A View from Kenya on Cancun

From my December 2010 post on the Council on Foreign Relations website

A View from Kenya on Cancun

Rather than observe this year’s climate negotiations, I decided to go to Kenya instead of Cancun for conversations with regional experts about the expected effects of climate change. It’s part of on-going research on climate change and Africa’s political stability where we are mapping vulnerability to climate change and adaptation efforts. Fortunately, with the internet and Twitter, I’ve been able to follow the negotiations through posts by the likes of CFR’s own Michael Levi but also Andrew Revkin, Angel Hsu, Lisa Friedman, Jake Schmidt, and Kate Sheppard, among others.

What I am hearing here in Kenya from regional experts focused on food security and disaster risk reduction pertains mostly to adaptation finance. For them, the vocabulary of “climate change” represents another new donor fad, and they recognize there is a certain gamesmanship by countries seeking to use interest in climate change to soak the donors for more money and countervailing efforts by donors to repurpose existing development aid as climate-related. Even as these experts find this exercise off-putting, they still have to play the game.

However, climate change has to be “mainstreamed” as part of a broader development agenda, and if this source of finance, whether new or re-branded, merely perpetuates past development practice, it is likely going to waste a lot of money. For these folks, the lessons from the disaster and emergency response field suggest putting more funding into risk reduction to reduce the costs of expensive disaster relief.

In terms of vehicles for climate finance, the December 8th negotiating text still has a lot of options (pages 20-21), suggesting divisions between north and south persist. Donors want maximal control through institutions they trust like bilateral programs or the World Bank’s Global Environment Facility (GEF). Would-be recipients hope for a new mechanism over which they will exercise more oversight, possibly a stand-alone fund with strong co-governance mechanisms along the lines of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria.

The distance between these two perspectives may be too wide right now to decide what entity is going to be the final manager of these funds, but negotiators may be able to at least outline a process for reaching agreement at Durban and reaffirm the financing commitments for fast-start and long-term finance agreed in Copenhagen. Getting that recommitment may require some give on the transparency regime along the lines of the Indian proposal. It may still be possible for spoilers to resurrect issues like the Kyoto second commitment period merely to bring things to a standstill. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

Joshua Busby is an Associate Professor of Public Affairs and a Distinguished Scholar at the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law. He originally joined the LBJ School faculty in fall 2006 as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Lecturer. In 2016, Dr. Busby also joined the Chicago Council on Global Affairs as a non-resident fellow. In 2018, he joined the Center for Climate & Security as a Senior Research Fellow. Busby is the author of several studies on climate change, national security, and energy policy from the Council on Foreign Relations, the Brookings Institution, the German Marshall Fund, and CNAS. Busby was one of the lead researchers in the Strauss Center project on Climate Change and African Political Stability (CCAPS), a $7.6 million grant funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. He was also the principal investigator of a Complex Emergencies and Political Stability in Asia (CEPSA), a 3-year $1.9 million project, also funded by the Department of Defense. He has also written on U.S.-China relations on climate change for CNAS, Resources for the Future, and the Paulson Institute.

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