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iN Focus: cop21


the best kiNd oF

climate adaptatioN?

Experts debate whether reducing poverty should take priority over preparing for specifc future changes
to the climate

by Leo barasi in nairobi

For people living in poor countries, climate change is expected to reducing poverty
worsen problems they already face from events like droughts and The priority, he argues, should be to maintain the current focus on
foods. reducing poverty as a way of building poor people’s ability to cope
with future changes to the climate.
The best way of addressing this, according to many experts, is to
improve the economic and social development of poor people facing Anderson points to projects in Ethiopia that were aimed at improving
climate change. people’s food security, which, he says, have now made them beter
adapted to climate change.
It is suggested that, with increased resources, informaton and beter
infrastructure they will be beter able to cope with extreme weather “There was massive investment in improving terraces and digging
events. wells: the intent was food security and it has improved livelihoods”,
he says.
Some even argue that eforts to stop new investments in coal –
cheap, abundant but the leading contributor to global greenhouse At least in the short term, he says, “dealing with development defcits
gas rises – could hinder progress in developing countries. may be enough in many cases to overcome climate risks”.
So is it a mistake to focus atenton on adaptng to future changes in In his view, climate adaptaton might, over the next few years, involve
the climate, when the priority should be development? doing some things that are not responses to changes in the climate
and would have been desirable even without climate change.
The responses from experts at a conference on climate adaptaton
organised by the research organisaton IIED are mixed. The suggeston that, in the short term, climate adaptaton can
sometmes be achieved through development, raises questons about
“I don’t think climate should distract from poverty reducton distnctons in internatonal aid between funding for adaptaton and
– adaptaton should contribute to poverty eradicaton,” Simon
Anderson, a climate and development expert, tells RTCC. other development aid.
The Green Climate Fund aims to channel US$100 billion a year by 2020
The world’s major donors provided US$135 billion in ofcial to developing countries, of which half will fund climate adaptaton.
development aid in 2014, a fgure that has been rising steadily over
the last 15 years. Some pledges to the Fund, such as that by the UK, have come out of
aid budgets, suggestng that some climate adaptaton projects may
The Climate Policy Initatve calculated that US$25 billion is spent use funding that would otherwise have been spent on development
each year on helping people adapt to threats from climate change.
work unrelated to climate change.
Poor countries, which receive around half of development aid, are impacts
ofen the most vulnerable to climate change.
However, others say they are seeing climate impacts now and so
Many of these countries are likely to be among the most afected development projects are not necessarily appropriate means of
by changes in temperature and rainfall, and are ofen dependent on adaptng to climate change, even in the short term.
agriculture, which is partcularly infuenced by changes in the climate.
“In Peru, the glacier retreat is acceleratng, there are problems with
In this context, some experts suggest that the best way of reducing the water supply and hydro power, there are foods, and pests are
risks from climate change is to promote development for people moving up the hillsides”, Karen Price Rios, who works for the NGO
living in poor countries. CARE, tells RTCC.
Anderson says, at the moment, “adaptaton and development are Price Rios says these changes are already forcing communites to seek
closely linked”. help that would not have been necessary without climate change.

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