Just add cash for climate adaptation

By Spencer Fields

In this 2006 file photo, a woman walks past a building in Brikama, Gambia. Source: REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

It’s really quite simple. For the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), “funding is paramount,” to use the succinct summary provided by Pa Ousman Jarju, the Gambian chair of the LDC Group.

The Least Developed Countries have already written their National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs), comprehensive reports on their projects focused on adaptation to and mitigation of climate change.

They have already prioritized the projects in order to address first those that require urgent and immediate attention. There even already exists a funding mechanism – the UN-created and Global Environment Facility-managed LDC Fund (LDCF) – to provide them with the financial resources they need to implement the projects.

As Jarju pointed out this week at the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa, all they need now is cash.

Seems straightforward, right?

Unfortunately, winning funding for the LDCs has proven anything but simple, as recent reports released by the Global Environment Facility and reiterated at this week’s COP17 meeting make clear.

Of the $2.5 billion required to fund the adaptation action plans for all 48 Least Developed Countries, only $454 million has been pledged so far. Of this frustratingly small amount, only $305 million has been received by the Global Environment Facility, and even less has been distributed for the implementation of projects.

In the broader context of unfulfilled promises for adaptation funding, as part of $30 billion of “fast start” adaptation and mitigation financing promised by 2012, it is a disappointment, though unsurprising, that not nearly enough funds are being channeled through the LDC Fund.

While donor nations were originally hesitant to channel funds through a nascent, untested channel, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) has solicited advice to improve operations and management of the LDCF, and has taken steps to turn those suggestions into practice.

These alterations have allowed GEF to streamline operations substantially. For example, the average time between when countries finish their National Adaptation Programmes of Action and when a first project is approved is now about 18 months.

Also, the LDC Group and GEF have learned several critical lessons from the initial experiences implementing NAPAprojects, which they are now applying in the process of implementing future projects.

The fund now works.

What’s more, the process of creating NAPAs and prioritizing projects is allowing countries to use funds very effectively. For the most part, countries have chosen as most vital projects on food security and agriculture, water resources and coastal management.

Accordingly, these three areas are now the sectors to which the most implementation project funding has been allocated.

In the words of Bonizella Biagini, of the GEF Secretariat, “Implementation has matched priorities.”

The Least Developed Countries know best what they need to carry out projects that target urgent and immediate vulnerabilities. They even know the precise next steps for continuing the push toward effective adaptation and mitigation.

Jarju, for example, wants to see more projects under the Clean Development Mechanism, which gives poorer countries carbon credit they can sell for clean development projects.

In an event at the climate talks, Jarju asked for technical assistance. He described how increased funding would help build capacity to perform vulnerability assessments. Finally, he explained how the completion of all of these projects and ideas simply relies on one missing element: funding.

Cross-posted from Alert Net and Global Conversation.

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