Adaptation Gap Report 2020

The UNEP Adaptation Gap Report 2020 finds that while nations have advanced in planning, huge gaps remain in finance for developing countries and bringing adaptation projects to the stage where they bring real protection against climate impacts such as droughts, floods and sea-level rise.

Public and private finance for adaptation must be stepped up urgently, along with faster implementation. Nature-based solutions – locally appropriate actions that address societal challenges, such as climate change, and provide human well-being and biodiversity benefits by protecting, sustainably managing and restoring natural or modified ecosystems – must also become a priority.


The process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects. In human systems, adaptation seeks
to moderate or avoid harm or exploit beneficial opportunities. In some natural systems, human intervention may facilitate adjustment to expected climate and its effects.

Adaptive capacity

The ability of systems, institutions, humans, and other organisms to adjust to potential damage, to take advantage of opportunities, or to respond to consequences

Ecosystem services

Ecological processes or functions having monetary or non-monetary value to individuals or society at large. These are frequently classified as (1) supporting services such as productivity or biodiversity maintenance, (2) provisioning services such as food or fibre, (3) regulating services such as climate regulation or carbon sequestration, and (4) cultural services such as tourism or spiritual and aesthetic appreciation.


A functional unit consisting of living organisms, their non-living environment and the interactions within and between them. The components included in a given ecosystem and its spatial boundaries depend on the purpose for which the ecosystem is defined: in some cases they are relatively sharp, while in others they are diffuse. Ecosystem boundaries can change over time.

Ecosystems are nested within other ecosystems and their scale can range from very small to the entire biosphere. In the current era, most ecosystems either contain people as key organisms, or are influenced by the effects of human activities in their environment.

Status and progress of global adaptation planning, finance and implementation

  • Climate adaptation is now widely embedded in policy and planning across the world, but levels of engagement and the quality of instruments are vastly different from country to country.
  • Adaptation action is critical to enable both public and private actors to prepare for and respond to the impacts of climate change.
  • The Paris Agreement underscores the importance of national-level adaptation planning processes by committing all countries to report on progress made.
  • The analysis shows that most countries (72 per cent) have adopted at least one national-level adaptation planning instrument (for example, a plan, strategy, policy or law), and some countries (9 per cent) that do not currently have such an instrument in place are in the process of developing one.
  • Most developing countries have begun formulating a national adaptation plan (NAP), which is a key mechanism to strengthen the focus on adaptation.
  • Many countries have also developed, or are in the process of developing, sectoral and subnational plans. Progress in adaptation planning is expected to continue, not least because rising climate awareness is driving the emergence of an increasing number of subnational initiatives.
  • Analysis of adaptation planning paints a mixed picture in terms of achieving stated objectives. At the present time, we cannot assess the adequacy and effectiveness of adaptation planning as there is no consensus around definitions for and approaches to assessing these aspects.
  • Around half of countries’ planning documents address risks comprehensively, include relevant stakeholders (including women) and have dedicated planning processes in place.
  • Additional adaptation finance is critical to enhance adaptation planning and implementation and limit climate damages, particularly in developing countries.
  • Despite an increase in finance available for adaptation, the adaptation finance gap is not closing.
  • Significant scaling up and incentivizing for both public and private adaptation finance is required to narrow the gap. Implementation of adaptation actions is growing worldwide but there is still very limited evidence of climate risk reduction.
  • Most projects target vulnerable populations, and many explicitly mention gender-related outputs. Further scaling up of the levels of implementation is needed to avoid falling behind with managing climate risks, particularly in developing countries.