With or without deal, many countries will need help to adapt to climate change
While many of us feel that the Conference of Parties (COP) to the UN Climate Change meeting in Paris will not affect us directly, the decisions made over the next couple of weeks will actually impact us all – these decisions will influence the future of economic growth and human development.
In Asia, increasing temperatures and variability in rainfall are resulting in floods and droughts, impacting crop yield. Rising sea level and increased incidence of extreme events are damaging assets and disrupting economic activity. The cost of responding to these climate change impacts is formidable. Developing countries especially struggle with these costs, as they must balance the immediate needs of disaster response with the longer term investments of sustainable development, such as health and education.
In 2009, the COP recognized this challenge and agreed to mobilize $100 billion per year by 2020 to support the response to climate change. This finance would be a “balanced allocation between adaptation and mitigation”, with funding for adaptation to be “prioritized for the most vulnerable developing countries.” Mitigation refers to reducing or avoiding greenhouse gas emissions. Adaptation refers to taking measures to strengthen resilience, to impacts of climate change which are already occurring and to those which have become inevitable. Significant progress has been made towards the $100 billion per year goal – public and private climate finance mobilized by developed countries for developing countries reached $61.8 billion in 2014, up from $52.2 billion in 2013.
At first glance, this seems promising. However, the allocation of funds is skewed greatly towards mitigation. Of the total, only 16 percent was set aside for adaptation activities. Further, since the 2009 agreement, greater prioritization for adaptation funding has been given to the most vulnerable developing countries, especially those categorized as least developed counties (LDCs) and/or small island developing states (SIDS). Given the small allocation towards adaptation, this means that many other developing countries have little-to-no access to much needed adaptation finance. Viet Nam is one example.
Though historically not a major contributor to climate change, Viet Nam is disproportionately affected by its impacts and is considered an extreme risk country. Climate change has resulted in higher temperatures, variability in rainfall, sea level rise and increased incidence of typhoons. At 23 percent, the poverty rate in coastal areas is more than twice the national average, in part due to the increasing losses incurred from climate-related disasters. Through national adaptation and poverty programmes, the government is making strides to make the country and the population more resilient to climate change. Such investments, however, are costly. Coupled with average annual losses estimated at 1.3 percent of GDP, climate change is putting public resources under incredible pressure. Limited resources to meet competing priorities can force shifts in development planning, resulting in setbacks to achievements of the country’s development goals.
Viet Nam is not alone in this regard. The lack of access to adaptation finance is a concern echoed by many developing countries. My work has allowed me to engage with different countries on their adaptation planning, and the key challenge expressed by non-prioritized countries has been consistent – countries are having difficulty in accessing adaptation finance.
In Paris, countries will establish climate finance targets and the degree of support vulnerable countries will receive in order to adapt to the impacts of climate change. The current draft agreement states that “Parties should strive to balance adaptation support relative to mitigation support.” Given the need for adaptation, greater commitment is necessary to secure adaptation finance – to ensure that vulnerable countries are not left out or left behind.