09 September 2009

A Crass Relabeling or Robbing the Poor?

On issues of adaptation my views have changed over the past 15 years. I once thought that adaptation would have to be a key part of any international climate policy. I still think that it should have a major international dimension, but I also think that it should be clearly distinguished from mitigation. A report in today's FT helps to explain why it is important to keep separate climate policy and what traditionally goes under the heading of development policy:
The European Union is to offer a modest €15bn a year to help poor countries cope with the effects of climate change, setting the stage for a fight before an international conference in Copenhagen in December.

Rich and poor nations have traded recriminations over the central question of how much money developed countries should contribute to developing nations such as China and India to help them adapt to and limit global warming. . .

One point of contention in the proposal is language suggesting that the EU could use development aid promised for poor countries as part of its climate-change contribution.

That possibility has stirred opposition from aid and environmental groups, which otherwise praised the Commission for putting an offer on the table after months of delay.

Elise Ford, head of Oxfam International’s Brussels office, said the proposal would “in effect rob tomorrow’s hospitals and schools in developing countries to pay for them to tackle climate change now”.

What the EU appears to be proposing is either (a) to simply relabel development money as climate adaptation money, which adds no marginal value to efforts to build resilience in poor countries, or (b) to actually take money from aid programs and reprogram it in other ways deemed more appropriate for climate adaptation. Neither proposal is very appealing, to say the least.

Climate adaptation is not something different than development, it is in fact a subset, and often not the most important factor in human suffering and misery around the world. Climate adaptation should be pursued through existing development programs (as flawed as they may be) rather than as a useless appendage to a international process focused on energy policies.