Climate change erased a fifth of vulnerable nations' wealth: Report

Rising temperature and modified rainfall patterns reduced wealth in these countries by US$525 billion over the past two decades. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PARIS (AFP) - Climate-vulnerable countries said disasters and weather patterns driven by global warming have wiped out around a fifth of their economic growth, in a report published on Wednesday (June 8) amid growing calls for funding to help nations hammered by weather extremes.

The research, released by a consortium of 55 developing nations across Africa, Asia, the Americas and the Pacific, comes as UN climate negotiators meeting in Germany wrangle over "loss and damage" - the costs of climate change impacts that are already unfolding.

According to the report, heat, changes in rainfall patterns and other weather extremes are already putting a severe dent in developing economies.

Ghana's Finance Minister Kenneth Nana Yaw Ofori-Atta, who wrote the preface to the report, said the finding should "sound alarm bells for the world economy", calling for global action to support nations most exposed.

The research, carried out on behalf of finance ministers, compared observed losses to modelling that estimates how the economies might have grown without the impacts of climate change.

It finds that rising temperature and modified rainfall patterns have already reduced wealth in these countries by 20 per cent, or US$525 billion (S$722 billion), over the past two decades.

"We are bearing this alarmingly high economic cost, despite having contributed the least to causing climate change, while also being least equipped to respond to its costly consequences," the report said.

"Losses and damage go well beyond what can be quantified in dollars and cents in the form of lost and destroyed lives, livelihoods, land, even threats to our culture."

Funding from rich polluters to help vulnerable developing nations adapt to a warming world has already fallen short, with a promise of US$100 billion a year from 2020 still not met.

Vulnerable countries say wealthy nations' failure to curb emissions - coupled with a lack of adequate adaptation funding - is leading to ever-greater losses and damages as temperatures rise.

A landmark report by UN climate science experts this year on the impacts of global warming said weather extremes had caused direct economic damage, which can sometimes weigh on growth for a decade or more.

Africa was particularly affected, it said, adding that one estimate suggests gross domestic product per capita was around 13 per cent lower for African countries in 2010 than it would have been without the previous two decades of global warming.

'People are suffering'

While the climate talks in the German city of Bonn are largely aimed at preparing for the high-level UN COP27 meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt in November, the key issues of adaptation funding and "loss and damage" are being hotly debated.

Developing nations managed to push loss and damage up the agenda at the Glasgow UN summit last year.

But calls for a dedicated finance mechanism have so far been resisted, particularly by major polluters including the United States.

"People are suffering, people are dying, how are we going to help them?" said Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate on the sidelines of the meeting.

"That should be the conversation that we should be having. How are we going to help the people on the frontlines?"

Climate negotiations are also taking place against a backdrop of multiple global challenges, including extreme weather, Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the ongoing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and energy, food and economic crises.

Outgoing UN climate change chief Patricia Espinosa has expressed concern that money to help developing nations could shift away as a result of the Ukraine war.

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