Report: Climate aid ignoring adaptation efforts

Vast majority of $30bn fast-start fund going to schemes targeting emissions rather than adaptation.

Far too little of the $30bn (£18.8bn) fast-start climate aid promised at Copenhagen is being spent on projects that help developing countries adapt to climate change, according to a major new report released yesterday.

When governments pledged the money at last year’s climate change summit to focus efforts to slow climate change from 2010-2012, they made clear it would be balanced between mitigation and adaptation projects.

But to date, only about $3bn has been earmarked for adaptation schemes such as building flood defences and introducing new farming practices, a report by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) said.

It also concluded that a lack of information from donors meant the $3bn figure was “very rough and perhaps low”.

Instead, funds have typically been channelled towards projects that curb emissions, as they are generally more high profile and better established.

“The big promises for adaptation funding made at Copenhagen are not being met,” said David Ciplet, one of the report’s authors and a researcher at Brown University. “Adaptation funding is absolutely crucial for the billions of people who face the rising intensity of climate disasters.”

Increased investment in adaptation measures is widely regarded as essential by scientists and policy makers, as increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere mean average global temperatures will continue to rise for several decades even if mitigation efforts prove successful and emissions peak in the near future.

The researchers also highlighted that some of the $3bn earmarked for adaptation projects would come in the form of loans, which would “further indebt already poor nations”, while doubts were also raised about a lack of clarity around how the money will be dispersed and what types of projects should be supported.

The IIED recommended that the mix be changed to better fund adaptation projects or risk-vulnerable countries, particularly those in danger of rising sea levels, failing to receive the aid they need.

It added that industrialised countries should establish an independent registry under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to monitor all climate-related projects to track adherence to pledges and ensure that funding is made available above existing aid budgets.

“Industrialised nations seem to think they can get away with an ‘anything goes’ approach – where whatever they describe as adaptation funding counts,” said Dr J Timmons Roberts, director of the Center for Environmental Studies at Brown University and another of the report’s authors. “The danger is that existing development projects that are not specific responses to the threat of climate change will simply be re-labelled as climate adaptation projects.

“By tracking funds all the way from taxpayers in developed nations to each expenditure in the developing countries, this system could create a new era in global co-operation, avoiding many of the pitfalls of past foreign aid.”

Climate aid and the resumption of the spat between the US and China over binding emissions targets are set to dominate the upcoming climate negotiations, which kick off in Cancun next week.

However, in what could signal a more collaborative approach, the two countries yesterday launched a $150m research initiative that will focus on clean technologies such as carbon capture, electric vehicles and greener buildings.

US energy secretary Steven Chu said that as the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters, both countries were keen to invest in an energy efficient infrastructure.

“In this respect, the two countries’ interests are incredibly aligned – the sharing of technologies is a very natural thing,” he said.

By Will Nichols

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