Struggling to cope

A Malawian farmer standing in her field, with a failed crop of maize. The southern African region was affected by drought. Agricultural experts have renewed calls for policy-makers to pay more attention to small-scale women farmers who grow up to 80% of crops for food consumption in Africa.

The Star, January 6, 2008


Developing countries lament the lack of funding to combat global warming.

WHEN she was a young woman, Mazoe Gondme sowed maize seed before Christmas Day and waited for the rains to help them to germinate.

As a married woman who now shoulders the task of ensuring food sufficiency for her own family, the festive season no longer serves as a guide.

The rainfall pattern in Riumphi, in the northern region of Malawi, has gone berserk leading to crop failures in the past years, and Gondme has had to turn to irrigation to grow the staple grain.

But flooding a small plot of land is back-breaking and takes a huge chunk of her precious time.

Gondme’s predicament is not an isolated case. More and more farmers in developing countries are experiencing the effects of drought due to climate change.

She was at Poznan, Poland, recently where 192 nations spent two weeks negotiating a post-2012 plan to address global warming, to appeal for funding to adapt to an increasingly arid environment.

Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) treaty, industrialised nations (called the “Annex I countries”) that have signed up to the Kyoto Protocol are obligated to reduce their emissions by 5% from 1990 level between this 2008 and 2012.

At the last meeting in Bali, parties to the Convention agreed to work towards a new accord by the time they meet again in Copenhagen by the end of 2009.

But Gondme, 58, is not alone in not getting the help that had been promised by rich nations who are supposed to finance the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Fund.

To obtain funding for adaptation projects, individual countries have to develop their National Adaptation Programme of Actions (NAPAs) – a process that many find to be time-consuming, overly bureaucratic and drains the limited fund.

This, according to poor nations, contradicts the principle of the fund to support the implementation of “urgent and immediate” activities identified in the NAPAs.

And much of the US$172mil (RM619mil) of the LDC Fund launched in 2001 remained pledges as to date only one out of 38 projects submitted was approved. To finance all the projects will cost about US$1.6bil (RM5.76bil).

Bhutan, the country with the only approved project said that only three of the nine priority areas identified as urgent and immediate in its NAPA are funded. Implementation started a few months ago but the funding is not enough for the country’s needs. Critics have said the fund is woefully inadequate.

Develop­ment pressure group Oxfam International has estima­ted that US$5bil (RM18bil) per year is needed to help the increa­sing number of countries affected by the effects of climate change.

Countries are calling for a simplified mechanism to disperse the fund and for direct access through a national body but this was opposed by developed nations, citing fears of corruption.

Negotiators from the G77, Association of Small Island States and Least Developed Countries reminded delegates of developed countries that delivering the money for adaptation are moral and ethical issues.

Bangladesh chief delegate Mohammad Reazuddin frustrated by mere talks said: “Why are we discussing about effectiveness of adaptation projects when not a project has yet to be fully implemented? What can we do with people who lose their land due to sea level rise? We need to place people in the centre of discussion.”

The director of the Department of Environment noted that money for adaptation should come from industrialised nations according to the “polluters pay” principle through the overseas development assistance which rich countries had pledged at 0.7% of their respective GDP (gross domestic product) since the Rio Summit in 1992.

“That was a gentleman agreement but they failed to deliver. (Maybe) we need to go from voluntary to mandatory pay out. Adaptation cannot wait so we need auto-generation from the Adaptation Fund,” he urged.

Launched at Bali, the Adapta­tion Fund was made operational at the end of the Poznan meeting but countries could not reach an agreement on additional funding sources.

Maldives delegate Amjad Abdullah said while some countries are better off in facing climate change, it is a question of survival for the island state in the Indian Ocean: “Other countries have some parts that are vulnerable. In my country, everywhere is vulnerable.”

He said developing nations have the adaptive capacity and all they need is the fund but so far most of the payment had gone to consultants from the West.

“They come for 10 days, spend few hours in my office and collect some reports. Then, we keep exchanging e-mails.”

Philippine negotiator Bernadittas Muller echoed Amjad’s sentiment. “Funding must be made flexible, not loaded with conditions.”

They said the pledged amount of US$172mil (RM619mil) is “a measly sum” and not even half of the Christmas bonus of the CEO of a bank that was recently bailed out in the United States.

Salameel Huq, who heads the Climate Change Group of Inter­national Institute for Environ­ment and Development said funding are not from ordinary taxpayers of developed countries but from polluters in those countries like the 2% levy on transaction of offset investments under the UNFCCC’s Clean Development Mechanism.

CDM enables polluting industries in Annex I countries to meet their emission reduction target by purchasing carbon credits from avoided releases in projects in developing countries.

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