Spend cli­mate cash smartly to make it stretch: Ex­perts

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -


When heavy rains hit the tiny West African na­tion of Togo in Sep­tem­ber, fill­ing a hy­dropower dam close to over­flow­ing, the To­golese Red Cross took an un­usual step. Rather than sim­ply putting aid sup­plies in place to pre­pare for flood­ing, the agency sent cash to fam­i­lies liv­ing down­stream so they could move out of the ex­pected flood path. It also pro­vided sim­ple pro­tec­tion, such as plas­tic bags in which to keep birth cer­tifi­cates and other key pa­pers dry.

“If an event hits and you’re not pre­pared, only then is it go­ing to be­come a dis­as­ter,” said Pablo Suarez of the Red Cross Red Cres­cent Cli­mate Cen­tre, which is work­ing in­creas­ingly on in­no­va­tive ways to get money to threat­ened com­mu­ni­ties be­fore dis­as­ters strike, to hold down costs and losses.

As the world fig­ures out ways to deal with wors­en­ing ex­treme weather and slower cli­mate change ef­fects such as sea-level rise and de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion, while speed­ing up adop­tion of clean en­ergy, cre­ativ­ity will be needed to make the lim­ited funds avail­able stretch fur­ther and pre­vent losses from spi­ral­ing out of con­trol, ex­perts said at this week’s UN cli­mate talks in Marrakesh.

“It’s a no-brainer that the more we do on mit­i­ga­tion (of cli­mate-chang­ing emis­sions), the less we need to do on adap­ta­tion, and the less we have to spend on hu­man­i­tar­ian work,” said Har­jeet Singh, global lead on cli­mate change for the char­ity Ac­tionAid. But for the poor­est and most vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties, fo­cus­ing first on re­duc­ing emis­sions by adopt­ing clean tech­nol­ogy - some­thing richer coun­tries see as the clear pri­or­ity - isn’t ob­vi­ous or easy, said In­dia-based Singh.

Grow­ing losses

That is largely be­cause vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties are suf­fer­ing grow­ing losses each year, not just from ma­jor storms and droughts but from smaller, more fre­quent “ev­ery­day dis­as­ters” that are grad­u­ally soak­ing up more of their in­come. Colin McQuis­tan, of devel­op­ment char­ity Prac­ti­cal Ac­tion, pointed to Bangladeshi fam­i­lies that need to spend a larger share of their in­come on sand­bags each year to pro­tect their homes from river ero­sion.

“Com­mu­ni­ties are re­port­ing that more and more of their re­sources have to be al­lo­cated for these types of mea­sures. What that means is they have less to in­vest in their devel­op­ment,” he said. As a re­sult, when cli­mate-af­fected com­mu­ni­ties are ap­proached to in­stall so­lar pan­els, for ex­am­ple, they are of­ten en­thu­si­as­tic but have no spare cash to in­vest. “It’s not ei­ther/or” when it comes to curb­ing emis­sions and cop­ing with cli­mate stresses, Singh said. “It’s just that peo­ple say, ‘I have to pro­tect my home, my in­come, my fam­ily - and at the same time look at long-term so­lu­tions’.” De­vel­oped na­tions have things in the wrong or­der when they want the poor to work first on cut­ting emis­sions, he said, be­cause their pri­or­ity is to find re­lief for cli­mate-linked dis­as­ters.

“Then peo­ple start talk­ing about how this is the new nor­mal and we need to do some­thing, and they in­vest in risk re­duc­tion and adap­ta­tion. And only then do they look at the larger ques­tion of mit­i­ga­tion (of emis­sions),” he said. That could be changed partly by mak­ing suf­fi­cient in­ter­na­tional cash avail­able to help the most vul­ner­a­ble na­tions adapt to cli­mate change, ex­perts say.

The lat­est UN fig­ures re­leased in Marrakesh on Mon­day show that no more than one dol­lar in ev­ery four of global cli­mate fi­nance goes to adap­ta­tion. “If we re­ally want to see am­bi­tion, par­tic­u­larly from de­vel­op­ing coun­tries and par­tic­u­larly in the next few years, cli­mate fi­nance is the key that can un­leash the po­ten­tial,” Singh said.

In­tel­lec­tual prop­erty

Other in­no­va­tive ideas could help. Singh sug­gested, for in­stance, that fund­ing through the $10-bil­lion Green Cli­mate Fund could be used to buy out the in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty rights of ground-break­ing clean en­ergy tech­nol­ogy to make it avail­able far more cheaply for coun­tries such as In­dia.

That kind of in­vest­ment could both meet the fund’s mis­sion to shift par­a­digms, and help clear the way for rapid scal­ing-up of clean tech­nol­ogy in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries - a key to keep­ing global warm­ing to well un­der 2 de­grees Cel­sius, as agreed in Paris last year, Singh said. “If you cre­ate the con­di­tions to at­tract tril­lions of dol­lars in in­vest­ment, you can en­able trans­for­ma­tion in no time,” he said. That is par­tic­u­larly cru­cial now, said Liz Gal­lagher, a cli­mate diplomacy ex­pert at Lon­don-based en­vi­ron­men­tal think tank E3G. “The next 15 years are go­ing to fun­da­men­tally change our cli­mate in a good or bad way” as long-term en­ergy in­vest­ments are made, she said. — Reuters

MARRAKESH: Par­tic­i­pants and del­e­gates at­tend the open­ing ses­sion of the Cli­mate Con­fer­ence. — AP

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