‘Car without wheels’: Adaptation playbook lacks finance target

Developing nations got agreement to set targets for food and water security, but rich nations were unwilling to plug a huge funding gap

Adaptation playbook lacks finance target

A child looking for water in a rural area of Benin during a drought (Photo: UNDP Benin /Flickr)


Governments at the Cop28 climate talks in Dubai have agreed a playbook for adapting to climate change in areas like health, protecting nature and food and water security.

But while wealthy countries celebrated the agreement, developing and particularly African countries denounced the absence of a target to provide financial and other forms of support.

After the deal was agreed, Senegal’s negotiator Madeline Diouf Sarr, who chairs the group of the world’s poorest countries, said that the outcome “is full of eloquent language but regrettably devoid of actionable commitments”.

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Morocco’s head of delegation Bouzekri Razi warned the plenary room that “these commitments will remain undelivered unless supported by additional finance”.

Australia’s climate minister Chris Bowen called it “ambitious” and Germany’s development minister Svenja Schulze described it as “comprehensive”.

Glasgow to Dubai

At Cop26 in Glasgow, governments agreed on a two-year programme to elaborate a global goal on adaptation.

Imane Saidi, from the Morocco-based climate think tank Imal, told Climate Home it was supposed to be the adaptation equivalent of the target to limit global warming to 1.5C.

Over the two years since Glasgow, negotiators have travelled around the world to hold eight gruelling meetings on what the goal should be.

Developing countries wanted specific targets on climate issues. For example, to reduce adverse climate impacts on agricultural production by 50% by 2030.

Developing countries wanted to stick to procedural commitments, like governments filing national adaptation plans by a certain date.

“We are hesitant on quantification,” a developed country negotiator told Climate Home last month. “You cannot copy and paste the template of emission reduction targets – it doesn’t really work for adaptation.”

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In this battle, developing countries scored a procedural win. Governments agreed at Cop28 to set targets to protect food and water security, health, nature, livelihoods, infrastructure and cultural heritage.

Another two-year negotiation will be held to quantify those targets by Cop30 in Brazil.

No support

But developed countries did not relent on providing finance, technology and training to help developing countries achieve these goals. Because of this, Saidi told Climate Home the text is like “a car without wheels”.

While Monday’s draft said governments would “commit” to closing the gap in adaptation finance – which the United Nations says is $194-366 billion a year – the final text only “seeks” to close this gap.

Developed countries promised two years ago to double their adaptation finance on 2019 levels by 2025 to around $40 billion. They resisted pressure to draw up a “roadmap” on meeting this goal, instead only agreeing to be “urge[d]” to provide a less forceful “report”.

Emilie Beauchamp, who followed the talks for the International Institute for Sustainable Development, told Climate Home “there has been an unequal dynamic to the negotiation” and governments refused to compromise.

Saidi, who was part of the Moroccan delegation and present in meetings of the African and Arab groups, said that developing countries long resisted the text but “at one point you just have to accept what they’re giving you”. But, she added, “developed countries will also have to accept that the trust is not there”.

This article was amended on 13/12/23 to change “developing” to “developed” in the last sentence

Read more on: Cop28 | UN climate talks