The Asian Voice

Strong financial support key to fighting climate change : The Jakarta Post

Indian villagers wading through floodwaters in Bherampur Block, Murshidabad District as the remnants of Cyclone Komen carrying heavy monsoon rains cross the eastern Indian state of West Bengal.
Indian villagers wading through floodwaters in Bherampur Block, Murshidabad District as the remnants of Cyclone Komen carrying heavy monsoon rains cross the eastern Indian state of West Bengal.PHOTO: AFP

Nations need to embrace innovation to build on progress

Haoliang Xu

The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

The fury of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, in 2013, resulted in the deaths of more than 6,000 people and caused nearly US$14 billion (S$19.8 billion) in damages.

Since then, extreme weather-related disasters such as cyclones in the Pacific, floods in India and landslides in Nepal have led to more death and destruction.

Governments, multilateral institutions like the UN and civil society have been working for years to help communities build resilience to climate change.

While we have made significant gains in protecting lives and infrastructure, we still have a long way to go.

Now, we have a tremendous opportunity to examine how we utilise our financial resources to build on our progress, to try to reduce the loss of lives and damages from extreme weather-related disasters and put countries on the road to less carbon intensive development.

This month, the world will agree on 17 global goals aimed at promoting sustainable development while also tackling the threat of climate change, better known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In contrast to prior development goals and targets, the SDGs will apply to all countries.

It is the first global agreement that has been formulated after consultations with people and governments around the world. It is unique in its focus, demanding that we use our natural resources responsibly.

In December, the global community will meet to agree a new climate agreement in Paris, which will determine how the world tackles climate change and fosters green growth in the decades to come.

We now know that the link between climate change and sustainable development is crucial. And that development can only be sustainable if it simultaneously addresses poverty reduction, inclusive economic growth and safeguards the environment.

Recent events have shown that unless development efforts can withstand disasters as well as the stresses from climate change, progress made over decades can be reversed very quickly. And unfortunately, the reality of climate change means that such extreme incidents are occurring more frequently.

Recognising that development must be able to withstand disasters - climate induced or otherwise - policy makers, climate change experts and development leaders from across the Asia-Pacific region will meet at a conference on "Climate Finance and Sustainable Development" in Jakarta, to see how the SDGs can best be achieved, ahead of a global meeting in New York.

Addressing climate change now will come with a price tag, but it will be less costly than inaction.

Nevertheless, financing the response to climate change is a significant concern. We have to examine how best to use all sources of available financial resources: climate finance, foreign aid and international and domestic private and public finance.

The forum in Jakarta, co-hosted with the Indonesian Finance Ministry, will look at how we can do just that.

Countries are already developing, refining and implementing climate change policies that will support low emission growth, help adapt to climate change and meet development goals. In particular, many countries are doing so by integrating climate change into national development strategies and budgets.

There is a clear recognition that a robust climate change response is essential for long term sustainable development. For instance in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, local governments in the Philippines advocated for using coco-lumber to construct transition housing for families who lost homes.

These temporary homes were designed to be resilient and have withstood subsequent disasters, including cyclone Ruby in 2014.

From the various Climate Public Expenditure and Institutional Reviews that governments have undertaken with the support of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), it is very clear that countries are allocating a substantive part of their domestic budget to address climate change - anywhere from 2 per cent in Thailand, to almost 16 per cent in Cambodia and Samoa.

At the same time, these studies also highlight that there is a significant gap between policy commitments and actual budget allocations to meet those commitments.

Ministries of finance play a pivotal role in national responses to climate change and some countries will require support to achieve the SDGs and to implement the Paris Climate Agreement to come.

UNDP is committed to providing its expertise in supporting countries to roll out relevant tools for accessing, planning, managing, monitoring and tracking different sources of finance, as well as ensuring that these finances are spent in an equitably and effective way.

The journey toward sustainable development is paved with many different factors and actors.

In a world where development challenges persist and new opportunities emerge to meet these challenges, we need to adapt by exploring novel sources of financing that allow us to embrace innovation and engage in new partnerships for sustainable development, while combating climate change.

* The writer is UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific.