Climate debt news
WDM supporters donate more than UK government to UN Adaptation Fund
Today is the final day of the 13th UN Adaptation Fund meeting in Bonn. This is the UN fund set up by the main UN climate negotiations to help the poorest countries in the world adapt to the effects of catastrophic climate change, by channelling funds from rich countries into adaptation projects. While it sounds somewhat techy, WDM has a keen interest in the outcomes of this meeting.
When we learned last year that the UK would only give funding to World Bank loans for climate adaptation, we thought we would raise our concerns to DfID, by showing the public’s support for the UN adaptation grants. Our supporters even offered to put their own money towards UN grants. The consequent “send-a-pound” action resulted in over £1500 being given to DFID to help pay for the grants.
Unfortunately, DFID didn’t take us up on our generosity, and actually told us that it was against the law for them to take the money. So they asked us to come and take the money back, or they would donate it to a ‘local charity’.
After some debate with DfID, we reluctantly agreed to take the donations back, deciding that we would send this money directly to the UN Adaptation Fund at the Cancun climate talks, to support their effort. At the same time, tenacious-old WDM, thought we should check out just what these legal barriers really were. So we put in a Freedom of Information Request, as our gut feeling was that this was more politically motivated than anything else. Turns out we were right. While DFID was advised not to take the funds from the Treasury, there was in fact no legal basis for this advice. The reasons were about practicalities, rather than anything else.
It would seem that the main reason why DFID didn’t send WDM’s donations onto the UN Adaptation Fund is because they don’t really want to support this fund, but instead prefer the World Bank as the vehicle for climate-related finance – ultimately meaning that rich countries would keep control of how these funds would be spent. Worryingly, it means that loans are more likely than grants, locking countries into deeper unfair debt.
So was it all a waste of time? Certainly not, as we made an important political point – and we can now remind DFID that they pretty much lied in the way they dealt with the public’s concerns.
Nonetheless, to date, the UK still hasn’t given a single penny to the adaptation fund. The current chair of the UN fund, Farrukh Iqbal Khan said,
to date, we have received nearly 20 projects for financing. This shows that the demand for adaptation financing is enormous…[However] the fund is constrained to remain cautious in its approach due to limited funds at its disposal.”
In spite of this plea, in Bonn this week, we learned that UN members, including the UK, discussed setting a cap on how much money projects can ask for, because of lack of cash. On the plus side, however, they’ve also set up an online giving website so that private individuals can donate to the fund….perhaps they were inspired by WDM’s action?
It appears that the UN has recognised that even if the governments want to sideline the fund, the public clearly doesn’t.
Deborah is director at WDM. Since 1996 she has worked on ethical trading, human rights and sustainable development issues, most recently as head of sustainable consumption at WWF-UK.