Least Developed Countries Get $248 Million to Adapt to Climate Change

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Frederic Mousseau, Policy Director of the Oakland Institute, says the fund needs to be ten times larger to ensure that these countries can deal with the catastrophies they will face

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SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.

On Monday in Paris at COP 21, the United States, Canada, and a collection of European nations pledged $248 million to the least developed countries fund to support climate change adoptation. The fund is implemented by the Global Environment Facility, which was established in 1991, initially by the United Nations Development Program and the United Nations Environment Program and the World Bank. Is this an adequate amount of money for the developing countries to adopt their new national plans of actions on climate change? That’s a question we’re going to be taking up with Frederic Mousseau. He is the policy director at the Oakland Institute, where he coordinates the Institute’s research and advocacy activities on land investment, food security, and agriculture. Trained as an economist, Frederic has worked as a staff member and consultant for international relief agencies for nearly two decades, including Action Against Hunger, Doctors Without Borders, and Oxfam International.

Frederic, thank you so much for joining us today.

FREDERIC MOUSSEAU: Thank you for having me.

PERIES: So Frederic, let’s talk about this pledge that these countries have made to the least developed countries. $248 million sounds like a lot of money. But is this really adequate, and will it go as far as we need it to really tackle climate change?

MOUSSEAU: Well, that’s a very good question. The number, $248 million, does match more or less the proposals that are on the table at the moment, coming from the least developed countries for a number of projects and plans. But we have to realize it’s really missing a zero when you look at the requirement for adaptation as calculated by the UN, which is of $100 billion a year. And this announcement, which is really one of the contributions, is very far from this target.

PERIES: Now, from what I understand it, this fund has already been active as a fund for the least developing countries. And so these pledges are somewhat new. But has this fund, as far as you know, in the past helped countries adapt to climate change?

MOUSSEAU: Yes. It has been [going on] for a few years, but it’s still very, really the beginning altogether. I believe there’s something like $1 billion today in the [board] of pledges for these forms. And there are a number of projects that have been approved very recently, only eight projects have been approved just back in September. So we haven’t seen really any implementation yet, but there are indeed some interesting and relevant projects in the plan, which is–.

PERIES: Frederic, let’s take up an example of the kind of thing that this fund can address in a small country, like Haiti or Sri Lanka, that would really require this kind of money in order to adopt. What kind of program are we looking at?

MOUSSEAU: Typically if you think of Sri Lanka, it would be projects like the reapplication of mangroves in Sri Lanka. One of the projects approved in September is about restoration of wetlands in Senegal. So this is a kind of very specific project on one specific location, certain kind of activities or ecosystems like mangroves.

PERIES: Right. And on what kind of program, or project, would actually prevent islands from disappearing? I mean, what are they supposed to do, build walls around themselves?

MOUSSEAU: No, that’s unfortunate. For a number of small island nations there’s not much that can be done, apart from dropping, dropping sand and soil and rocks to raise the level of your land. But for a number of them there are, there are ways to do, like, again, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, there’s something you can do. But that won’t prevent the rise of the oceans. And for a country like Bangladesh, the situation is already very dire with millions of people who every year lose their land because of the flooding. They’re really, on survival edge at the moment, already. So you can do some projects. But these projects will for many millions of people never be enough.

PERIES: And one of the interesting facts about this fund is that once again we have nation-states that are in Europe and the U.S. and Canada and other countries contributing to this fund, which is a good thing. But the real culprits of having created the mess we are in is really the corporations that have created these kind of exorbitant CO2 levels that are creating the climate crisis. But I don’t see they are pooling their money and throwing it into this pot.

MOUSSEAU: Yeah. They are not putting money into this specific fund. But there is, there’s a stronger call from Western countries’ government for corporations to participate to the broader green climate fund, which is supposed to go at least $100 billion a year. And I don’t know if we should see that as good news for us, because including corporations to contribute to this means that we would accept corporations to come with their profitmaking agenda into this struggle against climate change.

