Beyond Aid

Ensuring adaptation to climate change works for the poor

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Published: 16 September 2009

Climate-related shocks are affecting the lives of millions of poor people with increasing frequency and severity. Without urgent action, recent development progress will stall – then go into reverse.

The forthcoming UN High Level Event on Climate Change in New York and the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh in September 2009 provide a historic opportunity for national leaders to make an unequivocal political commitment to fund adaptation: adequately, equitably, and additionally. This will help resuscitate the international climate negotiations and lay the foundations for a fair and safe deal at Copenhagen in December.

The report

Through the Millennium Development Goals, much development progress has been made in recent years, bringing immeasurable improvement to the lives of millions of men, women, and children. This progress is now under threat. The global economic crisis, compounding the devastating impacts of 2008’s food and fuel crises, is expected to result in up to 90 million more people in extreme poverty this year than would otherwise have been the case.

Meanwhile climate change is already increasing the exposure of poor people to livelihood shocks arising from droughts, floods, sickness, storms and slow-onset changes such as shifting seasons, desertification and sea-level rise. For people living on the margins, even a small increase in climate risk can have catastrophic consequences that can span generations. The cumulative impacts could send people into a downward spiral of increasing poverty and vulnerability with profound implications for the achievability of the Millennium Development Goals.

It cannot be a case of continuing development or adapting to climate change – without both, neither will happen.

Key recommendations

Oxfam is calling on the international community to make a new commitment – beyond aid – to fund adaptation to climate change, to insure against future development losses and help to resuscitate the international climate negotiations:

  • Funds must be additional to the existing development aid commitment of 0.7 per cent of industrialized country income and be raised and managed in new ways.
  • A global adaptation finance mechanism is needed, able to deliver the scale of funding required, and governed according to the principles of equity, subsidiarity, transparency, and accountability.