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Adapting to climate change: developing countries and the global response

Publication date:
Saleemul Huq
Type of publication:

There is a growing realisation that developing countries will be most severely affected by climate change through flooding, drought, and impacts on key sectors such as agriculture and water resource management. The response to climate change must therefore be ‘mainstreamed’, by incorporating adaptation strategies into development action and policy at local, national and global levels.Historically, the focus of international policy on climate
change has been on mitigation, or efforts to minimise climate change caused by
humans: this is reflected in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate
Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol. Recently,
more attention has been paid to adaptation, or efforts to respond to the potential
impacts of climate change. Adaptation is particularly important in the most
vulnerable developing countries and communities. A paper from the International
Institute for Environment and Development in the UK
looks at the challenges of adaptation and specific ways to incorporate it into
development, particularly through funding the efforts of developing countries.
The UNFCCC negotiations held in Marrakech in 2001 created
several funds to support the adaptation efforts of developing countries, such
as the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) to plan National Adaptation
Programmes of Action (NAPAs) and the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF). They
join the Adaptation Fund (under the Kyoto Protocol) and the Global
Environmental Fund (GEF) as potential sources of adaptation funding.
The research finds that:
Low levels of funding for the LDCF (US$20
million) and the SCCF (none so far) are linked to the decline in Overseas
Development Assistance (ODA).
The Adaptation Fund will be based on
contributions from a ‘tax’ on transactions whereby a heavily polluting
developed country can ‘buy’ a reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions by
funding a project in a developing country which reduces emissions. These transactions
will only begin with the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol.
Most GEF funding will be limited to projects with
a global benefit. The majority of adaptation initiatives required will have
local benefits, so will not be funded by the GEF.
Communities most vulnerable to the impact of
climate change are also those most excluded from the existing funding
There is a tendency to define adaptation as that
required to adapt to climate change which is the result of human activity. This
excludes adaptation strategies needed to respond to natural climate variations,
and the wide-ranging benefits of such strategies.
The following actions are recommended:
The UNFCCC has to agree on practical rules and
criteria to best use adaptation funds to help developing countries.
Developed countries must provide the additional
resources needed to incorporate climate adaptation into development programmes.
Developing countries must plan their strategies
for adapting to climate change (for the LDCs this means completing NAPAs
quickly) and take a participatory approach.
The GEF and international donors must shift
their focus from large projects to smaller local projects that respond
specifically to the needs of the most vulnerable.
Development NGOs and researchers must pay
greater attention to the question of climate change and the impact it will have
on development.
Given the nature of climate change, local to global
adaptation strategies must be collaborative and long term, and should not be
determined by the limited funding cycles of donors and research and policy