Climate adaptation finance: The gap that can save millions
12:00 AM, November 11, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:26 PM, November 11, 2016

Climate adaptation finance: The gap that can save millions

The entry into force of the Paris Agreement on November 4 marks an important milestone in the long journey to address the climate crisis. Ninety four (94) countries, accounting for at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, ratified the agreement barely a year before it was adopted in Paris in 2015. This is indicative of the growing pressure on all parties, especially on governments, to find a solution to this global challenge. However, while this is a positive and welcome development, it is only a first step. The real challenge lies in ensuring that Paris agreement is able to avert catastrophic climate change and enhance climate resilience, especially among the poor and most vulnerable.

The agreement's entry into force comes a few days before the climate meeting - the 22nd Conference of Parties (CoP 22) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - in Marrakech, Morocco. CoP 22 is being pitched as a “conference of action and implementation” as its main task is to set the rules on how to implement and chart progress on what had been agreed in Paris.

Though the coming conference in Morocco is decidedly low key compared to last year's high profile meeting in Paris, its outcome is important as it lays down the ground for countries' action to reduce greenhouse gas emission and limit temperature rise to 1.5 percent. It is also a significant moment to push developed countries to keep their pledge to allocate resources that will help vulnerable people in developing countries – those who have the least contribution to climate change but are most affected by it – to adapt and build their climate resilience. UNFCCC President Patricia Espinosa noted that in Morocco “many issues need to be progressed”, including creating “confidence among developing countries that the USD 100 billion pledged to them by developed countries is truly building.”

The need for concrete actions to cut greenhouse emissions and provide climate finance to support climate adaptation in developing countries is very important and urgent for small farmers in Asia where the agricultural sector is heavily affected by climate change. Climate change impacts in the form of increasing water stress, rising temperature and higher frequency and intensity of extreme weather events have resulted to a decline in crop yields, especially for food staples like rice, wheat and maize. According to Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC (AR5) Vietnam, one of the world's largest producers and exporters of rice, is in danger of having 7 percent of its agricultural lands submerged as a result of rising sea levels. Saltwater intrusion is also threatening rice production in Myanmar. In some parts of Southeast Asia, rain has consistently been below average since 2009, spurring droughts in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam, leading to decreased yields and increased pest and disease infestation.

All these have devastating impacts on the livelihoods of small farmers in the region, and their ability to produce food. It is projected that climate change will put around 49 million more people in the Asia/Pacific region at risk of hunger by 2020. Women, who play an important role in producing food and in meeting the food security needs of families, are especially affected by climate change.

Unfortunately there are very little resources to help poor people, especially farmers, to adapt to climate change. Only 16 percent of international climate finance goes to adaptation, and of this, only USD4 to USD 6 billion comes from public finance. The gap in available climate finance for adaptation is expected to grow bigger. The UNEP estimates that by 2030, the cost of adaptation can cost developing countries USD 140 to USD 300 billion per year.

In Morocco, climate negotiators from Asia must work together to help protect small scale men and women farmers and food producers from the negative impacts of climate change by pushing developed countries to fill in this adaptation gap. There is a need to ensure that there is a meaningful mechanism to increase adaptation finance so that developing countries do not have to divert much needed resources intended for health, education, support for agriculture, and other social and economic programmes – services that are essential to development, and reducing poverty and inequality – to addressing climate impacts. They must take the lead in ensuring that there is progress in the way developed countries report and count adaptation finance in order to promote greater transparency and accountability in the latter's commitments. Additionally, they should promote standards and practices to make sure that climate finance goes to projects that truly respond to the adaptation needs of vulnerable people, especially small scale men and women farmers. 

The world must not miss a step in Morocco. CoP 22 must move us closer to a world where farmers, and vulnerable communities, are resilient and no longer at the mercy of the rapidly changing climate; where greenhouse gas emissions are in check and development is fueled by clean energy; and where the devastating effects, and catastrophic prospects, of worsening climate change are nothing but a distant memory.


The writer is the regional policy and research lead at the Asia programme of Oxfam.  

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