Vulnerable countries face huge hit to GDP from climate change, report warns

A mud hut in Sudan Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Some of the world’s most vulnerable countries could suffer an average 64% hit to their economy by 2100 under current climate policies, a report from Christian Aid warns.

The study also suggests countries could see their GDP reduced by a fifth by 2050 on current policies countries have in place to tackle climate change, which put the world on track for 2.9C of warming.

It warns that vulnerable countries could still see their GDP reduced by 13% by 2050 and by a third on average by the end of the century even if the world meets its goal to keep global warming to 1.5C.

The report is released as the Cop26 talks focus on helping poorer countries adapt to rising temperatures and on loss and damage caused by climate change.

Campaigners warned that a robust system for dealing with the inevitable loss and damage to people, land, livelihoods and infrastructure caused by rising temperatures was needed – as well as more action to cut emissions.

Climate-vulnerable countries want to see a fund developed to provide financing for loss and damage, through the UN system.

The study, coordinated by Marina Andrijevic – an economist at Humboldt University in Berlin, looks at the economic damage to countries which are the least developed and those most vulnerable to climate change such as small island states.

It found Africa was particularly at risk – with eight of the top 10 worst affected countries coming from the continent.

The worst hit country was set to be Sudan, facing a GDP reduction of 32% by 2050 and 84% on current policies by countries to tackle global warming.

The country, which was hit by heavy rains and flash floods in September, could still see GDP hit by 22% by 2050 and 51% by 2100 even with warming limited to 1.5C.

The methodology used does not factor in measures to help countries adapt to the changing climate, so investment on that front could alleviate some of the damage, those behind the study said.

But it also only looked at the impact of temperature rise, which means the added damage from extreme weather events could make the economic outlook for those countries worse, Ms Andrijevic said.

“Based on historical relationships between GDP growth and climate variables, here we extrapolate how a future under climate change might affect economic performance.

“We get staggering numbers which imply that the ability of countries in the Global South to sustainably develop is seriously jeopardised and that policy choices that we make right now are crucial for preventing further damage.”

Nushrat Chowdhury, Christian Aid’s climate justice adviser from Bangladesh, said: “Being from Bangladesh I’ve seen how loss and damage is already affecting my people.

“Houses, lands, schools, hospitals, roads are being lost and damaged by floods and cyclones.

“People are losing everything. Sea levels are rising, and people are desperate to adapt to the changing situations.

“This report shows that even if we keep temperature rise to 1.5C Bangladesh will suffer a GDP impact of more than 38% by 2100.

“If ever there was a demonstration of the need for a concrete loss and damage mechanism this is it.”

Mohamed Adow, director of Nairobi-based climate and energy think tank Power Shift Africa, said: “This report shows the scale of the economic disaster facing Africa due to climate change.

“Africa has the done the least to cause climate change yet this report shows it will face the most severe consequences. That is deeply unjust.

“The fact rich countries have consistently blocked efforts to set up a loss and damage fund to deal with this injustice is shameful.

“That attitude needs to change here in Glasgow. Not only because it is needed, but the bill will only get bigger if rich countries continue to ignore the needs of the most vulnerable.”