Failure to invest the bare minimum needed to withstand projected climate damage could cost emerging markets hundreds of billions in climate damages and lost GDP growth this decade, according to a new study by Standard Chartered.

The Adaptation Economy, which investigates the need for climate adaptation investment in 10 markets – including China, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan – reveals that, without investing a minimum of US$ 30 billion in adaptation by 2030, these markets could face projected damages and lost GDP growth of US$ 377bn: over 12 times that amount.

The projection assumes that the world succeeds in limiting temperature rises to 1.5°C, in line with the Paris Agreement. In a 3.5°C scenario the estimated minimum investment required more than doubles to US$ 62bn and potential losses escalate dramatically if the investment is not made.  

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Examples of climate adaptation projects include the creation of coastal barrier protection solutions for areas vulnerable to flooding, the development of drought-resistant crops and early-warning systems against pending natural disasters.

India to benefit the most from adaptation investment

Among the 10 markets in the study, India is projected to benefit the most from adaptation investment. The market would require an estimated US$ 11bln to prevent climate damages and lost growth of US$ 135.5bn in a 1.5°C warming scenario – equal to a thirteen-to-one return for the Indian economy of investment in climate adaptation.

Meanwhile, China could avoid an estimated cost of US$ 112bln by investing just US$ 8bln. And Kenya could avoid costs of an estimated US$ 2bn by investing US$ 200 million in adaptation.

The case for adaptation

Even if the world’s nations manage to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, measures to adapt to climate change must be pursued alongside the global decarbonisation agenda, with the banking sector having a critical role to play in unlocking finance.

The US$ 30bln investment required for adaptation represents only slightly more than 0.1 percent of combined annual GDP of the 10 markets in the study and much less than the estimated US$ 95 trillion emerging markets require to transition to net zero using mitigation measures, as outlined in Standard Chartered’s Just in Time report.

The Adaptation Economy also surveyed 150 bankers, investors and asset managers and found that, currently, just 0.4 percent of the capital held by respondents is allocated to adaptation in emerging markets where investment is needed most.

However, 59 percent of respondents plan to increase their adaptation investments over the next 12 months. And on average, adaptation financing is expected to rise from 0.8 percent of global assets in 2022 to 1.4 percent by 2030.

Marisa Drew, Chief Sustainability Officer, Standard Chartered said: “This report makes it clear that irrespective of efforts to keep global warming as close to 1.5C as possible, we are going to have to incorporate climate-warming effects into our systems and adapt to its reality.  

“All nations will need to adapt to climate change by building more resilient agriculture, industry and infrastructure, but the need is greatest in emerging and fast-developing economies with a disproportionate risk of exposure to the negative effects of rising temperatures and extreme weather.  

“We must urgently recognise that adaptation is a shared necessity, and as our Adaptation Economy research so effectively highlights, inaction creates a shared societal burden of exponentially increasing cost. The financial sector has a crucial role to play in directing capital towards adaptation and creating the proof points to demonstrate that investing in adaptation can be a commercially viable attractive proposition for the private sector.”

The investment required is calculated by estimating future climate damages, consulting a range of external sources, and then considering the costs to abate those damages.

The economic benefit figures are calculated using a combination of the future damages avoided by the adaptation measures and the indirect economic impact of the investment of the activity on GDP.

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