And what we have seen in recent years is very worrying, because what we see is corporations doing a lot of greenwashing and coming in a number of countries, saying oh, we’re going to plant trees, we’re going to do biofuels, we’re going to do all kind of projects that would be good for climate change. But actually they are really pursuing their own agenda while putting a nice green label, climate label on it. Which is really something that we should be, we should be concerned about. Because these corporations are not in climate for anything other their climate business.

PERIES: And while I agree with you that they should be kept out of the scenario of fixing the problem that many of them has created, I do think that they should have to pay some penalties by way of contributing to the fund so that these countries can adapt to the problems that they’re going to be faced in the future. And I’m wondering, an organization like yours, do you have some suggestions that you think they should be taking up in Paris?

MOUSSEAU: I’m fully, 100 percent with you. We see today there are very interesting calculations running around about the [amounts] of subsidies that the [fossil] industry is still receiving from Western governments. This is something certainly to be looked at instead of asking corporations to contribute to [fund] on a voluntary basis, what about looking at the kind of subsidies and support, financial supports, taxpayers are giving to these same corporations? What about looking at taxation on these corporations? That would provide the resources.

But the way it is approached at the moment, governments are struggling to raise the necessary amounts. And they’re saying, oh, we need the private sector to join us and help us. And then you have the private sector coming in and saying, well, we’re going to start financing this and that there, but it will be really fitting and suiting their needs, and not the needs of the people and the environment.

PERIES: Frederic, let’s unpack this a bit, because there are some people that argue corporations are necessary in order to, because they have the resources to invest in innovative new economies, creating jobs, and green economies in particular. But more specifically we need the innovation abilities of companies to come up with new technologies to address climate change. For example, solar panels and the other kinds of mechanisms for capturing and dealing with the CO2. What do you make of that argument?

MOUSSEAU: Well, this is an argument that is [varied]. Of course we need solar panels, we need all kind of technologies. But it’s also really an argument that is, it is really Western-centric. In a number of countries adaptation is about finding, for instance in Africa, about looking at reforestation, about [agriculture] instead of industry. [Inaud.] about finding ways to manage resources in a sustainable manner instead of changing the way people do, because solar panels is something that really is important for Western countries that are really reliant on for self-use. But for many African nations, the solutions are, are there already. They are in the farmers, they’re in the people in separate local solutions, and don’t require corporations to go in. They require government policies, institutions, mechanisms that can, that have to be publicly funded to run their life and their economy in a sustainable manner.

So we just released at the Oakland Institute case studies, 33 case studies on [local] ecology in Africa. And agriculture is about 25 percent of the green gas emissions. And what we see in these case studies that are available on our website, you can have a look, it’s really interesting because all of them are locally rooted based on the people, based on local solutions, low external inputs. Never any involvements of external corporations, but really about finding local solutions that work for the climate, for their environment, but also for their food and their income. And it’s certainly a way to look at this climate issue differently, is to, not to rely on these magic bullets and technologies but to see what kind of development we want to pursue that is, that is appropriate for the challenges that we are facing today.

PERIES: Frederic, and finally, $248 million would not be really adequate to comprehensively address the problems of one country, let alone many. Are there any advocacy going on in terms of increasing this fund?

MOUSSEAU: Of course. There’s a lot of advocacy going on. It’s again, this is the least developed country fund, and we are talking about $100 billion a year required for the green climate fund, which is very far from where we have, where we are today with this, with these first pledges. So we need to advocate, we need to–and we do see that from organizations, from the developing world, international NGOs, social movements. Everybody is there asking their governments to propose to take action and to take a different path.

It’s certainly important, [all of these] discussions, about whether there would be a march in Paris. It’s certainly important that marches happen everywhere, because I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have to be in Paris. We need all of us to pressure our own governments in every country to take action and to, and to commit [inaud.] their resources. And we see in the U.S., President Obama has made his pledge of $3 billion out of, again, of a requirement of $100 billion a year. And is already struggling with a lot of backlash from the Congress and the bill for the congressmen, wanting that they will block this fully. And there is a need for the citizens around the world, not just to have the water and the electricity, but to push their government to take their responsibilities and assume their responsibilities as regards to the situation we are today.

PERIES: Frederic Mousseau, I thank you so much for joining us today.

MOUSSEAU: Thank you so much for having me.

PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.

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