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Struggling to adjust

The need for humans to adapt to climate change is clear, but the where, when and how remain fuzzy. Tan Copsey reports on existing – and hotly debated – plans for financing change in vulnerable countries.

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The climate is changing and human beings will need to change with it. People will have to adapt to floods, droughts, disease, increasingly severe weather events and disrupted water and food supplies. But some of those facing these threats have limited capacity to respond. International finance to help vulnerable nations adapt to climate change is therefore hugely important.

But who accesses these funds and how they access them are already hotly contested issues. At the heart of this debate are differing views over the status of adaptation. Should it be considered aid or reparations for past wrongs? More prosaically, can adaptation actually work, or will it fall prey to the types of problems that have hindered development aid and international attempts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions?   

At global climate-change negotiations in Copenhagen last year, it was agreed that developed nations would provide US$30 billion (201 billion yuan) in new funding for developing nations between 2010 and 2012, and the money would be split between helping people adapt to climate change and financing projects to alleviate its effects. A further US$100 billion (666 billion yuan) would be found from public and private sources between 2012 and 2020, and the most vulnerable nations given priority access to funds for adaptation.

However, implementing these promises has proved difficult. For a start, developing nations have expressed concerns that these funds are not going to be “new and additional” as promised, and that money may be counted as both adaptation finance and development aid. In November, a high-level panel assembled by United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki Moon will issue recommendations on how to find new money. Norwegian prime minister Jens Stoltenberg, who co-chaired a panel advising the UN on the issue, said in October that it is “challenging but feasible, achievable to raise the $100 billion”, further noting that “carbon pricing” in the developed world would need to be part of the solution.  

Another fault-line is emerging over definitions of vulnerability. The Copenhagen Accord states that “funding for adaptation will be prioritised for the most vulnerable developing countries, such as the least developed countries, small island developing states and Africa.” But exactly who qualifies remains a point of contention. Pakistan, for example, beset by terrible floods that may have been exacerbated by climate change, is requesting access to adaptation funds. Pakistan does not fit the definition but, facing huge shortfalls in aid to flood-hit regions, is seeking to contest and expand it.

Linda Siegele, a lawyer at the UK-based Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development (FIELD) noted that this is a “difficult and divisive issue right now among developing nations. There is a huge fear that there is a limited pie and that everyone wants a piece of it. I don’t think that’s a realistic picture. There has to be some priority setting.”

Negotiations over how the money would be disbursed also stalled at Copenhagen. Existing multilateral entities like the World Bank seemed well placed to channel funds. Some donor nations were also keen to provide funds directly on a bilateral basis. But many developing nations rejected these ideas, arguing that institutions like the World Bank had a bad track record in providing finance to developing nations, in part because these institutions were controlled and administered by developed nations. Bilateral funding would also lead to uneven outcomes, with some nations favoured while others missed out, they said.

The key point here is that adaptation finance is not aid. Existing processes were designed to provide grants and loans from developed nations. Sven Harmeling, an expert on climate change adaptation at German NGO Germanwatch, notes that “developing countries are entitled to receive adaptation funds because of the harm done by (developed country) greenhouse-gas emissions.” As such they have a moral case that they should have a say over how money is provided and spent. Funding for adaptation is not granted but owed.

An existing United Nations institution – the Adaptation Fund – might be part of the solution to this impasse. The fund uses an approach known as “direct access”, where a developing country can nominate a national institution to receive resources. This institution is then responsible for overseeing and reporting on how the funds are used. This gives recipient countries a larger say in how the funds are spent. More practically, Harmeling notes “an international fund alone cannot decide on hundreds or thousands of projects. It wouldn’t know the local situations, while national entities are better placed to evaluate projects.”

Developing nations can still access funds through accredited multilateral institutions, including the World Bank, if they choose. Ultimately it is likely that the innovative financial architecture provided by the adaptation fund will play a role, but it will almost certainly be alongside traditional multilateral institutions like the World Bank and bilateral finance.

