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Will There Be a Battle Over Climate Change Funds in Developing World?

Tom Grubisich's picture

We now know the price of climate adaptation in developing countries –- US$75-100 billion per year between 2010 and 2050.  The recently published costs were explained by their World Bank estimators in a panel discussion at the Bank on Tuesday.  But who, exactly, will do the adapting?

Most of the developing countries that will be hardest hit by climate change are poor (20) and some of them are classified as fragile (six).  Poor –- and especially fragile – countries are already hard pressed to effectively implement current economic growth strategies because their governments don’t have adequate capacity in launching projects (e.g., local ownership, rigorous monitoring and evaluation, focus on results, feedback mechanism).   Multilateral development banks, like the World Bank, are increasingly turning to non-governmental organizations to close the capacity gap.

Climate-adaptation spending – if it’s fully funded – would equal what’s now spent on “official development assistance” (ODA).  Besides, climate adaptation, because it's unexplored terrain in many respects, will require a lot of learning, knowledge, and innovation.  So how would the doubling of development funding be matched by capacity?  The new cost-of-adaptation study says, very confidently: “For all sectors, adaptation costs include the costs of planned, public policy adaptation measures and exclude the costs of private adaptation.” 

Does that mean that NGOs wouldn’t get a share of the billions of dollars in annual climate-adaptation funds that are expected to flow from developed to developing countries in coming years as part of the recent Copenhagen “accord”?  Not necessarily.  After Tuesday’s panel, I asked the chief author of the World Bank cost study, Sergio Margulis, if his numbers covered only climate adaptation carried out by national and regional governments, or might they be a “hybrid” that included NGOs. “A hybrid,” he said.

That's encouraing.  But NGOs better make sure they are players in climate change in developing countries, especially those countries that are poor and fragile.  That won’t be easy to do.  This blog has carried numerous posts –here, here, and here, among others -- where DM2009 finalists have expressed their frustration in trying to be partners with governments of developing countries in climate adaptation.  Developing-country governments will need major help from NGOs, especially community-based ones, to carry out successful climate adaptation that helps to maintain and even increase vital agricultural and other economic growth.

Despite the frustrations expressed by DM2009 finalists, there’s reason for some confidence.  As the new adaptation cost study says: “…the boundary between public and private (autonomous) adaptation is almost infinitely flexible. So long as governments and the public sector ensure that incentives for innovation, investment, and private decisions reflect the scarcity of resources once the impact of climate change is taken into account, experience demonstrates that the costs of adaptation may be dramatically reduced by a combination of technical change and private initiative.”

(In photo above, left to right, Warren Evans, Director of Environment Department, World Bank, and environmental economists Urvashi Narain and Sergio Margulis, authors of "The Cost to Developing Countries of Adapting to Climate Change.")  
 

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