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Are policy makers ready to prioritise climate resilience for the poorest?

by Sven Harmeling | CARE International
Monday, 27 March 2017 11:18 GMT

A homeless family gathers around a tent after rivers overflowed due to torrential rains, causing flooding and widespread destruction in Huachipa, Lima, Peru, March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Global decision-makers must grasp opportunities to help poor and vulnerable communities face up to climate shocks and stresses

From CARE’s perspective, increasing resilience in a climate-disrupted world is essential. CARE aims to strengthen poor people’s capacity to deal with shocks and stresses, manage risks and transform their lives in response to new hazards and opportunities. But what can we expect to happen in 2017 at the global policy level?

Strengthening the U.N. regime on climate impacts

The countries that are parties to the U.N. climate change convention (UNFCCC) will have their major meeting, COP23, in November in Bonn under the presidency of Fiji, a Pacific island which in February 2016 was hit by the strongest cyclone on record.

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama highlighted the “unprecedented threats that climate change is posing to his and other vulnerable countries” in a speech, and identified adaptation funding as a key issue to take forward at COP23. As in previous years, a two-week round of negotiations in Bonn in May, plus meetings of technical bodies, will prepare this high-level event.

One remarkable outcome of COP22 was the review of the Warsaw International Mechanism on loss and damage. Its governing body (ExCom) will work in 2017 to pull together a new five-year work plan. The conversations just kicked off at a March meeting in Bonn, based on concrete proposals by vulnerable countries, civil society and others. They have shown that a key test will be whether the Warsaw Mechanism can become a tool that generates significant additional financial support to address loss and damage. It is very likely loss and damage will continue to be a hot issue at COP23.

Climate change on G20 agenda

The world’s 20 most powerful countries will convene for their annual summit in July in Hamburg, Germany, preceded by a slew of ministerial meetings. Fortunately, the German government has put climate change explicitly on the agenda. Most of the G20 countries have already ratified the Paris Agreement, so a strong stand behind it should be achievable, as observers note. Reports around a recent G20 preparatory meeting suggest some conclusions might be achievable.

Red Constantino from the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities in the Philippines argues that many important measures to increase resilience are part of the German G20 agenda, such as climate risk insurance, the Compact with Africa, green investment criteria and addressing climate-related financial risk. The leaked draft of the “G20 Action Plan on Climate and Energy for Growth” discusses some elements for the G20 to pursue.

Under “scaling up resilience and enhancing adaptation”, the draft plan makes mention of a potential global partnership for climate and disaster risk finance and insurance solutions. From CARE’s perspective, it will be essential that all G20 initiatives pay attention to the risks for the poorest and most vulnerable people.

Green Climate Fund cash

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) has already approved funding for proposals to support climate change adaptation of over $500 million. Further programmes are expected to be approved in the months to come - and they will hopefully address, first and foremost, particularly vulnerable communities. But very few of these resources have yet started to flow into implementing the projects, due to formalities that had to be sorted out with the accredited agencies. Thus, 2017 must be the year of implementation, along with advancing key policy matters, such as the environmental and social management system and the review of the gender policy.

Developed countries, along with wealthier developing countries, are also advised to think about a pro-active strategy for additional financial contributions to counter any gap that might arise from the new US government cancelling outstanding contributions to the GCF. This would be a strong signal of unity and solidarity.

Next steps to boost disaster risk reduction

The Global Disaster Risk Reduction Platform, meeting in Cancun from May 22-26, will mark the first opportunity for the international community to review global progress in the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, which was adopted in Japan in 2015. In light of growing climate change impacts, as well as success stories of what works to prevent disasters and build resilience, policymakers and experts will have an opportunity to send a clear, unified call to the world to tackle climate-related disasters for the benefit of those people most at risk.

Will policy makers grasp these opportunities to put the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable front and centre, in light of increasingly disastrous climate change impacts? The world is watching.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation is reporting on resilience as part of its work on zilient.org, an online platform building a global network of people interested in resilience, in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation.