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Climate Adaptation Finance; the paradox

From the COP21 where the Paris Agreement came into effect, the foundations for financing from the global North, meant to fund climate adaptation in the global South, were laid. It was an honourable move, one that would bring climate justice to the global South- whose contribution to the climate crisis is shy of negligible, and yet, we cannot ignore the patterns of floods and droughts that have found their home along Earth’s tropics, where most developing countries lie.

Today, we can safely say that the mechanisms to execute this financing have not worked. This is, in the face of even more climate events that have laced 2021 and continue to cement themselves into our new normal. As a voice from the developing world, and from sub-Sahara Africa, I wonder if we can turn this around.

Late last year, the IPCC reported that only 8% of the global carbon budget remains. That is, our hopes to limit global warming to the 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, by 2030 as earlier hoped, have already been crushed in 2020 (just 5 years since the Paris Agreement). We cannot objectively talk about the 1.5 °C mark anymore, and this spells trouble- because as long as we’re not limiting emissions and not enabling those at most risk to adapt, we’re giving up on any hope for action, because time is running out.

And while we know that some will suffer more than others (despairing to see that the world is quick to acknowledge the pain and suffering, but not willing to do anything concrete about it), in the end we all suffer. But the saddest part is that, it’s not only about us humans, we’ll be taking all living things on the planet through the same suffering (if not worse), and we shouldn’t be okay with that.

Even so, it’s not too late to make a turn for the better, because we’re still here and none of the climate or socio-economic tipping points have been reached yet. We have examples such as the EU’s carbon trading scheme, that could be used to both limit emissions but also tax emitters so that financing is available for the vulnerable to adapt. We also have encouraging examples of ecosystem-based and nature-based adaptation solutions, that again, would not only help with mitigation but would also help with biodiversity restoration (among many things).

Even if we cannot save everyone or everything, we can save enough life on Earth for regeneration (nature’s beautiful way of dealing with a crisis like this one, that humans have created). And maybe, when we stop thinking about the global north versus the south, and about people’s suffering (people we don’t know and therefore maybe, don’t care that much), we’d be able to think of nature, our soils and waterways, the air we breathe and all the animals we know today, to help us think outside of ‘ourselves’ and trigger the kind of action we desperately need.

However, in the world we live in, all this action would require financing and therefore, we would still need to put ‘our money where our mouth is’. Which as we know, is one of the macrocosmic foundations of climate change.

Stella Nyambura Mbau PhD




A Climate Resilience Conversation in the context of Kenya, Africa

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