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Development and Climate Adaptation Go Hand in Hand

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Development and climate change are two sides of the same coin in Africa so it makes sense that funding for both should act as a catalyst for progress to benefit local communities.

That was the key message from a panel discussion held at the climate change conference, or COP 17, in Durban on how climate change funds could be put to best use.

Panelists agreed that no region has greater need for development and greater resilience than Africa, which is the most sensitive to climate impacts.

The main reasons cited for this sensitivity is the continent's large dryland areas, and its high reliance on the agricultural sector.

“In Africa, 50 percent of the people live in drought-prone areas,” said Alexandra Trzeciak-Duval, acting deputy director at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

“Agriculture contributes 21 percent to GDP on average. In some areas, up to 80 percent of the population works in agriculture,” she added.

Despite Africa's vulnerability, it is short-changed in terms of climate finance.

“Africa contributes less than 4 percent to global emissions,” said Simon Mizrahi, Quality Assurance and Results Director of the African Development Bank (AfDB), “yet it has the most to lose and is receiving the least climate finance.”

Excluding South Africa, only 14 percent of global climate change finance currently goes to sub-Saharan Africa, said Trzeciak-Duval.

This is partly because two-thirds of the finance is earmarked for mitigation measures in parts of the world with higher emissions. Only one-third is aimed at adaptation, which is clearly Africa's need.

Panelists who attended the Aid Effectiveness Forum in Busan, Korea, agreed that trends arising from that meeting had a direct bearing on COP 17 and effective climate finance mechanisms.

Most importantly, reported Mizrahi, there has been a fundamental shift in focus from aid effectiveness to development effectiveness.

“In practice this means that aid is seen as only part of the solution. What is driving African development primarily is sustainable, vibrant growth, not aid,” he said.

Erik Solheim, Norway’s Minister of Environment and Development Co-operation, concurred: “For the first time, aid is being seen rather as a catalyst for development.”

“More connections should be made with the development experts gathered in Busan, and environmental experts in Durban. There are too few links between the two, and they can't be viewed as separate.”

“Unless we address climate change, development will be much less rapid.”

“Here the discussion tends to become somewhat theoretical and large-scale, whereas the trend in the development community is to reflect real-world situations and effects at local level,” said Solheim.

Flavia Nabugera Munaaba, Uganda's Minister of Water and the Environment, whose country has been battered by floods this year, also stressed the importance of a grassroots focus.

“Uganda has been a beneficiary of aid and climate finances, with some good results. But there's always a gap between planning and discussion and how this translates to common good for people on the ground,” she said.

“Climate financing must reach ordinary people; there must be tangible benefits and incentives so they can participate and drive the process.”

Mr Bai Mass Taal, executive secretary of the African Minister’s Council on Water, mentioned the importance of development effectiveness as a key to growth. He also mentioned the need to simplify access to funds.

Such greater involvement and accountability at all levels in recipient nations was on the agenda at Busan, said Mizrahi.

To this end, Mizrahi continued, one area of discussion was how to make development finance more easily available and effective:

“The same can be said for climate finance mechanisms. We must simplify the complicated 'plumbing' in getting resources to where they are most needed, rapidly and efficiently,” he said.

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