Developed Countries Fight Continuation of Climate Adaptation Fund at Marrakech

Developing countries are arguing at COP22 that the fund, meant to provide developing countries with resources to adjust to inevitable climate changes, should continue under the Paris Agreement.

Moroccan security stand guard in front of the entrance of the World Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco, November 9, 2016. Credit: Reuters/Youssef Boudlal

Moroccan security stand guard in front of the entrance of the World Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco, November 9, 2016. Credit: Reuters/Youssef Boudlal

A week of climate change negotiations at Marrakech threatened the future of the Adaptation Fund as developed countries blocked talks on housing it in the post-2020 regime under the Paris Agreement. The fund, set up in 2001 under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, is meant to provide developing and poor countries funds to adjust to inevitable climate changes.

A bitter fight through the week ended without resolution on Monday, as 134 developing countries of the G77+China demanded that the Adaptation Fund continue to function under the new pact. However, rich countries collectively argued that they would prefer bilateral funding and other routes rather than the only existing multilateral fund under the UN climate change convention to continue. As minsters began to pour into the Moroccan capital, the issue remained unresolved and is now likely to be escalated to their level for resolution.

The fund, though largely notional at the moment, is the only existing mechanism for developed countries to come through on their financial commitments to support poor countries adapt to climate change, which cannot be avoided due to existing levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

The G77+China countries collectively moved a formal proposal on how the Adaptation Fund could be housed during the operationalising of the Paris Agreement. They invited developed countries that did not fully agree with the proposal to share their views. But developed countries refused to even entertain the idea of letting the fund live in the new climate regime that is to begin starting 2020 under the Paris Agreement.

Australia, speaking in closed-door meetings on the issue, said that it didn’t see the Adaptation Fund “as the only way of adaptation finance”. This is mostly being done through bilateral funding, it added. Australia is part of the umbrella group of countries that includes the US. The EU chimed in immediately, suggesting everything but a formal discussion on the G77 proposal to let Adaptation Fund live on. Canada, Switzerland and Japan also supported Australia.

Seeing that developed countries were not willing to even discuss the proposal, the G77 then suggested that a draft decision for this be moved to a larger formal setting of negotiations to be undertaken Tuesday onwards. This too was opposed by developed countries. They pushed that the G77 proposal be taken into the second week of negotiations as a mere proposal that developing countries could try and raise from scratch in the discussions.

Facing a complete blockage by the developed countries, it was decided in the informal meeting that the continuation of the Adaptation Fund would be discussed in the second week as a mere one-sided proposal of developing countries to be presented in the formal talks.

The fracas over the Adaptation Fund was an extension of the big fight that has run through the first week at Marrakech. Through different routes, developed countries tried to ensure that only mitigation-related work under the future Paris Agreement be carried out and the rest of the issues, which are just as close to developing countries interest, be side-stepped. Mitigation refers to emission reduction measures. Developing countries put as much emphasis on adaptation and rich countries providing funds for developing countries to adapt and mitigate.

By the end of the week, a host of issues that developing countries hold important had been called as either ‘homeless’ or ‘orphans’. These included concerns about how developing countries’ adaptation efforts would be recognised in coming years so that funding can be provided against them and how a new collective and quantified goal for finance could be provided by developed countries over the coming years of the Paris Agreement.

Developed countries argued against the recording of any other part of national targets (nationally determined contributions or NDCs) under the Paris Agreement except for mitigation goals. Developing countries had pushed hard and won at Paris that NDCs could include goals for adaptation or their financial needs besides pinning down the levels of emission reduction they may want to achieve. Even last year, developed countries such as the US had argued in favour of only mitigation-centric NDCs.

This year at Marrakech, the US and others asked that the Paris Agreement system only record the mitigation part of the NDCs even if countries provide other details – this became the debate that raged over a week, over ‘registries’ of NDC, in climate jargon.

Several developed countries including the US also pushed that work on mitigation-centric issues under the Paris Agreement continue in the second week as well at the cost of discussing pre-2020 actions. Under the agreed previous decisions, only developed countries have mitigation and finance commitments between now and 2020, before the Paris Agreement kicks in.

There has been a long-standing demand from many developing countries for the pre-2020 targets of rich countries be enhanced. Notionally, the rich countries have agreed to it but have not let negotiations progress substantially.

At Marrakech too, in the first week, they kept insisting that talks focus merely on the post-2020 phase, much to the resentment of developing countries including India and China.

By arrangement with the Business Standard