Marrakesh Talks Tangle Over Cash to Cushion Climate Impacts for Poor

King Mohammed VI of Morocco gives a speech during the opening of the Africa Action Summit, on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco November 16, 2016. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal

By Megan Rowling

MARRAKESH, Morocco, Nov 17  – The Marrakesh climate talks may not deliver a substantial boost for international funding to help poorer countries cope with the worsening floods, droughts, storms and rising seas brought by climate change, negotiators and development charities fear.

A ministerial dialogue at the talks on Wednesday yielded little concrete beyond a few pledges from European countries to adaptation funds set up under the U.N. negotiations, they said.

Developing countries have made consistent and impassioned pleas in Marrakesh for more financing to help them adjust to intensifying climate shifts – but so far those pleas have largely fallen on deaf ears, their representatives said.

Frank Bainimarama, prime minister of the Pacific island nation of Fiji, spoke of the “terrifying new era we face because of climate change”, after a powerful cyclone this year wiped out one fifth of his country’s GDP.

Fiji needs access to finance so it can adapt to climate change effects, through measures such as strengthening homes and infrastructure, burying power lines and relocating people, he said.

He criticised the current level of international government finance for poorer nations to adapt to climate pressures as “woefully inadequate”.

According to a recent “roadmap” from wealthy nations outlining how they will mobilise the annual $100 billion in overall climate funding they have promised by 2020, the amount allocated specifically for adaptation in 2013 and 2014 was almost $10 billion per year, or around 16 percent of the total.

The latest U.N. estimate puts the share of climate finance going to adaptation somewhat higher, at around 25 percent.

The donors’ roadmap projects the amount of international funding for adaptation will at least double in volume by 2020.

But that would still fall well short of the “balance” in funding between adaptation measures and emissions-cutting steps recommended in the new climate accord crafted in Paris last year.

“Doubling is not enough,” said Lutz Weischer of the thinktank Germanwatch. “We need to scale it up much more aggressively.”

Developing countries want a quadrupling of adaptation funding from current levels, and had hoped rich states would respond to that call at the Marrakesh talks, which end on Friday. But climate finance experts say that seems unlikely.

‘UNFINISHED BUSINESS’

The negotiations on the issue continued on Thursday, amid disagreement over the strength of the commitment developed countries are prepared to make on adaptation finance.

Zambian president Edgar Lungu said on Wednesday the least developed countries were being left “with far too little support, and adaptation needs continue to be neglected rather than prioritised”. The difficulty such countries have in attracting private-sector investment for adaptation makes matter worse, he added.

Fiji is doing what it can to tackle climate change with its own resources, its prime minister said, improving building codes and better equipping communities to withstand shocks. But it needs more money in the form of grants, he added.

“It is high time to rearrange global spending priorities in the direction of those nations that are most at risk,” he said.

Civil society experts at the talks welcomed a 50 million euro ($53.7 million) pledge from Germany and a smaller contribution from Sweden to the Adaptation Fund.

But adaptation experts say tens of billions of dollars are already needed each year – and that figure could rise to between $140 billion and $300 billion per year in 2030, according to the U.N. Environment Programme.

“This adaptation finance gap was unfinished business back in Paris, and the Marrakesh talks seem to be just kicking it down the road once more,” said Jan Kowalzig of Oxfam Germany.

Liz Gallagher, a senior associate with sustainable development thinktank E3G, said adaptation finance was “the elephant in the room” in Marrakesh, and predicted discussions on the issue would remain heated until the end of the meeting.

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