Financial Leaders Call for Adaptation Resources

Bangladesh floodsLeaders from the world's top development banks acknowledged yesterday that significant research and funding gaps are preventing developing countries from adequately adapting to climate change.

Sustainable development initiatives often do not factor for climate change, and without greater resources as part of an international climate agreement, developing countries will not be able to finance climate change adaptation plans, representatives of the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and Inter-American Development Bank said.

"We really have to get our acts together," said Ursula Schäfer-Preuss, vice president of knowledge management and sustainable development with the Asian Development Bank, at a climate change summit hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank on Thursday. "Migration in low island states and Bangladesh is a huge problem, but we do not know what to do about it."

Depending upon the region, climate change is expected to cause various effects that include widespread drought as glaciers melt, coastal flooding as sea levels rise, and changes in crop production as weather patterns shift, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Adaptation plans strive to protect regions from climate change-related fatalities or economic losses. Examples include water conservation measures and the use of flood-resistant crops.

Warren Evans, the World Bank's environment director, said the institution began focusing on adaptation work about five years ago. The bank is still determining the best methods of including adaptation and climate resiliency in development projects, he said.

"Our knowledge of adaptation, in comparison to mitigation, is weak," Evans said.

The successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, being negotiated this year, will include a revised version of the Adaptation Fund, which the World Bank currently oversees. The fund is financed by a 2-percent levy on the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), the investments that polluting countries finance in developing countries to compensate for the polluters' greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate negotiators will meet in Copenhagen in December to determine the details of future carbon markets, including how the Adaptation Fund and CDM system will function. A draft of the new climate treaty may result from a meeting later this month in Bonn, Germany.

According to the United Nations Development Programme, developing countries will need $86 billion per year by 2015 for adaptation efforts. So far, the Global Environment Facility, an independent partnership headquartered at the World Bank, manages three adaptation funds that total about $200 million. 

"It's going to be a struggle, but we have to recognize the challenge of development will be much more difficult [without spending on adaptation]," said former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern during yesterday's event in Washington, D.C.

The agreement among financial leaders for more adaptation support echoes previous IPCC analysis. "The technical, financial and institutional capacity, and the actual planning and implementation of effective adaptation, is currently quite limited in many regions," the scientific body said in its fourth assessment report, released in 2007.

The economic recovery packages of several industrialized countries are dedicating significant funds to adaptation plans such as water infrastructure projects.

But stimulus packages in most developing countries, in Latin America at least, are providing funds for transportation and other infrastructure projects not related to adaptation or mitigation strategies, according to Alicia Bárcena, executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

"Ministries of finance are not talking about climate change," Bárcena said. "They are so worried about the short term - the lack of liquidity, falling apart of demand."  

Ben Block is a staff writer with the Worldwatch Institute. He can be reached at bblock@worldwatch.org.

This article is a product of Eye on Earth, Worldwatch Institute's online news service. For permission to reprint Eye on Earth content, please contact Juli Diamond at jdiamond@worldwatch.org.