While most of us were in some dismay at the results of both the Copenhagen and Cancun climate talks, there has at least always been an acknowledgement that richer countries, primarily responsible for rising emissions, will ultimately have to help poorer countries adapt to the impacts of a changing climate. In 2009, a fund was set up by the UN, to do just that, with nearly $500 billion being pledged for adaptation and low carbon development. For campaigners, it was a tiny glimmer of light in the midst of the otherwise bleak outcome of the negotiations.
But the light didn’t glimmer for long, as the fund remains virtually empty. Delegates to the UN Adaptation Fund are sitting in Bonn today to discuss the ailing fund. The UK government is one of the key countries holding back much-needed financing. Although they offered £1.5 billion ($2.4 billion) between 2010 and 2012 towards climate finance, they have so far refused to give a single penny to the UN-led fund, instead choosing to give the cash to our old friend, the World Bank, replete with its history of dodgy deals.
The current chair of the UN fund, Farrukh Iqbal Khan, said recently: ‘to date, we have received nearly 20 projects for financing. This shows that the demand for adaptation financing is enormous. [However] the fund is constrained to remain cautious in its approach due to limited funds at its disposal.’ Unsurprisingly, proposals being discussed in Bonn this week include how to limit how much money goes to individual countries.
As the World Bank-led funds dominate, our alarm bells go off. Funds given by the discredited institution will be more likely to be attached to myriad conditions, and most worryingly be given in the form of loans rather than grants, locking the poorest countries into further levels of unfair debt. The Bank is notoriously undemocratic, biasing a Western policy and trade agenda over locally derived solutions. Furthermore, it is one of the world’s biggest financiers of fossil fuels – a huge contradiction to its supposed climate-friendly face. In sum, it’s the last thing poorer countries need at their time of crisis.
While the UN fund is far from perfect, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. It is a fairer and more democratic vehicle for transferring money to the developing world. With appropriate resources, it could be made to work effectively and efficiently.
The World Development Movement (wdm.org.uk) has been working to expose the latest in a long line of climate travesties. It’s enough that poorer countries have to deal with the impacts of climate change, but let’s make the financial response more just, by rejecting the World Bank and supporting our UN system. Join WDM's campaign for Climate Justice
Deborah Doane is Director of the World Development Movement.
Department for International Development policy document on how much money it has spent on climate change finance.