Rosario Juarez Panta, 69, by the river Piura, near Chulucanas, Piura, Peru. In the picture are the remains of a small house that was destroyed by floods. The region is increasingly vulnerable to floods and land slips. Credit: Gilvan Barreto/Oxfam
Vulnerable communities need help to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

UN Climate talks: Adaptation finance cop out

“The elephant in the room is still where the money for adaptation is going to come from.”
Barry Coates
Executive Director, Oxfam New Zealand
Published: 13 December 2008

Poznan, Poland – International agency Oxfam welcomed a step forward in negotiations to allow developing countries direct access to the Adaptation Fund, one of the most intractable issues of this climate change conference. Oxfam however denounced the stonewalling by rich countries of another decision that could have made a real difference to those suffering the impacts of the climate crisis.

“This was an important decision on the crucial issues of accountability, effectiveness and control over the money available to poor countries for urgent adaptation needs,” said Barry Coates, senior executive with Oxfam. “However, the elephant in the room is still where the money for adaptation is going to come from. We urgently needed a decision on increased future funding for adaptation, but we didn’t get there.”

The Adaptation Fund was established under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to support adaptation programs in developing countries. The aim is to protect vulnerable communities from the impacts of climate change and support them to adapt.

“It has taken over a decade to put this Fund in place. Moving quickly to get funding for needs like agricultural adaptation, disaster risk reduction and community resilience is more urgent than ever,” said Coates. “Rich country governments finally woke up to the idea that vulnerable countries should have direct access to funding, instead of facing overly cumbersome procedures.”

At least $50 billion a year is needed to help poor people face the impacts of a changing climate according to Oxfam’s estimates, and far more if emissions are not cut fast and far enough. Norway and others have proposed innovative market-linked mechanisms that would provide adequate funding.

“The funding mechanism for adaptation needs to be predictable, reliable and obligatory, not allocated through annual budgets, and it needs to be new funding that is additional to aid," said Coates.

A deal was on the table right until the end of the two week conference, but was blocked by the EU, Canada, Australia and Russia in the last hours of the negotiations. Coates: “A broad spectrum of developing countries rightly and roundly rejected the intransigence displayed by rich countries in Poznan.”

“Reaching this decision to make the Adaptation Fund operation is an important milestone, but it is a small fraction of the progress that is needed to help vulnerable communities adapt to climate change and to ensure that an ambitious climate change deal is agreed in Copenhagen next year. But some countries have refused to accept their responsibility to help people who are suffering from the climate crisis they have caused. People will die as a result,” concluded Coates.

Notes to Editors

The Adaptation Fund was established under the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and rules were agreed in the 2001 Conference of Parties (CoP) in Marrakech. The principles for operation for the fund were agreed at the 2006 CoP in Nairobi and the Fund was formally established in Bali at the UNFCCC CoP last year. The Adaptation Fund Board has met three times in 2008 and will meet again immediately following the Poznan CoP. Oxfam has made a proposal for adaptation funding in its briefing paper “Turning Carbon into Gold” entailing the auction of allocated emissions.