Science & Environment

Climate change: UN projects for poorest 'feared frozen'

Mozambique floods aftermath in 2001 Image copyright AFP
Image caption The UN-backed Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) was established after the Mozambique floods of 2000

Hundreds of United Nations-backed projects to help the world's poorest countries cope with the most urgent impacts of climate change have not been acted upon, the BBC has learnt.

Many of these were proposed years ago and may have to be abandoned.

Experts and officials from the world's 48 least developed countries say lack of funding is the main reason.

They warn that a new long-term global climate defence plan may kick these projects further into the long grass.

More than 500 such projects are listed in the National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA), which least developed countries had been preparing since 2001 under the UN climate convention.

However, fewer than 100 of them have been actually implemented, leaving vulnerable communities in these countries exposed to known risks, experts have told the BBC.

Hardest hit

Scientists say poorest countries are the hardest hit by climate change impact.

A recent report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) found that the 10 worst weather- and water-related disasters happened primarily in least developed and developing countries.

The events in these countries have killed nearly 1.4 million people between 1970 and 2012 - around 70 percent of such deaths globally.

The body that administers the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) to implement NAPA says there is no money left for the remaining climate projects.

Image caption The village of Mankha in Central Nepal was known as "climate vulnerable" before the landslide struck in August

"As at September 26, 2014, there were no resources available for new funding approvals," the Global Environment Facility said, in its latest progress report.

"We are still waiting for additional fund pledges from donors," GEF's LDCF manager Rawleston Moore told the BBC.

LDCs require more than $2bn (£1.3bn) to complete the 500 or more climate adaptation projects they have identified, but not even $900m (£590m) has been made available to the fund so far.

So far slightly more than $850m (£531m) for 158 projects has been accessed, according to GEF.

Officials from least developed countries say red tape has made tapping the approved money so difficult that the actual number of projects being implemented is only around 100.

Competing commitments

"The real question is whether we will be able to fund the remaining NAPA projects between now and 2020," said Naseed Youssef, head of climate adaptation for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

"Or else, the whole deal falters, really, " he says.

The Least Developed Countries Fund - explained

  • Set up after the devastating floods in Mozambique in 2000
  • Aimed exclusively at the world's 48 poorest countries, most of which are in Africa
  • Intended to target 'urgent and immediate' climate defence needs
  • $2bn (£1.3bn) has been pledged but so far only 45% of that has been made available

If it is signed next year, the year 2020 is when a new global climate deal will come into effect and poor countries are expected to get new funds to defend themselves from climate dangers.

However, least developed countries have been complaining about severe delays in getting whatever they could from the LDCF, well before the new deal was approved.

"There are three phases each project has to undergo and that takes at least three years. And even after that there are cases when the money is lying there and we cannot use it," says Prakash Mathema, who until recently chaired the LDC bloc within the UNFCCC.

Even so, delays in implementing NAPA projects have also partly been blamed partly on the least developed countries themselves.

"Local [government] structures can be quite challenging in these countries, but the red tape to access the fund is definitely a bigger problem," says Pa Ousman Jarju, environment minister of Gambia and former chair of the LDC bloc.

Image caption Winning approval for funds can take an LDC three years, one climate negotiator tells the BBC

Now there are concerns the NAPA projects may be forgotten as the focus switches to preparing for new climate adaptation plans.

Keeping the faith

The new National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) are supposed to help medium- and long-term planning against unavoidable impacts of climate change.

Whatever NAPA projects are left need to be integrated into the bigger NAPs which will take a much broader and more comprehensive view, argues Paul Desanker of the UNFCCC Secretariat.

However, LDC officials say their NAPA commitments should come first and the LDCF already exists to deliver those.

"We can prepare our NAPs for the long-term but we need to complete the NAPA projects first because they are our urgent and immediate needs," says Mr Jarju.

"Otherwise there is a danger that these projects will remain in NAPA files forever," he told the BBC.

Poorest countries also fear they will have to compete with wealthier nations to get the necessary funding.

The Green Climate Fund, a new international climate financing mechanism under the UN climate convention, is expected to be one of the major funding sources for NAPs.

Donor countries have so far pledged nearly $10bn (£6.25bn) for the fund while it aims to have $100bn (£625bn) available by 2020.

Saleemul Huq, adviser to the LDC bloc in UN climate negotiations, agreed poor countries were not so hopeful about long-term funding because immediate and urgent plans like NAPA were yet to be implemented.

"It makes it very difficult to have faith in the delivery of money that is promised because old promises have not been kept, so new promises get undervalued."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Fund's perceived inaccessibility leaves the poorest people "high and dry", says climate adviser Saleemul Huq

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