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Open letter to COP leadership from ODI's Climate and Sustainability team

To the COP28 President-Designate, Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber,

No matter the definition or measurement used, financing for climate adaptation has been far below what is needed. We have been falling short so often in our fight against climate change that we may have become numbed to what these failures really mean; underfunding adaptation means condemning families, communities, and countries to largely avoidable suffering and poverty.

We are warned of the 'rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all' in our first Global Stocktake. Every single human being on the planet will need to adjust to actual or expected climate and its effects. This could be as critical as rapidly expediting life-saving vaccines to millions as disease-vectors change their ranges, or as relatively benign as installing more water fountains in schools. Yet what is unequivocal is that developing countries are going to bear the worst impacts of climate change and as such, have the most acute need to adapt.

As you highlight in your recent letter, there is no path to Paris that doesn’t put people front and centre. It is clearer than ever that we need to fund adaptation today, not tomorrow. In 2023, we’ve seen devastating floods across Libya, Southern China, and Brazil; one of the strongest cyclones to ever make landfall in Myanmar and Bangladesh; and the ever-expanding wildfire season displace and devastate countless communities across the globe. It would be remiss to forget those creeping impacts of climate change, less likely to make the headlines, such as sea level rise making farmland unproductive, longer periods of unbearable heat, and conflict escalation, to name but a few. Those young enough to see the next century may remember when climate-related disasters were infrequent, they will also inherit a high mental health burden of a world on fire under a changing climate.

Upholding your letter’s promise to ‘put those most impacted at the heart of climate action’ will mean addressing head on that finance for adaptation is far behind the pace needed. To accelerate it, in the short term you must keep adaptation high on the COP28 agenda and use this platform to deliver a greater, more predictable flow of concessional finance from developed to developing countries. Simplifying and expediting access to finance will also mean breaking down the adaptation-development barrier through a strong framework for the Global Goal on Adaptation in pursuit of nationally appropriate climate-resilient development pathways to sustainable development and poverty alleviation. No more competing agendas: these are two sides of the same coin protecting human rights, as is clear from your efforts towards sustainable food systems.

In the medium to longer term, you must send a strong signal to embed the pursuit of adaptation and resilience in the actions of the breadth of actors and institutions involved in how finance is governed, directed, and allocated. You must create the conditions where climate vulnerable countries gain the international support they need to raise and administer sustainable revenues they can use to spur adaptation. This includes restructuring or relieving debt burdens that are forcing countries into making impossible trade-offs. You must ensure that international financial, trade and tax regulation is channelling private finance into adaptation and resilience building, particularly in the most climate vulnerable countries, working for rather than against their climate resilient development.

We creep closer to a resolute failure of humanity each time COP sweeps by without the action that is needed. President-delegate, we see your commitment and dedication to making these multilateral negotiations a success. We implore you to ensure that political declarations do not crowd out critical space for negotiated outcomes delivering concrete action. The money is there. We have the means to allow everyone to thrive today and tomorrow; all we need is the will.

Signed, in our individual capacities as people deeply committed to climate action

Charlene Watson Senior Research Associate ODI
Jyotsna Puri PhD Associate Vice President, Strategy and Knowledge IFAD
Mengye Zhu Assistant Research Professor University of Maryland
Jan Corfee-Morlot Founding Partner 3CS Climate Policy Journal
Pilar Bueno Rubiar Senior Researcher - Director CONICET Argentina 1.5
Merylyn McKenzie Hedger OBE Climate Change and Development Specialist
Xolisa Ngwadla Independent Consultant
Hannah Roeyer Lead independent Global Stocktake
Illari Aragon Climate Justice Policy lead Christian Aid
Lars Christensen Adaptation Advisor UNEP Copenhagen Climate Centre
Sindy Singh Climate Advisor
Michai Robertson Research Fellow ODI
Jules Pretty Professor of Environment and Society
Richard Klein Senior Research Fellow Stockholm Environment Institute
Mahlet Melkie Senior Associate RMI
Vikrant Panwar Research Fellow ODI
Nicholas Simpson Senior Research Fellow ODI
Michael Jacobs Professor of Political Economy University of Sheffield
Sonja Klinsky Associate Professor Arizona State University
Clare McGuire Climate Adaptation Ricardo
Matthew Ahluwalia Senior Programme Officer Ashden
Joyce Irungu Senior Manager EED Advisory
Katerina Cerna Technical Manager Agulhas Applied Knowledge
Elizabeth Tan Senior Research Officer ODI
Joyeeta Gupta Full Professor of Environment and Development in the Global South University of Amsterdam
Tom Athanasiou Executive Director EcoEquity
Line Kuppens Researcher University of Amsterdam
Catherine Cameron Essex Climate Action Commissioner Essex Council
Archie Gilmour Senior Research Officer ODI
Prabin Man Singh Executive Director Prakriti Resources Centre
Gerd Leipold Climate Transparency
Mark Offermann Press Officer and Adaptation Expert Kilmadelegation e.V.
Yue Cao Research Associate ODI
Md Borhanul Ashekin Chief Executive Officer Human Safety Foundation (HSF)
Angelo Kairos Dela Cruz Executive Director Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities
Genaro Godoy González Contact Point, Finance and Markets WG YOUNGO
Danica Marie Supnet Director for Climate Policy Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities
Anoop Poonia Lead Strategist Paripurnam India
Mahlet Melkie Senior Associate RMI
Samson Mbewe Technical Programme Manager SouthSouthNorth (SSN)
Sandra Guzman General Director Climate Finance Group for Latin America
Shandelle Steadman Senior Research Officer ODI
Isabel Struder President Sostenibilidad Global
Sabrina Nagel Global Finance and Policy Advisor Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, Atlantic Council
Farah Anzum Strategic Communications Associate GSCC
Kate Baker Research Assistant, Global Sustainability Institute Angela Ruskin University
Aled Jones Professor Angela Ruskin University
Ian Christie Associate Professor Centre for Environment and Sustainability, University of Surrey
Alejandra López Carvajal Director of Climate Diplomacy Transforma
Gemma Norrington-Davies Senior Manager Agulhas Applied Knowledge
Nella Canales Research Fellow Stockholm Environment Institute
Blane Harvey Associate Professor McGill University
Noelie Hounzanme Analyst Agulhas Applied Knowledge
Laetitia Pettinotti Research Fellow ODI
Micheal Szoenyi Program Lead Zurich Flood Resilience
Hinesh Mehta Associate Director of Climate Change Hammersmith & Fulham Council
Shehnaaz Moosa Director SouthSouthNorth
Joe Thwaites Senior Advocate Natural Resources Defence Council
Salomé Lehtman Project and Advocacy Advisor Mercy Corps
Eskedar Awgichew Executive Director Eco-justice Ethiopia
Asif Saleh Executive Director BRAC
Nathaniel Mason Honorary Senior Research Fellow Imperial College London
Roberto Pasqualiano Senior Researcher University of Cambridge
Georgia Savvidou Researcher Stockholm Environment Institute