Page 17 - Respond 2016 Magazine
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                                   By Thoriq Ibrahim
                                   Minister of Environment and Energy of the Republic of Maldives

                                   Much of the attention on Paris Agreement on climate change has focused on how it will reduce
                                   the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change. But another aspect that is just as
                                   important to its adoption, and one that will be critical to the health and prosperity of countless
                                   communities moving forward is adaptation—the actions that must be taken to adjust to
                                   climate impacts like droughts, floods, erosion, and sea level rise.

                                   The international community has agreed that developed countries will mobilise at least $100
                                   billion dollars a year by 2020 to help developing countries deploy clean energy sources and
                                   climate-proof infrastructure from worsening impacts. However, this level of financial support
                                   has so far failed to materialise, and besides funding for adaptation has historically lagged
                                   behind that for mitigation.

                                   Though the Paris Agreement calls for a “balance” between climate finance provided for
                                   adaptation and mitigation it does not enumerate a specific amount. What further complicates
                                   this calculus is that determining precise numbers for these costs is difficult if not impossible
                                   because they are so intertwined with other development needs.

                                   Several studies, however, project a range in the tens of billions of dollars per year. A significant
                                   figure, particularly given the difficulty involved with raising private funds for adaptation
                                   projects that aren’t designed to provide a return on investment.

                                   In the Maldives, for example, we have been increasingly experiencing droughts tied to climate
                                   change. Fortunately, we were among the first countries to receive support from the Green
                                   Climate Fund (GCF) for an adaptation project designed to enhance water security in some of
                                   our most remote atolls.

                                   Work has begun and we expect it to deliver clean water and sanitation to at least 20,000
                                   people within the five-year timeframe laid out under the proposal. But like other small
                                   island developing states, the Maldives population is widely dispersed over many islands and
                                   thousands of square kilometres of ocean. More support will be needed to adapt to water
                                   shortages and other climate impacts.

                                   One challenge that affects much of our archipelago is sea level rise and erosion. Since the early
                                   1970s, coastal land loss has been observed across the country and it is getting worse. A 2010
                                   survey of inhabited islands estimated that the cost to protect shorelines using fixed concrete
                                   structures would exceed US$8.7 billion.

                                   By contrast, sand bags that provide a similar level of defence would be about US$1.6 billion.
                                   There are different rationales for using these options with pros and cons for each, but suffice it
                                   to say that the price tag in either case is prohibitive for an economy as small as ours.

                                   Like the Maldives, every country, and every community within every country has very specific
                                   adaptation needs. While shifting rain patterns in the Indian Ocean, for example, have led to
                                   droughts in one corner of our archipelago, they have also brought unprecedented rains to the
                                   other—making a much different kind of adaptive response necessary.

                                   Other islands around the world have unique adaptation needs, and places like Africa, where
                                   some countries have entered what could be called a permanent drought, must find ways to
                                   adapt entire agricultural sectors.

                                   Adaptation, in other words, is a local issue of global concern and we will only be able to manage
                                   it well if we match solutions on the ground with adequate support from the international
                                   community. It is something to think about as we prepare to implement the Paris Agreement.

                                   Thoriq Ibrahim is the environment minister for Maldives and chairs the Alliance of Small Island States.

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