Can Paris climate deal end funding drought to help the poor cope?

by Megan Rowling | @meganrowling | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 27 November 2015 15:11 GMT

A man salvages furniture from homes damaged by flood waters in Salhaa, in Sudan's Khartoum state, July 30, 2014. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

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Africa needs money to adapt to climate change - and will look for it in Paris

BARCELONA, Nov 27 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - African governments will push hard at U.N. climate talks over the next two weeks to right what they see as a global wrong that is now becoming starker: a drought of financial support to help the people who are bearing the brunt of a warming planet.

As negotiations on a new deal to tackle climate change start in Paris on Sunday, millions of Africans are going hungry due to the combined impacts of a strong El Nino weather pattern and longer-term climate shifts, with drought and floods affecting Ethiopia, Somalia and Zimbabwe, to name but a few places.

In West Africa, creeping deserts and rising seas are increasingly driving people from their homes to migrate to other parts of the politically volatile region - and in some cases north towards Europe.

Yet money to help vulnerable people cope with climate pressures has not been forthcoming from international donors in anything like the amounts experts say are needed.

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said this week that African governments would come to Paris "thinking about the very clear justice issues that are very much present around climate change".

"Any African leader will tell you that they've had very little role in putting the carbon in the air that's currently (there) but that they suffer most from the impacts of climate change: extreme weather events, the loss of arable land," he told journalists.

A recent report from the bank found that, without development that helps countries prepare for climate change, 43 million more people in sub-Saharan Africa - mostly in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Angola and Uganda - could fall into extreme poverty by 2030 due to lower crop yields, higher food prices and adverse health effects linked to climate change.

Despite these risks, funding for adaptation measures - including protecting infrastructure, growing hardier crops, building storm shelters, resettling at-risk families and issuing weather warnings - accounts for less than a fifth of total international funding for climate action.

The rest is spent on curbing greenhouse gas emissions by boosting renewable energy use and energy efficiency.

'WILD WEST'

Only around $10 billion per year has been flowing to developing nations to enable them to adapt to climate pressures, recent figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Climate Policy Initiative show.

Counting only grants and cheap loans, the amount falls to $5 billion or less, aid agencies say.

In research issued this week, the AdaptationWatch group of think tanks and universities said that of the $10 billion OECD countries claimed as aid for adaptation in 2012, close to 80 percent was not explicitly related to adaptation.

"Over its two decades of growth, climate finance has effectively been a 'Wild West' frontier, without laws or functioning systems of justice," the report said.

Climate aid experts say tens of billions of dollars are already needed each year to keep people safe from harm, an amount that could rise to hundreds of billions in the coming decades if governments do not step up efforts to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

"We are realising that adaptation is in crisis," said Seyni Nafo, spokesperson for the negotiating group of African countries at the U.N. climate talks.

For that reason, the Africa Group wants a decision in Paris that at least $32 billion per year will flow to the developing world for adaptation by 2020.

That would be about a third of the annual $100 billion rich governments have promised to mobilise from various sources by that date, or roughly three to four times what is spent on adaptation now.

"We believe that is a realistic demand," Malian official Nafo told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Paris.

Many aid groups and some developing countries want climate finance to be split equally between adaptation and emissions reduction activities, but Nafo said that would be difficult "realistically and politically".

Thanks to the OECD numbers, the Africa Group's position may have a sympathetic ear in some wealthy government offices.

Washington, for example, is said not to oppose the proposal, but officials are still doing the maths.

POST-2020 GUARANTEE

After 2020, when the new global deal due to emerge from Paris would take effect, developing countries want a guarantee that climate finance will rise steadily and predictably from a floor of $100 billion a year. But that is far from being agreed.

The Africa Group hopes rich nations will consent to outline short-term finance commitments every two to three years from 2020 - but is not demanding specific numbers now.

"(It is) so we can at least have some expectation or early signal as to the level of climate finance that is going to be disbursed," Nafo said. "We just don't want to let everyone off the hook after 2020."

Reviews of finance are also needed to clarify the gap between what is needed and what is being paid out, and then to work out how that gap could be bridged, he added.

Mohamed Adow, Christian Aid's senior climate change advisor, said providing finance, technology and other support to help poorer countries adapt to a changing climate would help them develop in a clean and sustainable way, lowering emissions.

"But that support needs to be put on the table in Paris," he said in a statement on Friday.

(Reporting by Megan Rowling; editing by Laurie Goering. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)

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