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Recognizing the importance of financing adaptation

23 September 2010
Recognizing the importance of financing adaptation

Walter Bell, Chairman of Swiss Re Americas Holding kicked off a lively conversation at Climate Week NYC this week about the need to elevate adaptation issues within the international policy and finance debate.

Mr Bell’s comments led a lively discussion at a “Risk and Resiliency: Risk Transfer & Adaptation in Developing Economies” event hosted by Swiss Re and international NGO The Climate Group with the speaker panel agreeing that the case for adaptation had been the poor relation to the case for mitigation in the international climate negotiations process for too long and this now needed to change.

Mark Kenber, Deputy CEO of The Climate Group said that this was partly the result in the early days of the UNFCCC negotiations of many, in particular the environmental community, wanting to focus almost exclusively on cutting emissions, with discussing adaptation feeling like admitting defeat. This was exacerbated by mitigation and adaptation being seen as often unrelated issues dealt with by separate government departments from separate budgets. Similarly, there has been a persistent assumption that mitigation is a private sector issue while adaptation needs to be managed by the public sector; in reality partnerships between the two sectors are needed for both.

That was view that Veerle Vandeweerd, Director of Environment & Energy Group at the UNDP shared. She highlighted an additional challenge saying the time has come to not only tackle climate change mitigation and adaptation together but to also ensure all the Millennium Development Goals such as health, water scarcity and agriculture are tackled in an integrated way.

The practicality of this raised a second important point, that the appropriate funds need to be made available and managed in the right way. Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary at the UNFCCC signaled in her opening keynote speech that she is keen to make this the focus of COP16 in Cancun, Mexico later this year.  The challenge at COP 15 in Copenhagen, she said, was that a lot of people went into the negotiations thinking that “there was going to be one mythical agreement…This doesn’t exist.”  She was also clear that adaptation needs to be firmly on the agenda with a focus on establishing an international fund for adaptation and creating a body with oversight to manage and deploy the funds.  In the context of international negotiations, she went on to say that, rather than thinking we will have one agreement, we should instead focus on delivering the commitments that have already been made.

Andrew Steer, Special Envoy on Climate Change at the World Bank supported this saying that even without an international agreement, 88% of countries that approach the Bank for financial support want help tackling climate change.  They see the need, benefits and economic opportunities.

Swiss Re recognized its role as a private sector finance organization and commitment to leadership on this issue.  Matthias Weber, a member of the Executive Board and Head of Property and Specialty for Swiss Re is ‘convinced that climate can be tackled and solved’.  The company has been walking the talk with the development of risk transfer products that enable the Caribbean access to recovery funds more quickly than traditional catastrophe insurance and is collaborating with Oxfam to develop micro-insurance products that directly benefit farmers dealing with the devastation of crops as a result of severe weather events and changing climatic conditions.

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