Friday, August 28, 2009

Can U.S. Meet Africa’s Call for Annual $67 Bn in Adaptation Aid?


Recognizing the need for a united stance on climate change in preparation for international negotiations in Copenhagen in December, ten African nations issued a joint draft resolution calling for "rich countries" to commit $67 billion per year in compensation for the deleterious effects of unmitigated climate change, according to a report in Reuters.

Africa, which houses 15 of the 20 most climate-change vulnerable countries, will almost certainly endure the most severe negative consequences of climate change, yet it contributes relatively little to the problem.

This new proposal arrives on the heels of a flurry of Copenhagen related news. The Financial Times reported yesterday that both China and India blame developed nations, such as the U.S., for impeding the progress of a climate treaty. As developing nations, they are demanding financial and technological assistance from the major historic contributors to climate change in order to mitigate the effects of a problem they are not primarily responsible for causing.

Ironically, China and India may be responsible for the majority of future carbon contributions. Meanwhile, most African nations are in an even less culpable position, despite their heightened vulnerability to the threats of a changing climate.

Additionally, last week UN climate chief Yvo de Boer announced that the world's nations must spend $300 billion to mitigate climate change: $100 billion to help vulnerable communities adapt to the threats of climate change and $200 billion for clean energy. Upon hearing this news, Africa may have seen its window of opportunity to ensure that its needs will be seriously considered at the climate talks.

Like China and India, Africa and other developing nations are adamant that richer countries are to blame for lack of efficacious climate action. They further suggest that developed nations are remiss in neglecting to adequately compensate the developing countries that will bear the most arduous climate burden.

As one of the most significant contributors to global carbon emissions and the world's wealthiest nation, there is significant pressure on the U.S. to provide a proportionate share of the funding to aid African adaptation efforts. If the African joint resolution is accepted as the necessary level of aid, the U.S. may be responsible for tens of billions of dollars in annual contribution to global adaptation efforts. Yet, judging by recent congressional climate debates, the U.S. is not preparing to meet African and global expectations.

Although the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) invests roughly $60 billion annually in the domestic clean energy economy, these are short-term investments. Coupled with ACES, which would allocate approximately $1.6 billion for domestic adaptation and just $1.9 billion for international technology transfer, the U.S. will come up disappointingly short in its provision of adaptation aid for Africa and other developing nations.

As Copenhagen approaches, U.S. climate action (or lack thereof) will not only be scrutinized by China and India, but also by Africa and other vulnerable nations that will require far more than emission target commitments to manage the repercussions of climate change. They will be looking for real money on the table, both to directly mitigate U.S. emissions and to aid necessary international adaptation efforts.

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