Adaptation finance must top priorities at US ministerial summit

By Ed King

This week’s climate finance summit in Washington will fail the world’s most vulnerable states if it does not deliver increased levels of adaptation funding, leading representatives from the developing world have warned.

Bangladesh’s lead climate change negotiator Quamrul Chowdhury and Saleemul Huq from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) say guaranteed commitments from public funds are needed urgently.

In comments made during an online discussion on Tuesday hosted by Thomson Reuters and the IIED, Chowdhury said richer nations must abide by legal commitments they had made at the United Nations.

“Financing should be ramped up urgently and public finance is the key. Of course private funding will also play a role in the longer run,” he said.

“But for now LDCs [Least Developed Countries] need a lot for adaptation urgently and also for mitigation. That should be generated from public finance from developed countries.”

Under the UN convention adopted in 1992 developed nations are committed to provide “new and additional financial resources” to developing countries to help them address climate change.

Increasing incidences of extreme weather events are forcing governments to develop more climate resilient infrastructure

The focus of the US-led talks is leveraging private investment, but with limited financial returns on adaptation projects, there are increasing fears among developing nations these projects will be starved of money.

“Private funding is almost all for mitigation and all the richer countries know that quite well. Adaptation funding will have to come from the public purse. They know that as well (but are reluctant to open their purse strings),” said Huq.

“The rich countries collectively agreed to provide funding for climate change which would be ‘balanced’ between adaptation and mitigation. However, most analysis of the $30 billion in ‘Fast Start Finance’ was only a third for adaptation and the rest for mitigation (including REDD).”

At the 2009 UN climate summit in Copenhagen developed states committed to mobilizing US$100 billion from a wide variety of sources to meet developing countries financing needs by 2020. They also pledged $10 billion per year of Fast Start Finance up to 2013.

Efforts to ensure FSF continues to flow post 2013 hit the wall at last year’s main climate meeting – and getting these talks back on track is central to building trust between rich and poor states.

A State Department spokesperson RTCC spoke to would not comment on specific targets for the meeting, but stressed it was vital for donor countries to leverage greater levels of funds from the private sector.

“This meeting will bring together – for the first time – countries that made a commitment to mobilizing long term finance to promote cleaner, sustainable growth and climate resilience globally,” they said.

“This particular discussion will focus on how public financing tools can be used to leverage increased private investment toward these goals.”

They added: “Developing countries are key actors in climate finance and we will continue to work together to implement our international commitments.”

Fixed obligations

Chowdhury called on countries to agree on “budgetary allocations” for every country, based on their adaptation requirements.

Developed countries should lead the process from the front, but most of them are still shying away from their commitments, obligations and historical responsibilities, which is really unfortunate,” he said.

“There are also some good guys like UK, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, France, Sweden, Netherlands – but we need more great guys to solve the climate crisis!”

His views were echoed by Kit Vaughan, Director at the CARE Poverty Environment and Climate Change Network, who pointed out that the market could not be relied upon to deal with all pressing adaptation issues.

“The climate situation requires all hands on deck – there is a role for the private sector definitely but let’s be clear that the poorest and most vulnerable are not what our current private sector seeks to support.”

Huq added a major challenge for developing states is to use the funds effectively with “minimal administrative costs”.

“While fighting for greater global funding for adaptation for the poorer more vulnerable countries there is also a case to demonstrate that money that is received can be used well,” he said.

“Here the onus is on the recipient countries to demonstrate that they can indeed channel and use funds to benefit the most vulnerable.”

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