Poor communities deserve more climate change funds

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Protesters demonstrate during a strike against governmental inaction towards climate breakdown and environmental pollution in Lausanne, Switzerland, on January 17. AFP

Despite promises, the poorest and most vulnerable communities to climate change receive only two per cent of the global fund due to lack of monitoring and policy issues. But things need to change quickly.

All over the world, in poor and the richer countries, the communities that are the most vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change are generally the poorest ones. However, as there are far more poor communities in developing countries, the vast majority of the globally most vulnerable communities are in the poorest developing countries.

Hence, at the international climate change negotiations under the UNFramework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Least Developed Countries (LDC) group argued that developed countries should extend funding to support developing countries to tackle climate change, prioritising their most vulnerable communities.

In response to these demands, the developed countries have promised to provide up to $100 billion a year from this year onwards. They have started to provide some of that money through different channels including the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF), the UN agencies, and Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The amount of funding made available has been in the tens of billions so far (no one knows exactly how much, as it is difficult to track) but around 80 per cent of that has gone to support mitigation activities to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases; only 20 per cent has gone to support adaptation in the poorest developing countries.

Furthermore, only 10 per cent of that adaptation funding has reached the most vulnerable communities in the most vulnerable developing countries. Therefore, the proportion of global funding to tackle climate change that actually reaches the most vulnerable communities is only two per cent.

This is clearly wrong and must be corrected going forward. Here are some suggestions on how to correct the situation.

The first thing to acknowledge is that we have failed to prioritise the most vulnerable communities – that we are all collectively responsible and need to change our behaviour and procedures.

At the global level, it means that the developed countries who are providing the funds must make it a requirement to track (and report back) on whether the funds are reaching the most vulnerable communities (and how much is reaching them).

It is also very important for national governments in the developing countries to do the same. It can be argued that one of the key reasons why poor communities are vulnerable is that their own national governments don’t prioritise them in investments and decision-making. This is also true in developed countries.

Every national government, both developing and developed, must from now on track and report on how much of their climate change funds (whether from national or international sources) reaches the poorest and most vulnerable communities in their respective countries.

The onus is now also on fund management entities such as the World Bank, UNDP, GCF, among others, to ensure that the highest priority is given to distributing funds to the most vulnerable communities. Unfortunately they don’t have a very good track record so far, so some profound re-thinking is needed to deliver funds more effectively as well as track and report on that delivery.

Last week, the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA), under the co-chairs Ban Ki-moon, Bill Gates, and Kristalina Georgieva, formally launched their locally led Adaptation Action Track to support Community Based Adaptation (CBA) in Dhaka at the Gobeshona conference. They are lobbying for billions of dollars’ worth of global funding to target and reach the most vulnerable communities over the next few years.

While this is a laudable target, it is not enough if the money does not reach the most vulnerable communities and, even more importantly, does not enhance their adaptive capacity.

So, it is extremely important, also, to develop a system of monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) of the CBA, with the first emphasis being on the learning component.

The ultimate goal of enhancing funding and other support to the most vulnerable communities is not just to give them money but to enhance their adaptive capacity in the short to medium term and enhance their resilience in the longer term.

Bangladesh has been a pioneer in developing practices and learning on CBA. We can also lead in this global effort on MEL of the CBA going forward.

Saleemul Huq is director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development at the Independent University Bangladesh.