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Supporting Climate Adaptation in Developing Countries

The richest countries of the world generated our long-term climate crisis through decades of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil energy sources, chemical production and use, and industrialized agriculture. Yet the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects that the poorest countries will experience the worst impacts of climate change. They have the fewest resources to adapt systems to withstand rising sea level, floods and droughts, reduced water supply, and diminished food production.

Oxfam International has estimated that at least $60 billion a year will be needed to enable developing countries to adapt to the harmful effects of climate change. Oxfam has developed an Adaptation Financing Index, recommending that the USA, European Union, Japan, Canada, and Australia should contribute over 95 per cent of the finance needed for adaptation in developing countries.

The Index budgets a responsibility for adaptation aid according to each country’s responsibility for causing climate change and its capability to assist. Donor countries should not count this investment in developing country adaptation as part of normal economic development aid to alleviate poverty.

Oxfam allocates responsibility as follows:
  • The USA should contribute over 40 per cent;
  • The EU 30 per cent from the top five European generators of GHGs -- Germany, the UK, Italy, France, and Spain;
  • Japan, Canada, Australia, and the Republic of Korea should contribute a further 20 per cent of the finance, with Japan providing over half of that.
Despite China and India’s increasing climate changing emissions, Oxfam assigns no adaptation aid responsibility to them. Their own development and adaptation needs are so great that they now lack capacity. However, China is making huge investments in basic resources around the world. It should factor climate adaptation into its overseas projects and provide support for adaptation planning in the countries from which it imports.

International funds to support adaptation include four global funds: the GEF Trust Fund, the Least Developed Countries Fund, the Special Climate Change Fund and the Adaptation Fund. The World Bank itself states that the total amount of funding for adaptation over the next five years is not adequate. A study by the Swedish Environmental Institute goes further, describing the funds as: "an intricate system of financial instruments . . .   not technically adequate for responding to developing countries’ needs, owing both to the complex design of the funds and to poor implementation of the guidance."

 "developing countries have expressed the additional concern that the complexity of current arrangements constrains their access to funds for adaptation project activities."

Domestic implications

Organizations doing adaptation planning in the US and other developed countries can help meet this responsibility to support adaptation planning in developing countries in a number of ways. They may form sister relations with comparable organizations in countries needing support. Port authorities, business associations, coastal management agencies, water and flood control agencies, etc. can partner with their counterparts to support capacity development, exchange personnel, data and tools, and even provide financial support. In addition, they should support national legislation to provide an adequate level of adaptation funding and bi-lateral aid.

The tragic aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita demonstrated that adaptation planning and emergency management within the US (and other developed countries) needs to devote special attention to meeting the needs of the poorest in society. 

Oxfam. 2007. Adapting to climate change
What’s needed in poor countries, and who should pay

Oxfam Briefing Paper 104

Annett MÖHNER and Richard J.T. KLEIN, The Global Environment Facility: Funding for Adaptation or Adapting To Funds?, Climate & Energy Working Paper, Stockholm Environment Institute, June 2007

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