Monday, December 07, 2009

Climate Change: Costly talk-fest to spotlight lack of money to help the world’s 49 Least Developed Countries

Not enough money to go around to help poor countries cope with the impact of climate change such as frequent droughts

Money to help the world’s 49 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) – the poorest and most vulnerable – cope with the impact of climate change will be in the spotlight when the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen (COP15) kicks off on 7 December.

The Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) was set up in 2001 under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to help them address their “urgent and immediate” adaptation needs.

The fund is managed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the financial mechanism of the UNFCCC, and has been the subject of much debate – there is not enough cash to go around, and the bureaucratic process to get money is particularly cumbersome.

IRIN takes a closer look at an evaluation on the LDCF commissioned by the GEF following a request from the Danish government. The evaluation team, which presented its findings recently was drawn from the UK-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), and COWI, a Danish consultancy, with experts from Malawi, Sudan, Mali, Bangladesh and Vanuatu, the countries chosen as case studies.

The immediate aim of the LDCF was to provide poor countries with money to help them draw up a National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA), and subsequently to fund adaptation projects identified as priorities by the national programmes.

The LDCF succeeded in dispensing financial support for drawing up NAPAs in 48 of the 49 LDCs, and 41 NAPAs were completed by the end of May 2009, said the evaluation team's report. But its second objective hit speed bumps. "In May 2009, eight years after the LDCF was created, only one project – in Bhutan – out of the total of 426 projects prioritized by the 41 completed NAPAs was under implementation with funding from the LDCF", the report noted.

Call for reforms

Complex bureaucracy and a lack of sufficient and predictable funds were identified as two of the major problems, said the evaluation team, which called for significant reform of the process and a flow of guaranteed money to help the LDCF meet rising demand.

The "slow pace of approval and initiation of projects has contributed to the image in LDCs of the LDCF, its structure and procedures, as being bureaucratic, slow, and non-transparent," the report commented.

Money has been a major shortcoming. Implementing the 426 projects prioritized in the 41 NAPAs would cost US$1.5 billion, but by the end of May 2009 the LDCF had granted $85 million to projects, and indicated that co-financing of $162 million from other sources would be available.

Donors had pledged up to $176.6 million in total – "far from sufficient for the purpose". The GEF could source funding for only 32 projects, according to an updated fact sheet released by GEF in the run-up to COP15.

The LDCF needs to simplify its approval process to meet the needs of poor countries, the evaluation suggested, but money is also at the heart of the problem – the fund runs on voluntary contributions from donors, and there have not been enough.

In its response to the evaluation team the LDCF management said it was trying to streamline funding application procedures. It was also looking at a proposal to pilot an option allowing direct access to resources by national agencies, and a leaner project approval cycle that would reduce the number of steps in the process from two to one.

The report called on all parties to the UNFCCC to provide more funds to the LDCF on a regular basis, and for a more cross-sectoral approach to funding projects. Most of the projects – 90 percent – prioritized by the completed NAPAs targeted food security, terrestrial ecosystems and water.

So far

By August 2009, eight LDCF projects – in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Eritrea, Niger, and Samoa – had moved to the implementation phase. At least 14 more are expected to be approved – in Benin, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Gambia, Guinea, Lesotho, Mali, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Zambia – before the end of 2009,.

The money will help initiatives to set up early warning systems, food reserve facilities and rainwater harvesting systems; produce short-cycle rice and maize; and develop climate change vulnerability maps and agricultural risk maps.

Public awareness and environmental education programmes on climate risk reduction also get some attention from the fund, which will establish learning networks for climate-resilient farming practices such as in Cambodia, where project lessons will be disseminated on television and radio.

In spite of the problems, the beneficiary countries want the fund to continue, but in a way that will help them access money and technical support in time.

Disclaimer:This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
Photo: Copyright IRIN

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