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Coping with global warming
Climate change is increasingly affecting least developed countries (LDCs). Poverty- reduction strategies must take account of the environmental risks. The adaptive capacities of communities and countries need to be strengthened. Donor governments have to fund promising measures and apply innovative finance mechanisms.
[ By Sven Harmeling and Krystel Dossou ]
Climate change is an important reason why it is becoming increasingly unlikely that the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of reducing poverty will be met. Six years after the MDGs were first adopted, global warming has finally risen to the top of the international agenda. It will affect vitally important sectors such as food production, energy supply and transport, as well as hamper access to health care, education and other basic social services. This will be particularly so in fragile environments such as coastal zones or mountain regions.
Climate change will therefore make it more difficult to meet every single MDG (Harmeling, 2007). Once again, Africa is the continent most challenged because of its economies dependence on natural resources and agriculture. Water and rainfall matter a great deal, and droughts or floods mean major disasters, immediately threatening livelihoods. Freak weather will thus exacerbate Africas problems of poverty and food insecurity. Nonetheless, development strategies, so far, hardly deal with climate change.
Accordingly, African experts held high hopes for the first climate summit to take place south of the Sahara. An important topic at the 12th Conference of Parties (COP12) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Nairobi last November was how LDCs and Small Island States will cope with the global environmental crisis. A related issue is whether adaptation is a separate issue, or whether it should be mainstreamed in an approach of adaptive development, incorporating the need to cope with global warming in all anti-poverty strategies.
Rich-country governments normally look at adaptation in the limited sense, strictly focussing on human-caused effects and not dealing with conventional climate variability. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) provides a good example. It is managed by the World Bank, its decision-making is dominated by the USA, the EU and Japan. In GEF history, it was always very important to accurately assess human-made climate change. Whether projects are approved or not, normally depends on such specifics. For instance, the GEF scrutinises precisely what difference an investment in renewable energy will make globally, stating that each ton of CO2 has the same destructive effect, no matter where it is emitted.
This approach, however, only makes sense when dealing exclusively with the causes of climate change. It becomes harmful when applied to coping with the consequences. By their very nature, adaptation measures benefit the local level, and it would be wrong to expect them to always have positive impacts on the global environment as well.
Moreover, it is hardly possible to try to distinguish accurately damage caused by climate change from other costs. It is often impossible to do so. A devastating flood or drought cannot be traced unambiguously to climate change, because weather is a very complex phenomenon. While the probability of certain events increases due to climate change in many regions, it is impossible to make out exact causes and effects of any single event.
The way adaptation is understood in the UNFCCC context thus goes against the grain of integrating adaptation into anti-poverty policies. Making development strategies climate proof, however, is a key requirement for success. It does not make sense to fight poverty and prepare for climate change separately. Sadly, far too many institutions do not link both issues adequately the UNFCCC is no exception (Dossou, 2005).
In the UNFCCC context, the first step towards mitigating climate change in LDCs is to draft National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPA). This approach is very pragmatical and, for good reason, should take account of the coping strategies prevalent at the grassroots level. Community-led input is indeed important and deserves to be given high prominence, as this is where the most-affected poor people are to be found. The UNFCCC stresses the focus on enhancing adaptive capacity to climate variability, which itself would help address the adverse effects of climate change.
At the end of 2006, most LDCs had started their NAPA process. Eight countries including Bhutan, Bangladesh, Malawi and Niger had even finalised action plans. A priority measure suggested in Malawis NAPA, for instance, is reforestation in certain regions with the goal of reducing the risk of climate-related floods. In the case of Benins uncompleted NAPA, a pilot project aims at strengthening the adaptive capacities of the rural population in the countrys northwest, which is in particular danger of water scarcity.
Massive funds needed
Whatever measures the NAPAs promote, however, it is obvious that they will cost money. According to the World Bank, developing countries will require an annual total of $ 10 to 40 billion. The figures are vague because there are several unknowns and uncertainties. The dimension of the challenge, however, is beyond doubt.
In the UNFCCC context, two funds have been set up, the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) and the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF). Both depend on voluntary contributions by industrialised countries. A third, perspectively more important Fund is the so-called Adaptation Fund (AF), provided for in the Conventions Kyoto Protocol. It will fund tangible adaptation measures in developing countries, and it will be financed through a levy on the trade in emission certificates under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). By the end of 2012, the AF should command $ 270 to 600 million according to World Bank estimates.
Controversial issues at the Nairobi summit were how the AF will be governed and which institution will handle this job (Germanwatch, 2006). Important decisions were postponed to the next summit in December this year. Most rich-country governments want to give the GEF the assignment of managing the AF, but that proposal met with stiff resistance from poor countries. One reason is the GEFs above mentioned problematic approach in terms of adaptation. Another reason was the power imbalance within the GEF, with members voting rights depending on their financial contributions. Poor-country governments point out that the AF will not be funded by donor contributions, but through the CDM, a market mechanism.
In spite of this argument, some consensual decisions were taken in Nairobi. The AF will be administered transparently, it will grant equitable access to all eligible countries, and it will provide all the money needed for specific projects. Co-financing options were also discussed, but would have over-burdened LDCs. Moreover, communities, not only nation states, will be eligible for AF funding.
How to boost funding for adaptation in LDCs remains a decisive issue for future global climate talks. The Kyoto Protocol will expire in 2012. The next agreement, hopefully decided on by no later than 2009, will have to include instruments that force rich countries to generate stable and reliable funding, independent of their governments annual budget decisions. Otherwise, the polluter-pays principle would not apply. Climate equity will be a central issue of international policy-making, and civil-society organisations are already stressing the matter.
One option is to auction emission certificates which form the base of emission trading for instance in the CDM context. The certificates used in the EUs current Emission Trading Scheme are mostly granted free of charge, but that is likely to change in future. The European Commission has proposed to auction certificates, inter alia to finance adaptation measures. This idea was outlined on 20 December 2006, along with the proposal of including air traffic in emission trading.
Non-governmental organisations from Africa and Germany support this approach, as they have spelled out in a joint manifesto ahead of Germanys EU presidency this year (VENRO, 2006). Emission certificates in the aviation sector alone would be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Ultimately, the EU must address the issue of greenhouse emissions due to air travel, and so must Germanys Federal Government. We hope its contribution to European policy-making will be productive.
More funds are essential if poor countries are to rise to the challenges. The industrialised world must increase its support to the most affected countries while at the same time drastically reducing its still too high level of greenhouse emissions. Moreover, as climate change implies additional burdens, additional donor assistance should not be considered part of the Official Development Assistance rich countries have pledged but not delivered for so long. Innovative finance mechanisms will make sense in this context. Auctioning emission certificates would be an option in line with the polluter-pays principle.
In spite of some momentum on many issues, however, the climate debate still remains largely disconnected from the MDG agenda. Moreover, it is only inadequately in touch with disaster-relief programmes. The risk is that development programmes will thus not be designed appropriately, unaware of changing local needs and priorities and ignorant of cross-sectoral effects.
Adaptation will not work out unless measures are designed adequately. Since the most affected people are the poor, their needs must be at the heart of all strategies. Pro-poor adaptation policy requires pro-poor governance and thus depends on the responsible action of developing countries governments.
is a senior adviser at Germanwatch, a non-governmental advocacy organisation specialising in global matters.
coordinates the programme Energy and Environment at OFEDI, Benin (Organisation des Femmes pour la gestion de lEnergie, de lEnvironnement et la promotion du Développement Intégré) and is involved in an international project to strengthen adaptation capacities in least developed countries.
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