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NEWS: African countries divert domestic budgets to deal with climate change

Some of the world’s poorest countries are diverting a large share of their budgets in response to threats posed by climate change, reveals a new report from Neil Bird of the Overseas Development Institute.

The report, Fair share: climate finance to vulnerable countries, launched in advance of the UN global climate summit in New York, is based on research in three sub-Saharan African countries – Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Uganda – which largely depend on rain for agriculture and are highly vulnerable to climate change.

Whilst significant sums of international finance have been raised to combat climate change, the ODI report raises concerns over how much is getting through to the poorest countries.

“While richer countries invest heavily in flood-defence systems, coastal protection and other projects, poorer countries have no choice but to divert scarce resources, potentially reversing the progress made in tackling poverty,” said Kevin Watkins, executive director of ODI.

In the first detailed survey of budget plans from these African countries, the report finds Ethiopia’s budget for climate change represents almost half of national spending on primary education, while Tanzania’s expenditure is equivalent to almost two-thirds of all health spending.

The survey also finds that a large proportion of spending on climate change is coming directly from the African government budgets rather than international funds. This is despite global pledges that the countries which are most vulnerable to climate change should be helped to adapt to the threat.

The report shows that in the period between 2008 and 2011:

  • Ethiopia allocated $440 million a year to climate action with international funding contributing $88 million.
  • In Uganda, $25 million was diverted towards climate change, with $2 million coming from abroad.

Neil Bird, Research Fellow at ODI, said: “Since 2008 international funds have been skewed towards helping mainly middle-income countries cut their carbon emissions, rather than helping the poorest countries adapt to the impacts of climate change. In the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa, international support to assist countries adapt to climate change has averaged only $130 million annually, far less than the $1.1 billion that UK alone spent on flood defences three years ago.”

The ODI report lends weight to what Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls ‘adaptation apartheid’. It recommends action to address the needs of the most vulnerable countries through a new ‘matched-funding approach’ under which international donors would provide climate action funding equivalent to the national budget effort in poor countries.

ODI experts say that leaders must urgently address the need for new resources to those countries most vulnerable to climate change. There is an existing international commitment to provide $100 billion a year from 2020, but ODI’s research shows that the current estimates of global adaptation finance amount to a tiny fraction of that sum.

The report notes that greater transparency would increase confidence in the effectiveness of climate finance. A robust matched-funding system would help secure greater accountability for spending, the ODI report says.


Analysis of the Cancun ‘Fast-Start Finance’ Agreements for 2010-2012 suggests only 18% of global funding went to adaptation projects: USD 5.7 billion out of a total of USD 31.9 billion.


Image: Uganda, courtesy Neil Palmer, CIAT.

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