he said, adding: "It's smarter to invest in prevention and it's cheaper."

Still, close to 85 percent of all climate investments go to mitigation, not adaptation. But this is beginning to change, particularly with the World Bank promising to split its climate funding 50-50 for mitigation and adaptation, said Vekooijen.

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