Editorial

Who's got most to lose if the Paris Agreement fails?

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With Donald Trump's election victory still casting a shadow over events in Marrakesh, representatives will meet this week to further progress the mobilisation of climate finance.

The conversation will focus on developing and implementing initiatives aimed at stimulating both public and private funding. Particular emphasis will be on adaptation finance in developing countries. African nations will be among those following these discussions most keenly.

According to Verisk Maplecroft's Climate Change Vulnerability Index (pictured below), 18 of the 20 most vulnerable countries to climate change are found in COP22's host continent. The index evaluates the physical impacts of climate change, as well as the human sensitivity to climate stressors and the capacity of a country to adapt to the effects of climate change.

The newly released data reveals that, along with changing weather patterns, a reliance on agriculture and a lack of adaptive capacity exacerbates vulnerability in many African countries. The Central African Republic is the highest risk country in the rankings, with agriculture accounting for half of its GDP, followed by DR Congo (2nd), Liberia (4th) and South Sudan (5th).

On average agriculture contributes to 30% of the economies in these countries – a reliance that leaves them highly susceptible to climate shocks, such as flooding and droughts. Since climate change is likely to result in reduced and more variable crop yields, without adaptation the negative impacts on economies and livelihoods may well be significant.

While trends over the past 20 years indicate that societal and economic reliance on agriculture is decreasing globally, African countries – and those most vulnerable to climate change – are lagging behind. It's against this backdrop that Morocco is expected is to leverage its role as host nation to make the case that a significant proportion of the $100 billion a year of climate finance promised to developing countries, should target adaptation activities in African agriculture.

As talks progress, the implications of a Trump presidency on the Paris Agreement and climate financing remain highly uncertain. Should the US pull out of the deal, as Trump has threatened, the incentive for other nations to impose their own emissions cuts is significantly reduced. The pathway to a low-carbon global economy would then become even more treacherous and limiting global warming to 1.5°C would be nigh-on impossible.

Compounding this is Trump's vow to cut all US "global warming payments". Over the past six years, these "payments" have amounted to almost $3 billion a year in climate finance for adaptation, clean energy, and sustainable landscapes activities. This will be seen as a double hammer-blow, especially to the most vulnerable nations who are likely to suffer the worst impacts of 'dangerous' climate change.

Download the Verisk Maplecroft Climate Change Index 2017 below.

Download the Climate Change Vulnerability Index 2017