Drowning countries clutch at monetary straws

December 4th, 2008 - 10:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Poznan (Poland), Dec 4 (IANS) Climate change is already drowning homes of people in coastal areas, especially in the developing world. The money available to them from the international community to adapt to a new life is less than a percent of what the UN says will be needed. And now countries are bickering over who will administer this small Adaptation Fund and who will be paid from it.

About 9,000 delegates from 186 countries, over 400 NGOs and dozens of UN organisations attending the Dec 1-12 summit of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in this western Poland city want to start the Adaptation Fund and flag it as their major achievement on the road to a comprehensive global treaty to combat climate change by the end of next year.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer pointed out Thursday that starting the fund immediately was a must as “climate change impacts are already happening and are going to increase. Food production, water, health, all are being impacted. Himalayan glaciers are melting already.”

“Developing countries are especially vulnerable and will be the hardest hit,” he noted.

The UN has estimated that developing countries will need at least $86 billion a year to adapt to the climate change that is being caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases - emitted largely due to industrial activity - in the atmosphere.

But the only money available to the Adaptation Fund is a levy that can generate an estimated $5 billion a year by 2013, Heather Coleman of the NGO Oxfam told IANS.

“If not $86 billion a year, we estimate we’ll need at least $50 billion,” she said.

De Boer agreed and said that UNFCCC was “looking for other sources of creative funding”. He said getting more money for this fund by the end of 2009 would need “clever financial architecture”.

There had been some discussion on extending the levy to add to the money available for the Adaptation Fund, de Boer said. “Developing countries want it now, while industrialised countries want to defer this to (the next summit in) Copenhagen.”

Meanwhile, representatives of industrialised and developing countries spent most of Thursday arguing over who would administer the little money that would now be available for this fund.

Industrialised countries want it to be managed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) of the World Bank, a point made most strongly at the meeting by a delegate from New Zealand.

On the other hand developing countries - led by the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS), the ones most vulnerable to sea level rise - find GEF procedures too cumbersome and too opaque and want the fund to be administered by a UN organisation.

While that debate rages, de Boer said countries have “now begun looking to see how to speed up funding for least development countries (LDC), who are frustrated by lack of access to funds”.

Delegates are also discussing if the Adaptation Fund can be extended to all developing countries from the LDCs, something that is of interest to large developing countries such as India, though that will mean even thinner slices of a very small pie.

(Joydeep Gupta can be contacted at joydeep.g@ians.in)

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