A week into UN talks, adaptation cash becomes a 'red line' for developing world

UN Nov12-768

The 19th annual "conference of parties" is underway in Warsaw, and will conclude on Friday, Nov. 22. A rift between developed and developing countries over adaptation financing has emerged as a stumbling block at the talks' halfway point. Photo by Nitin Sethi/flickr.

Nov. 15, 2013

(Updated: Nov. 15, 2013 18:47 CET)

Doorstep animated logoDeveloping countries say they need money now to help adapt to a changing world. Failure of rich countries to fulfill a promise made in Copenhagen four years ago threatens to seize up efforts to reach a global agreement on emissions.

By Douglas Fischer
The Daily Climate

WARSAW – The failure of rich countries to fulfill a $100 billion promise to help poorer countries adapt to climate change has become a major block at the halfway mark of the United Nations talks now underway in Poland.

These talks will be put in jeopardy if there is no adaptation financing in Warsaw.
- Meena Raman,
Third World Network

The commitment, made by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other ministers four years ago at the Copenhagen climate talks, has become a "red line" for the developing world, said Meena Raman of the Third World Network.

"These talks will be put in jeopardy if there is no adaptation financing in Warsaw," she said. 

'Loss and damage'

Typhoon Haiyan put the issue in the limelight as the UN talks opened, slamming into the Philippines and killing at least 2,350 people. As extreme weather becomes more frequent and severe as a result of increasing emissions, developing countries say they need money now to cope with adaptation efforts as well as so-called "loss and damage."

COP19 entrance-400"This past week we've seen exactly what happens when vulnerable communities are left on their own," said Brandon Wu, a senior policy analyst at ActionAid.

But in some ways the question of how much countries will contribute is premature: The main vehicle for adaptation financing – the "Green Climate Fund" – won't be operational until next year. 

"Once that has been finalized, then it will be open for an initial capitalization," said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Talk of specific commitments, she added, "is a question for 2014."

Permanent solutions

To what extent that disagreement holds up the global climate talks as they head into their second and final week remains to be seen: No one at the Warsaw talks expects a decision limiting emissions from these sessions. The best that can be hoped for, many say, is progress toward a comprehensive global pact at the Paris meeting in 2015.

Brazil's climate negotiator, Ambassador José Marcondes de Carvalho, stressed the need to hold countries to their commitments. The Green Climate Fund, he said, "is going to be a very good test case to see the political will of countries on their prior commitments."

For the block of lesser-developed countries at these talks, known as the G77, the issue is paramount, said Lidy Nacpil, a Philippine economist and director of the Asia Pacific Movement on Debt & Development.

"Typhoon Haiyan showed ... that you can't wait anymore," she said. "We hoped this backdrop would galvanize a little more movement."

"Humanitarian aid is not enough," she added. "That's ad-hoc. What we want are permanent solutions."

Douglas Fischer is editor of The Daily Climate, an independent news service covering energy, the environment and climate change.

Photo of Warsaw's National Stadium by eeepee/flickr.

Find us on Twitter @TheDailyClimate or email editor Douglas Fischer at dfischer [at] DailyClimate.org

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