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Can climate change finance a more equitable world?

It’s no secret – we need a concerted effort among rich and poor nations and a whole lot of precious money to properly address climate change.  The wealthier economies have historically contributed most to the problem, and will rightly lead spending on solutions.  But developing countries hold the key to success.  The world’s poorest nations are now expected to blaze a new low-carbon path to prosperity, to figure out how to grow without negatively impacting the planet’s climate.  This is a tall order to say the least, something no modern economy has achieved to date.

Currently, the affluent world spends $100 billion on international aid per year - our annual investment to alleviate poverty and promote social and environmental change in the least developed regions of the planet.  Of that investment, roughly $10 billion a year is now spent on addressing climate change.  To put in perspective the scale of the climate change challenge, it is estimated that we will need to increase our spending on mitigation and adaptation to upwards of $100 billion and $175 billion per year respectively over the next few decades – a near tripling of the world’s current annual aid budget to address climate change alone! [1]

For Community Forests International this begs a question – if we successfully mobilise this much money, can we not address more than the climate change problem?  Can we also accelerate sustainable development in the world’s poorest regions, and shrink the gap between rich and poor globally?  Can we use massive ‘climate finance’ to build a more low-carbon and more equitable world?

The fact that less affluent countries have historically contributed relatively little to climate change and yet are now being asked to curb conventional development for the greater good raises some important questions of justice.  How can we tell the developing world to do as we say, not as we have done?  It’s unconscionable, unless we also offer viable alternatives for their continued growth.  Flows of ‘climate finance’ from rich to poor for mitigation and adaptation efforts could be a part of this solution.  It all comes down to how that money is spent. 

The huge projected investments in mitigating and adapting to climate change present an equally huge opportunity -  those same investments could help reconcile global inequality.  Community Forests International believes in ‘stacking functions’, in actions that achieve multiple beneficial outcomes in one effort.  This means supporting mitigation and adaptation activities that provide the added values of reduced poverty, empowerment of women, and improved agency for those most vulnerable to climate change to innovate their own solutions.  To see how this works check out our Pemba Projects.    

Can we use ‘climate finance’ to build a more equitable world?  I think we have to.  It’s the wealthy that got us into this trouble, but we are now depending on the poor to help get us out of it. Climate finance should be as much about combating climate change as about resolving global inequality.  If we’re equal players now, we need to become equal partners also.

- Daimen

[1] World Development Report 2010: Development and Climate Change.  The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank.  2010.  (pp.257).

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