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How much money for climate change adaptation?

A selection of various US dollars.
(Wikimedia Commons)

With barely six months left before countries have to clinch a climate change deal in Copenhagen in December, a call for more money - over and above development aid - to help poor countries adapt to climate change has been backed by a major report.

The report - Closing the Gaps: Disaster Risk Reduction and Adaptation to Climate Change in Developing Countries - is the work of the international Commission on Climate Change and Development (CCCD), set up in 2008 by the Swedish government and chaired by Gunilla Carlsson, Sweden's Minister for international development cooperation.

The first in its two-step approach the report urged rich countries to speedily mobilise US$1 billion to $2 billion to help nations most vulnerable to the impact of global warming: low-income small island states and, particularly, African countries.

"This stepwise approach aims to narrow the trust gap between industrial and developing countries," said the report. "The second step is an effective mechanism for funding adaptation that would be created through climate negotiations."

''Adaptation is much more than climate-proofing development efforts and ODA''

The Official Development Assistance (ODA) provided by rich countries and other public funds "are unlikely to provide the full resources required to finance adaptation efforts of all developing countries in the long term", the CCCD commented. The global economic recession is also likely to shrink available funding.

Money for climate adaptation, and the diversion of ODA into it, has been a major issue in the talks on a new deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol - the international agreement to curb harmful greenhouse gas emissions - when it lapses in 2012.

Under the "polluter pays" principle, industrialised countries are obliged to help developing ones adapt to climate change, but developing countries and environmental lobby groups have been wary of much needed ODA being repackaged to pay for adaptation.

Antonio Hill, senior policy advisor at Oxfam, the UK-based development agency, said the report's findings were significant because Sweden would assume presidency of the European Union (EU) in July 2009, and "we can assume that this will provide an important reference point, as Sweden leads the charge towards an EU finance package ... [to present at] Copenhagen [in December]."

Johan Schaar, director of the CCCD, said Sweden was in the process of building a position based on the report; a joint paper by the European Commission and the Presidency of the EU was also being drafted and would be ready in early July.

The CCCD consists of 13 prominent individuals, including Kenyan Nobel prize winner Wangari Maathai, Indian environmentalist Sunita Narain, deputy head of the UN Environment Programme Angela Cropper, deputy head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Margareta Wahlström, and Jacques Aigrain, head of Swiss Re, one of the world's largest reinsurance companies.

"Adaptation is much more than climate-proofing development efforts and ODA," said the report. "It requires sustainable development: meeting the needs of the present in ways that do not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their need."

It's about the money

The report noted that ODA totalled $104 billion in 2007, and the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimated that more than 60 percent of ODA could be considered as relating to adaptation.

"Obviously, increasing ODA would both provide funds for climate-proofing development assistance and increase funding for adaptation. The appropriate role of ODA in supporting climate adaptation needs to be articulated."

However, Oxfam's Hill said adaptation cost estimates should take account of the most recent scientific assessments, which showed that previous estimates were dramatically low.

He cited a recent article by Martin Parry, former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), an international scientific body, and two co-authors, in Nature magazine: "The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has estimated that between $50 billion and $170 billion per year (in current values) will be needed by the year 2030."

The authors noted that "This is only a twentieth of current spending on development of new infrastructure globally, and a tenth of the expected cost of emissions reductions."


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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