Adaptation to Climate Change – Any Real Progress?

Dec 21st, 2011 | By | Category: Advocacy, Carbon, Climatic Changes in Himalayas, CoP17, Financing, Global Warming, Governance, Government Policies, Green House Gas Emissions, News, Resilience, Technologies, UNFCCC, Vulnerability

Green Conduct: The last COP in Durban ended in a success for the UNFCCC process, but has more nebulous implications for the climate itself, with Kyoto put on artificial respirator and a more comprehensive agreement being pushed back to a later date.

The most significant progress at Durban for climate change adaptation came in the form of an agreement on – and thus official “launch” of – the Green Climate Fund (GCF). The GCF has been discussed since the last COP in Cancun as a funding/financing mechanism for both mitigation and adaptation efforts from developing countries and, most particularly, the least developed countries (LDCs). It was hoped that the shape and form of the fund could be agreed upon this year, as it was expected that countries would not be ready to commit to more funding for adaptation in such uncertain economic context: and it was.

As reported by IISD, the COP17 “designates the GCF as an operating entity of the financial mechanism of the Convention, with arrangements to be concluded between the COP and the Fund at COP 18 to ensure that it is accountable to and functions under the guidance of the COP to support projects, programmes, policies and other activities in developing country parties.”

The GCF will operate under the guidance of the Conference of Parties, or more simply, the UNFCCC, marking a big win for developing country negotiators. This has been a long-standing issue, with the EU and the US on the other side of the fence arguing that the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and agencies such as the World Bank should have been responsible for the handling of the climate change adaptation (and mitigation) funding. The workings of this final decision are eminently complex, but one might posit that the vanishing of the negotiating power of the EU/US on the adaptation funding issue (due to growing economic uncertainty), the lack of significant mitigation action on the part of the US, and the structure of the UNFCCC decision process have created a quasi-insurmountable pressure on the proponents of a GEF/World Bank-handled fund to give in (if they were not to be the last nations to stand in the way of an agreement at Durban, that is).

However, the process of creating the GCF is not over yet: there still remain significant issues to be agreed upon such as the fund’s host country, its trustee(s), and its link(s) with the Adaptation Committee and Technology Executive Committee. Several difficult discussions and meetings are to be expected in the coming years on these topics.

In addition, the question of adaptation funding remains pending. With a bid to impose carbon tax on aviation and maritime transport for the purpose of generating revenues for the GCF rejected by developing countries, the responsibility could likely be passed again to cash-strapped sovereign treasuries. The struggle in defining country roles with just and substantial results while still adhering to the principle of common but differentiated responsibility thus continues.

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