RIO DE JANEIRO (AlertNet) - Worsening climate impacts are now “a reality, not a threat”, but little of the aid promised to poor countries has arrived, leaving them to dig into their own pockets to cover the costs, climate change experts said this week.
Between 2009 and 2010, as “fast-start” aid for climate-vulnerable countries began to flow, global climate funding rose from $6.7 billion to $14.2 billion, according to DARA, a Spain-based organisation that tracks the effectiveness of international assistance.
But only $2 billion of that jump was on top of aid commitments already made, DARA researcher Matthew McKinnon said at the Rio+20 sustainable development summit in Brazil.
And from 2010 to 2011, growth in new aid flows to tackle climate change only kept up with inflation, despite promises that $30 billion in new financing would be made available to vulnerable countries between 2010 and 2012, he added.
The result is that “many of these countries are already having to allocate tens of millions - if not hundreds of millions - of dollars of their own budgets to climate change,” McKinnon said, adding that “the impact is exponentially growing”.
Bangladesh is now spending about 1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) each year dealing with climate-related problems, such as growing migration and loss of infrastructure and farmland to erosion and saltwater intrusion, said Hasan Mahmud, the country’s environment minister.
“Millions of people, not thousands, are already displaced, and they have migrated to big cities like Dhaka and Chittagong,” Mahmud said. This and other climate impacts are “taking a heavy toll on our economy,” he said. “Many of our priorities have shifted to face climate change.”
In Bangladesh, climate change “is a reality, not a threat”, he emphasised.
SURVIVAL AND DEVELOPMENT CHALLENGE
Rene Castro, the environment minister of Costa Rica, which has pledged to make its economy carbon neutral by 2021, said his country is also already spending 1 percent of GDP each year rebuilding schools, roads, water reservoirs, farms and tourist infrastructure damaged by extreme weather events.
The Central American nation has estimated it will need to spend an additional 0.5 percent of GDP to make its infrastructure sufficiently resilient to climate hazards. That means spending 1.5 percent of GDP a year to deal with climate pressures – the same percentage of the budget that now goes on providing state university education to young Costa Ricans.
The growing financial strain imposed by climate change means that Costa Rica – and many other countries - will need to start making hard spending choices, Castro said.
The country also needs to spend an additional 1 percent of GDP to meet its 2020 carbon-neutral promise by adapting its agriculture, improving public transportation, reducing the use of fertiliser, water and energy, and moving to cleaner fuels, he said.
“We think the developed world is not fully aware of the size and the magnitude of the challenge we face - first for survival, and then for development,” Castro said.
Keshab Man Shakya, Nepal’s minister of environment, science and technology, said his country too is struggling to make progress on its development goals while at the same time paying to mop up after worsening climate-related disasters, including flooding, landslides and glacial lake outbursts. Meanwhile, migration into the capital, Kathmandu, is surging.
“Now the consequences of climate change are really eating up all the good works we have done,” he said.
‘CHINA DEVELOPMENT MECHANISM’
Saleemul Huq, a senior fellow at the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), said he recognised the extent of the financial problems faced by many poorer countries. But he urged their leaders – many of whom are members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum – to work together on more than trying to attract new funding.
“In the end what we are looking for is less for vulnerable countries to be vulnerable but (for them) to be adaptive,” he said. That should include efforts to “share information among countries in a more concrete and practical way”, he said.
One area where international climate spending is flowing quickly is through the U.N.-backed Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which under the Kyoto Protocol allows developed countries to meet some of their emissions reduction goals by funding clean energy and other projects that curb emissions in developing countries.
In 2010, total investment in CDM projects was $45 billion – three times the amount spent on climate assistance, McKinnon said. By 2011, CDM spending had ballooned to $70.4 billion, making it “probably one of the largest functional technology transfer programmes today”, he said.
The problem is that 77 percent of the CDM spending has gone to China, which has led critics to joke that the CDM equals the “China Development Mechanism”, he added.