Poorest people get less than a penny per day to protect themselves from impacts of climate crisis

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People living in the poorest countries receive around £2.40 per year – less than a penny per day – to protect themselves from the devastating impacts of the climate crisis, Oxfam estimates in a new report today ahead of the Climate Action Summit in New York. The report highlights how people in Mozambique and the Horn of Africa are facing mounting human and financial costs from climate-related disasters they did least to create.

Financial pledges from wealthier nations to help poor countries adapt to the impact of climate change are overstated and notoriously opaque. Taking this into account, Oxfam’s analysis suggests that the 48 least developed countries are receiving as little as $2.4 – $3.4 billion (£1.9 – £2.7bn) per year in actual funding for adaptation – equivalent to around $3 (£2.40) per person.

The report Who Takes The Heat? focuses on Mozambique and the Horn of Africa where millions of people are already suffering the consequences of prolonged droughts and devastating cyclones – a terrifying portent of things to come without urgent action. Mozambique sustained $3.2 billion worth of damage from two cyclones earlier this year amounting to more than a fifth of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – the equivalent of 23 Hurricane Katrinas hitting the US.

Oxfam is calling on the world leaders at the UN summit to heed the climate strikes happening around the world and bridge the gap between the targets set in the Paris Agreement in 2015 and the lacklustre progress made since.

Danny Sriskandarajah, Chief Executive of Oxfam GB, said: “The climate emergency is hitting poorer countries the hardest even though they did the least to cause it. Millions of people are already living with the threat of deadly storms, rising floodwater and failed crops. Wealthy nations including the UK should take urgent action to reduce emissions and provide financial support to the poorest communities to cope with the impact of climate change.”

In the last year, the drought in the Horn of Africa has left more than 15 million people needing humanitarian aid in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. Repeated cyclones in Mozambique have left 2.6 million people in need of assistance. Substantial levels of climate finance provided on an annual basis would allow countries to reduce the impact of climate shocks by, for example, diversifying crops, conserving water or investing in better weather monitoring systems.

In 2009, developed countries agreed to reach $100 billion per year in climate finance by 2020 to help poorer nations cut emissions and adapt. Developed countries reported last week (13th September) that they have reached $71 billion – almost certainly an overstatement and still substantially short of that target.

High levels of debt in countries like Somalia and Mozambique further exacerbate the impacts of climate shocks by squeezing the resources available for them to become more resilient to future climate change and to develop in a low-carbon way. Somalia’s debt stands at 75 percent of its GDP and any climate finance provided in the form of loans risks pushing them deeper into debt. Oxfam estimates that around two-thirds of climate finance is provided in the form of loans that need to be climadaptrepaid.

Oxfam is calling on the UK Government to take urgent action to reduce emissions and to encourage other nations to follow its lead in doubling pledges to the Green Climate Fund which supports poor countries to develop in a low-carbon way. It should also ensure more climate finance is directed towards adaptation in the least developed countries.


Notes to editors

  • For an advance copy of the report Who takes the heat? Untold stories of climate crisis in the Horn of Africa and Mozambique contact the Oxfam press office. The report was produced by Oxfam and its partners Save Somali Women and Children, Arid Lands Development Focus-Kenya (ALDEF) and Mozambique’s Associação dos Jovens e Amigos de Govuro.
  • The 2019 Climate Action Summit takes place in New York on 23 September and will be attended by heads of state and government. The UN is holding the talks to “boost ambition and accelerate actions to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change” by calling on leaders to bring their plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent over the next decade, and to net zero emissions by 2050.
  • Oxfam calculated the headline statistic by estimating the amount of climate finance provided specifically for adaptation in the 48 least-developed countries ($2.4-3.4 billion per year) and dividing this by the combined populations of all these countries ($2.5-$3.5 per person per year). All figures are an average of the years 2015 and 2016 – the last year for which official UNFCCC data is available. Read more about the methodology here.
  • Oxfam responded to the cyclones in Mozambique with emergency water supplies and other aid. It also works with farmers in the Horn of Africa to change agricultural practices to lessen the impacts of drought and flooding. This work is supporter in part by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery ad the Disasters Emergency Appeal.
  • The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that adapting to climate change and coping with damages will cost developing countries $140-300 billion per year by 2030.
  • The OECD announced on 13 September that developed countries had mobilised $71.2 billion in climate finance for developing countries in 2017
  • On 10 September, the Global Commission on Adaptation published a major study calling for an acceleration in adaptation action and an increase in political support for building climate resilience.

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