The Adaptation Fund draws money from a 2% levy on the Clean Development Mechanism along with direct donations, ranging from a 45 million euro contribution (US$63 million) from Spain to a 100 euro (US$140) donation from European schoolchildren. In June, projects from Nicaragua, Pakistan, Senegal and the Solomon Islands received funding for adaptation projects to combat sea-level rise, deal with droughts and floods and reduce risks associated with glacial-lake outbursts.

The project in the Solomon Islands illustrates just how much planning and work adaptation involves. Improving the resilience of the country’s infrastructure in the face of climate threats includes everything from the construction of new sea-walls in order to keep out rising seas to improving the design of the airport to better cope with huge storms and facilitate subsequent relief efforts.

Money is also needed to complete “community vulnerability and adaptation assessments”, which cover tricky issues including relocation of peoples and land rights. For the country to adapt successfully, land and property will need to be provided for internally displaced people. Developing legal frameworks and strengthening governance structures that facilitate this process and prevent disputes is therefore a crucial part of adapting to climate change in the Solomon Islands.

Strong local institutions and legal structures are also crucial to donor nations. Where institutions are weak, the possibility of corruption increases. There is a risk that efforts to finance adaptation will be undermined by failed projects and misappropriation of funds. Harmeling believes donor nations should have realistic expectations: “It is not likely that 100% of adaptation projects will be 100% successful. But this is a chance to show that developing countries are able to work through a structure with more overall responsibility.”

To minimise the risk of failure, he suggests that “it is important not to scale up too fast. Experience from development programmes shows that some caution and trial and error is required to implement projects. Adaptation has to be done carefully.”

It makes sense that time is spent putting in place structures and institutions to distribute money and agree a fair definition of who should get first access. This may mean that not all of the fast-start finance pledged for adaptation will be spent by 2012. But it is surely better to have positive examples to learn from than to rush blindly to spend set quantities of money ahead of artificial deadlines. As the climate changes, adaptation is only going to become more important. It is vital that mistakes are minimised at the start of a process that may be centuries long.


Tan Copsey is development manager at chinadialogue.

Homepage image from BBC World Service Bangladesh Boat shows a Bangladeshi village after a cyclone.

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gaidee

天上掉馅饼

这个巨大的交易,由于不符合我们顶礼膜拜的市场经济规律,势必只有死路一条。正在讨论一个行不通的“乌托邦”,确实很无聊。一个曾经供职美国能源部的朋友,昨天告诉我,傻子才相信坎昆会达成什么协议。

There is no free lunch.

Because this huge deal does not comply with the market economy that we worship, it is bound to be a dead end. Discussing about an "utopia" that won't work is really tiresome. Yesterday, a friend who used to work for the US Department of Energy told me that only a fool would believe Cancun will bring about any agreement.

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gaidee

“专家”:低碳、新能源等产业发展仍面临不确定性?

国务院发展研究中心企业研究所专家29日在北京表示,低碳、新能源、生物医药等新兴产业有望成为中国及世界下一步发展的主要新产业,但这些产业的发展仍然存在诸多不确定性。

该专家表示说,低碳产业发展的一个前提是全球变暖,但实际上,全球是否真的变暖还值得观察,比如,北京今年春天是过去多年来得最晚的春天,世界有些国家雪山雪线在抬高等。

专家认为,全球变暖背后有很多推动因素,变暖究竟是地球周期性现象,还是因为二氧化碳排放过高,并不是能够轻易给出答案的命题。

哦,原来我们国家争的不是钱,而是“不是能够轻易给出答案的命题”的出题权。实在是高。

"Experts": the development of the low carbon, new energy and other industries are still facing uncertainty?

In Beijing on the 29th, experts from the Development Research Center of the State Council, Enterprise Research Institute said, low carbon, new energy, biomedical and other emerging industries are expected to become China and the world's next major industries to be developed, but there are still many uncertainties about the development of these industries.

The experts said the reason for the development of the low carbon industry is global warming, but actually, whether or not there really is global warming is worth examining. For example, this year's spring in Beijing was the latest ever ane mountains in some countries have higher snowlines.

Experts believe that there are a number of factors behind global warming. Is global warming just a periodic phenomena or is it because there is too much carbon dioxide emissions? These theories cannot be easily answered.