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'First of all, we have to see the money'

  • Published at 09:15 pm October 11th, 2017
  • Last updated at 11:56 pm October 11th, 2017
'First of all, we have to see the money'

What is the future of having adequate climate finance as public grant from the polluter developed countries, especially for vulnerable South Asian Countries?

Theoretically, very good, but less in the context of “polluter pays,” and more in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty (Article 2 Paris Agreement). The Paris Agreement is a breakthrough because it recognises that we all have a responsibility to adapt to (cope with) climate change and help developing countries to adapt -- but also to mitigate climate change. Bangladesh also has a responsibility to reduce its carbon emissions, so building large coal mines for example, does not really honour the spirit of the Paris Agreement. In Article 9, the Agreement lays down how finance will flow (to the tune of a “floor” of $100 billion a year). This is a huge amount, but in reality very little has been exchanged so far, due to concerns about the governance capacity of developing countries to manage the funds, lack of funds provision from the developed countries, and institutional barriers. So, let’s wait and see.

Currently, only 27% of funds from the GCF have been allotted for adaptation. How could developing countries get access to more money for climate adaptation?

There are two main ways. One is to develop their governance capacity to be able to receive funds from the GCF, but I know this is very difficult. Getting accredited to the GCF is complex. Another would be to forget the GCF, and look to bilateral financial support, either from a government or the private sector. I think there is great potential for the private sector to help developing countries. Companies also produce carbon emissions, and can now play a role under the Paris Agreement (decisions clustered under section V “non-party stakeholders”). The private sector often has more flexibility, but in this context, good governance is even more important to avoid corruption.

Requirement of adaptation finance is $280 billion in South Asian countries including Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and Maldives, while the total climate finance in South Asia is only $2.33bn in 137 projects from 17 different climate funds. Do you think that South Asian countries are getting due shares? If not, why?

First of all, we have to see this money. It has not yet been allocated, so it could all be smoke and mirrors. It is better to look at the total proportion of actual money released and spent (and whether it is a grant or a loan). It is important to remember there have been some problematic funds allocation. I am sure your readers are aware of the so-called cyclone shelters that had no walls, for example. The problem as I see it, is rather chicken and egg. Developing countries need finance to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of  climate change, but this requires good governance. Without good governance, they cannot get climate finance. I believe we need some simple governance standards for all to adapt, but these do not exist. The main concern of donors is that funds get spent on time. This is far less important than making sure the funds are effective. This is often secondary.

How can UNFCCC and developed countries help to build capacity of South Asian countries including Bangladesh in accessing GCF, performance of the NDA, reforms in potential NIEs, especially public entities?

Yes, this is my understanding as well, ODA is now being rebadged as “climate action.” This is part of the neo-liberal ideology of the “small-state and user pays.” Aid is being privatised, and downsized. This is a very negative trend. The private sector should not replace the state, but complement it. I would recommend that the region as a whole works with NGOs like Transparency International to develop a benchmark, “whole-of-governance” standards for the private sector, and for donor funding. If the region creates its own standards (so long as they are stringent enough), SE Asia will attract climate action investment. Remember, adapting to and mitigating climate change is in the interests of business, as well as society. Investments are not secure if they are prone to flooding. Therefore business, civil society, and government should collaborate to address the problem. I think these two questions are interlinked. I can see SE Asia getting bogged down in “green” tape. So far, the GCF has not shown itself to be especially flexible, or inclusive, of the multi-sector interests required to combat climate change. Yes, funds from this entity should be sought, but this should not be the only strategy.

Do you think SAARC could play any role to build capacity to access more climate funds, especially in the GCF?

Possibly. However, what SAARC could do now would be to support the development of benchmark, whole-of-governance standards for climate finance. If there was a regional standard, or sets of standards (mitigation, adaptation, national, sub-national, community level), this would attract investment. I hate to say this, but there is money to be made from climate change. It is better that SAARC harness this for the region, than watch it all go to other countries.

What would be the responsibility of both developed and developing countries, to ensure transparency, accountability, participation, and integrity under the Paris Agreement?

This is to me the most disappointing aspect of Paris. There is a lot of expectation on developed countries (“shall” according to the Agreement) to provide funds, and account for them, but only “should” for developing countries, and small-island states. This will create a bottleneck effect, where developed countries have funds, but will not allocate them if there is not enough quality reporting for the developing countries. This is why I argue the region should develop its own standards with multi-stakeholders, so long as they are stringent. These standards should be voluntary, but if an entity does not have accreditation, they would not have access to climate funds. The region needs to look after itself, in my opinion, together with business and civil society. We all need to be involved if we are to combat climate change.

Should South Asian countries focus on mitigation? What would be the priority sectors for mitigation purposes?

We need to focus on both, as they cover different responsibilities. Adaptation is immediate and short term, mitigation is long term. Remember, we will not be able to “cure” climate change. We can only make it “less bad.” The weaker our actions now in mitigating climate change by removing all fossil fuel emissions from industrial activity, we condemn the future to a terrible world. We must stick within the 1.5-2 degrees centigrade window. There is no wiggle room. Climate change will reach equilibrium in another 100,000 years, not 100. Therefore, we must all mitigate our activities from the past, and ecologically modernise our economies. No more fossil fuels.