The Tragedy of the Least Developed Countries

by Graham Reeder and Nathan Thanki

While there are more controversial and contentious issues regarding financing for adaptation (the report on the GCF today in COP plenary, or the report from the Adaptation Fund Board to CMP plenary), there are some interesting discussions going on elsewhere.

For example, in yesterday’s continued opening plenary of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation, Uganda stirred things up with a vivacious and biting criticism of the Global Environment Facility (GEF)(read World Bank) and it’s role in funding adaptation to climate change. They started by pointing out how the failure of current National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) is entirely due to the slow and inadequate financing of the GEF. When Uganda developed their NAPA plan in 2007 to deal with urgent adaptation needs, they were expecting the project to be funded and implemented as was mandated by the UNFCCC. A year later they got their project back saying that they needed to change their implementing agency because their chosen partner (UNEP) was incapable of handling a project of that size. Who the GEF would have preferred instead is unclear. Unfortunately for the GEF, Uganda does it’s homework, and decided to conduct some follow up research. Speaking with permission of Gambia on behalf of the LDC group, Uganda pointed out that UNEP has implemented even larger programmes than theirs, and therefore has both the relevant capacity and experience. Uganda maintained in no uncertain terms that the GEF had no right to dictate such terms. The NAPAs are supposed to be country driven, and are not another excuse for the World Bank to get their fingers into the development plans of the Least Developed Countries. Following up today, the LDC group went on to complain that the GEF, through its Least Developed Country Fund (LDCF), has only funded NAPAs even though there are many other activities that need urgent attention under the LDC work programme.

As countries move into the next phase of adaptation to climate change, parties like Uganda and Bangladesh want to make sure that things actually get moving; they are sick of being asked to put their own resources into developing plans that don’t get funded or implemented. Uganda gracefully pointed out that the principal of urgent and immediate needs which the NAPAs are meant to address aren’t so relevant when they finally get implemented 80 years down the road. Urgent needs are urgent needs after all. But the lack of urgency in helping LDCs respond to climate change is, in their own words, “disappointing and depressing.” The question of the Ugandan delegate highlights: what is the point of having a fund (LDCF) if access to that fund was difficult bordering on impossible? In a break away contact group on finance under SBI, Colombia made similar points about a lack of understanding that climate change is happening right now, and its impacts are being felt RIGHT NOW. She added that of all the projects the LDCF had assisted with transfer of technologies, only 2 had been for adaptation.

On top of the dire state of adaptation funding there are the severe problems that the developing world has with the GEF as the financial mechanism. There are problems with transparency around how much money is in the funds, where it is from, where it goes, who asked for it and so on. There are even more problems with transparency around the decision making process. And while the SBI and COP can make recommendations to the GEF, it is not enough. There are too many problems, too many bad experiences, and too much bad blood. It is clear why a new fund (the GCF) with a guaranteed 50% window for adaptation and answerable to the COP is so desireable.

The Ugandan intervention was definitely one of the more lively and honest that we’ve seen in this COP, but as the rich of the world continuously refuse to commit to emissions reductions while at the same time stall and backtrack on promises of adequate, additional, scaled-up and predictable funding, we can expect more of the same. It’s the same old refrain: time is running out. For some it already has.

#LDCs #developingcountries #UNFCCC #climatenegotiations #GCF #LDCF #climatefinance #finance #GEF #adaptation #grahamreeder #greenclimatefund #SBI #nathanthanki #NAPA #climatechange

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