Climate Talks

Integrating development and adaptation: looking back at Copenhagen

Waves washing over the seawall in Funafuti, Tuvalu
Waves washing over the seawall in Funafuti, Tuvalu

The CliMates country delegations decided to work on the links between adaptation to climate change, development and poverty eradication. Although the convergence of these topics could give the world economy a new pattern, innovations are urgently needed.

In December 2009, after two weeks ended up with a long night of negotiations in cold Copenhagen, the delegates of the UNFCCC finally reached an agreement. Finance for adaptation to climate change and mitigation in developing countries were among a range of other topics covered in the Copenhagen Accord.  In the Copenhagen Accord, developed country parties pledged $30 billions “with balanced allocation between adaptation and mitigation” in fast track financing between 2010 and 2012. The parties further emphasised that “funding for adaptation will be prioritized for the most vulnerable developing countries, such as the least developed countries, Small Island Developing States and Africa.“

The commitments made at COP15 give more precision and strength to the original framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC) that was made by the Parties in Rio in 1992. In 1992, developed country parties only decided to “assist the developing country Parties that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change in meeting costs of adaptation to those adverse effects.”

The global and growing concern for climate change met with another but older international objective: development. In New York City in September 2000, global leaders adopted the United Nations Millennium Declaration including a series of objectives formulated into the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Global leaders agreed on 2015 as a deadline for the MDGs related to poverty eradication, education, health, and gender equality. As the deadline for the MDGs is 2015, the meeting between development and climate change became fully effective in 2010 when developed countries started channelling billions for adaptation to climate change and mitigation in developing countries.

The convergence of deadlines and objectives however fuelled the long-lasting tensions between developed and developing countries. Developed countries accusing developing countries of misusing the official development assistance funds and, reciprocally, developing countries accusing developed countries of not respecting their past commitment to give 0.7% of their GDP in Official Development Assistance (ODA). For many developed countries, it was undeniably clear that the money for adaptation would be taken from the development pocket, whereas developing countries, backed by NGOs argued for “new, additional and predictable” funds. This threat of reallocation of development resources towards adaptation has always been a concern of the UNFCCC secretariat. I especially remember Yvo de Boer, the former UNFCCC executive secretary, warning countries from “climate-washing” money that was meant for development.

In a context of international economic and financial crisis, developed countries claim that it is now impossible for them to meet their past adaptation commitments. According to the website (an initiative from the Dutch Government), of the $30 billion that was initially committed in Copenhagen, the countries pledged around 20 billion (€19,499 billions). However, at the end of the day, only €5.082 billion came through.

Aware of the current situation, CliMates decided to explore possible ways forward, beyond the recurrent lack of funding for development and adaptation. Whereas the needs are expected to increase due to growing global population, more severe climate impacts and greater needs for mitigation, fundings currently available are on a dangerous slope. Funding scarcity for adaptation, mitigation and development will most certainly become the challenge of our generation.
By looking at how adaptation, development and poverty eradication could be tied together for the better of local communities in developing and developed countries, CliMates hopes to find solutions and innovations that will fully integrate adaptation into development, and development into adaptation.

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