All talk no walk? How wealthy countries can meet their adaptation promises in Durban

By Spencer Fields and Dave Ciplet

As a part of the 2009 Copenhagen Accord, the rich nations of the world made a concrete dollar pledge to vulnerable countries experiencing the impacts of climate change worst and first.  Given that developing countries are the most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change and have the least capacity to fund mitigation, adaptation and disaster recovery, these countries are in dire need of funds.

What have the wealthy nations done to fulfill the pledges they made in Copenhagen and recommitted to in Cancun?  Not nearly enough, according to a recent report published by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and authored by members of Brown’s Climate and Development Lab.  From transparency, to balanced and adequate funding, and from needs-based targeting, to fair burden sharing, rich nations have come up short.  In fact, the funds provided fail to meet even basic needs related to climate change, such as the replenishment of the Least Developed Countries Fund.  Of the $2.5 billion required to fund National Adaptation Programmes of Action in the Least Developed Countries, donors have contributed only $455 million.  This is a far cry from adequate funding.

The year 2012 marks the end of the period of fast-start finance, intended to address urgent and immediate needs with a pledge of $30 billion from rich to developing nations.  As such, the upcoming 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) affords developed countries a chance to fulfill this original commitment and demonstrate that they are ready for the next “scale-up” phase of financing.  This requires a steady increasing of annual commitments to reach $100 billion per year by 2020.  Our IIED briefing outlines three ways for negotiators in Durban help wealthy nations meet their agreed responsibilities.

First, we recognize that financing from public treasuries will not be enough to reach the goals of the “scale-up” period.  Realizing this, Durban negotiators should work out a series of financing mechanisms that are international, predictable and substantial in size.  A small levy on international airline travel, bunker transport fuel or international financial transactions, for example would go far to close the adaptation finance gap.  If revenues were channeled into UN funds such as the Least Developed Countries Fund and the Adaptation Fund and the Green Climate Fund, these funds would change from mere symbolic victories into sources of support for developing countries.  Such a levy should prioritize providing a predictable, grant-based revenue stream to finance adaptation activities, which has thus far been largely missing.

Second, wealthy nations need to set yearly targets for the next phase of funding in order to develop systems capable of reaching future funding targets.  If implemented, yearly targets would help increase accountability among donors, while also affording recipients a more predictable schedule for funding.  Without these targets, funding for adaptation may fizzle out all together.

Finally, Durban must deliver increased transparency and central accounting for climate finance.  A new scorecard we compiled found that we have a long way to go in making climate finance transparent.  As a corollary to setting yearly targets, improved transparency will also contribute to increased accountability for donors.  Negotiators at COP17 should create a central accounting framework and registry under the UNFCCC Standing Committee.  Such a mechanism for accounting climate finance could create standards for reporting contributions and tracking projects, making the complex world of climate finance much more accessible.

Much is at stake at COP17 in Durban.  What is clear is that no progress can be made in the climate negotiations unless rich nations step up and honor their financial commitments from two years ago.  It is time for them to walk their talk.  Without adequate and predictable funding, developing countries most vulnerable to climate change cannot respond effectively all of the talk about adaptation in Cancun will mean little unless reliable funding sources are established in Durban.

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