Rich countries must pay up to help poor countries adapt to climate change

By Oxfam

Rich countries have paid only $67 million into a UN fund to help the world’s poorest countries adapt to climate change which is less than what Americans spend on suntan lotion each month, according to a new report published today by international agency Oxfam.

“This figure represents quite an insult, to be frank, given that the least developed countries will need at least $1-2 billion to meet just their most urgent adaptation needs,” said report author Charlotte Sterrett. Oxfam calls on rich countries gathering in Bali for the 13th UN conference on climate change to honour their promises and increase their commitments to pay adaptation costs.

“Bali needs to tackle both cause and effect equally. Even if the world stopped polluting today, the worsening impacts of climate change will be with us for 30 years or more. That’s why it is so vital that rich countries help developing countries to cope now. This would also signal their genuine intent to tackle the problem,” she said.

“Oxfam wants to see negotiators in Bali set a plan for identifying new finance-raising mechanisms, so that vulnerable communities in developing countries will have the resources and support they need to plan for and protect themselves from the worst impacts of climate change. This is not about aid, it is about the world’s biggest and richest polluters covering the costs forced upon those who are most vulnerable,” she said.

Oxfam estimates that adapting to climate change in developing countries is likely to cost at least $50 billion each year, and far more if global greenhouse-gas emissions are not cut fast enough. Further, Oxfam estimates that it will cost at least $1-2 billion to meet the most urgent and immediate adaptation needs of the least developed countries. Yet current pledges to the Least Developed Countries Fund, set up specifically for this purpose, have reached a mere $163 million—less than half of what the UK is investing in cooling the London Underground—and worse, only $67m has actually been delivered.

In addition to identifying new funding sources for the Adaptation Fund—the largest potential source of funds for climate adaptation in poor countries—Oxfam is calling for a decision on management of the Fund that puts poor countries first as well as a post-2012 negotiation that puts adaptation on an equal footing with the urgent mitigation agenda.

The report highlights the injustice that poor countries are already paying the price of industrial growth in rich countries, which has brought about global warming. Vulnerable communities are already suffering food and water shortages and worsening poverty because of unpredictable weather patterns and increasing weather-related crises, brought about by climate change.

In Niger, changed rainfall patterns are contributing to worsening desertification which for indigenous people like the Tuareg and the Wodaabe means massive losses in livestock and food insecurity. In Tuvalu, a small island nation in the Pacific, strong winds and high tides regularly crash against damaged sea walls, bringing waves and debris onto the land, inundating homes and ruining fresh water supplies. In Bolivia, rising temperatures are causing more and bigger forest fires which is damaging agriculture.

“Most people in poor countries rely on natural resources from the land and sea for their survival. Therefore people from an agrarian society like Cambodia for example, who are least responsible for causing global warming, are being hardest hit by it,” said Sterrett.

The Cambodian government was one of the first to submit a National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) and awaits final approval from the Least Developed Country fund, set up by the UNFCCC in 2002. Author of Cambodia’s NAPA and project manager of the Climate Change Office in Phnom Phen, Tin Ponlok, says: “Unfortunately, UN negotiations in the past have focused more on mitigation, with adaptation receiving much less attention. This trend must be reversed. We need tangible support—not just talk, not just negotiations.”

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