Why Financing Climate Adaptation is Important

Why Financing Climate Adaptation is Important

The chairman of Swiss Re Americas Holding kicked off a lively discussion at Climate Week NYºC 2010 about the need to elevate adaptation issues within the debate on international policy and finance.

Walter Bell's comments spurred the conversation in the panel session called "Risk and Resiliency," which was hosted by Swiss Re and international NGO The Climate Group. In the talk, speakers agreed that the case for adaptation has been the poor relation to the case for mitigation in the international climate negotiations process for too long, and the situation needs to change.

Mark Kenber, deputy CEO of The Climate Group, said that this is partially a result of the environmental community wanting to prevent the problem rather than dealing with the need to manage the impacts.Climate Week

Compared with a mitigation agenda, Kenber said, adaptation can seem like admitting defeat, but some of the reason for the imbalance in focus is also due to separate government departments often dealing with the issues -- a circumstance that can prevent concerted policy and finance support.

Veerle Vandeweerd, director of the Environment & Energy Group at the UNDP, shared that view. He highlighted an additional challenge saying the time has come to not only tackle climate change mitigation and adaptation together, but to also ensure all the Millennium Development Goals -- such as health, water scarcity and agriculture -- are pursued in an integrated way.

The practicality of this raised a second important point, that the appropriate funds need to be made available and managed in the right way.

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary at the UNFCCC is keen to make this the focus of COP16 in Cancun, Mexico later this year.

The challenge at COP 15 in Copenhagen, she said, was that a lot of people went into the negotiations thinking that "there was going to be one mythical agreement …This doesn't exist."

Figueres also made clear that adaptation needs to be firmly on the agenda with an emphasis on establishing an international fund for adaptation and creating a body with oversight to manage and deploy the funds.

In the context of international negotiations, she said that rather than thinking there will be one agreement, the focus should instead be on delivering the commitments that have already been made.

Andrew Steer, special envoy on Climate Change at the World Bank supported this saying that even without an international agreement, 88 percent of countries that approach the bank for financial support want help tackling climate change.  They see the need, benefits and economic opportunities.

Swiss Re recognized its role as a private sector finance organization and commitment to leadership on the issue. Matthias Weber, a member of the executive board and head of Property and Specialty for Swiss Re is "convinced that climate can be tackled and solved."

The company has been walking the talk with the development of risk transfer products that enable, for example, the Caribbean access to recovery funds more quickly than traditional catastrophe insurance. The firm also is collaborating with Oxfam to develop micro-insurance products that directly benefit farmers dealing with the devastation of crops as a result of severe weather events and changing climatic conditions.

Emily Farnworth is global alliance director for The Climate Group.
Articles, analyses and resource material about Climate Week NYºC are available at www.greenbiz.com/topic/climate-week-nyc-2010. For more information and event developments, visit www.climateweeknyc.org and Twitter @ClimateWeekNYC.

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