BERLIN -- A group of leaders from business, politics and science have called for a massive investment in adapting to climate change over the next decade, arguing it would reap significant returns as countries avoid catastrophic losses and boost their economies.
The Global Commission on Adaptation, comprising dozens of prominent figures including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, urged governments and businesses to tackle the inevitable consequences of climate change, in addition to trying to curb it.
In their 81-page report released Tuesday, the experts proposed investing $1.8 trillion between 2020 and 2030 in areas such as early warning systems, infrastructure that can withstand rising sea levels and extreme weather, and boosting agriculture to cope with droughts. Other areas they propose investing in are bolstering scarce water resources and improving mangrove forests that provide key protection to vulnerable shorelines in developing nations.
Ban cited Bangladesh's response to two devastating cyclones as a good example of the way countries can adapt to environmental threats. Following the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in 1970 and 1991, the South Asian nation reinforced flood defenses, built shelters and trained volunteers, sharply cutting the death toll in subsequent storms.
He also pointed to recent environmental devastation in the Bahamas as further proof of the importance of preparing for climate change.
"Just one cyclone devastated the country," Ban said. "Of course there's a very good way of weather forecasting but when these countries are well-prepared in infrastructures and provide some shelters (...) then we could have reduced as much as possible the damages that we have seen now."
The commission said protection measures have allowed valuable land to be used in places such as the Netherlands and London that would otherwise have risked flooding.
While rich countries already have the means to invest in such measures, poor nations risk losing out, the group said.
"If we do not act now, climate change will supercharge the global gap between the haves and have-nots," said Ban.
Christiana Figueres, a former U.N. official who helped forge the 2015 Paris accord, said talk on adaptation has for years been neglected, compared with efforts to mitigate, or lessen, climate change.
"Mitigation and adaptation are actually two sides of the very same coin," she said. "If we delay mitigation any further we will never be able to adapt sufficiently to keep humanity safe. And if we delay adaptation we will pay such a high price that we would never be able to look at ourselves in the mirror."
The report was released ahead of a U.N. summit on climate change later this month.
Sam McNeil in Beijing contributed to this report.
Global Commission on Adaptation: https://gca.org/global-commission-on-adaptation/home