Climate change is a global phenomenon and it is estimated that, by 2050, 150 million people of the world may become environmentally displaced due to coastal flooding, river bank erosion, drought, and agricultural inversion (IPCC, 5th AR, 2014).
Though the South Asian countries produce only around 7% of global GHG emission, the Climate Risk Index 2017 ranks Bangladesh and other two countries of this region as amongst the 10 most vulnerable countries, affected by the impacts of weather-related loss (storms, floods, heat waves, etc).
SDG13 is a pledge to strengthen resilience and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation through effective integration of measures to combat climate change into national policies, planning, and strategies.
The Paris Agreement recognised the contribution of the regional platform, eg SAARC in addressing the climate change impacts. The Kathmandu Declaration of SAARC in 2014 explicitly calls for meeting the SDGs (Article 13) for regional cooperation in the areas of climate change and finance in the SAARC countries, home of one-fifth of the world’s population, with a sizeable number living below the poverty line.
More specifically, the Dhaka Environmental Ministers’ Declaration on Climate Change in 2008 and the Thimphu Statement on Climate Change in 2010 committed to knowledge-sharing, technology transfer, joint initiatives for finance, and investment for the management of climate change impacts. Such joint efforts and agreements by SAARC governments have opened up avenues and created opportunities for increasing both national and cross-boundary cooperation in climate change related actions.
The SDG target particularly emphasises on implementing the commitment undertaken by developed countries to mobilise funds to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation, especially from the Green Climate Fund.
The Paris Agreement has also established the global goal on adaptation with a view to contributing to sustainable development. However, Article 13 of the Paris Agreement underscored the need for promoting transparency for action and supports. However, existing research on climate finance governance carried out by Transparency International and some of its chapters, including TI-Bangladesh, reveals that various governance deficits exist in the allocation and utilisation of climate finance, including inadequate participation of local communities in planning and monitoring of climate change projects, poor integrity in fund allocations, and the absence of meaningful grievance redress systems.
It is clear from the above that sustained dialogue and engagement amongst concerned stake-holders in and outside governments are crucial to addressing these issues and finding realistic and long-term solutions.
Following that as part of TIB’s advocacy for integrity in climate finance and as a follow up of the 2016 initiative to arrange Dhaka-Integrity Dialogue-1, TIB organised “Dhaka Integrity Dialogue-2: Climate Finance and Governance in South Asia” in Dhaka on September 18-19, 2017 with the core objective to identify the prospect, challenges, and potential scope, ways, and means of regional efforts in climate finance and governance in South Asia and beyond to meet SDG13 and the Paris Agreement in the context of good governance in climate finance.
The Paris Agreement has particularly emphasised on the importance of support for and international cooperation on adaptation efforts as well as the needs of developing countries, especially those that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.
Consistent with that, the developed economies have pledged “new” and “additional” to ODA of $100 billion annually by 2020 to deal with climate change, especially in developing countries; however, there is increasing concern over the absence of concrete and time-bound commitments from the developed nations and scanty flow of grant-based public funds.
According to the NDCs submitted to UNFCCC, developing countries require a total of $3.5tn by 2030 to curb the climate change impacts, but since 2010, in total, the commitments made by the polluting countries of $37bn in total and the public finance offered by developed countries will result in at least $18.8bn per year by 2020. This includes the UK’s commitment to increase the flow of climate finance to at least £5.8bn between 2016 and 2021.
Among the approved funds from the GCF, only 32% has been allocated for adaptation in vulnerable countries. Specific requirement of adaptation finance for South Asian countries of Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and Maldives is estimated to be $280bn but total climate finance to South Asia has been estimated to be only $2.33bn.
And among funded new projects since November 2016, only 4.05% have been allocated. Moreover, among funds approved from the GCF, 16% were national and 9% were regional focus.
It is a matter of concern that GCF hasn’t been able to release any fund yet against the approved projects, including CRIM project of Bangladesh since November 2015. On the other hand, poor governance has jeopardised the GCF standards for direct access by vulnerable developing countries.
Furthermore, among the approved funds from the GCF, only 42% were grants. Consequently, there is growing concern that, due to unavailability of required climate finance for adaptation, whether the climate vulnerable countries including South Asian small countries are falling into a climate-debt trap.
However, we echoed the same as Aislin Baker, senior governance adviser and governance Team leader, DFID, Bangladesh stressed in the dialogue to ensure aid transparency, in line with IATI principles and the continuous need to develop and further improve fiduciary principals and standards and to guard against fraud and prohibited practices.
Article 13 of the Paris Agreement underscores to be transparent, accountable, inclusive, and participatory at both demand and supply sides of climate finance. The developed countries must be transparent about the delivery of their pledges made to provide the climate funds and also it is equally important for developing economies at the receiving end in using of that fund.
The Paris Agreement particularly obliges that developing countries promote sustainable development and ensure environmental integrity and transparency, and shall apply robust accounting. The adaptation action should also be country-driven, be gender-responsive, preserve ecosystems, have relevant socio-economic, environmental policies, and actions that which are guided by the best available science and the knowledge of indigenous peoples.
In terms of addressing the upcoming risks of the millions of climate vulnerable people, it is a priority to protect their lives and livelihoods. However, these commitments have limited bindings in action due to challenges in addressing governance in vulnerable countries, especially the most vulnerable South Asian countries at the bottom rungs of the corruption perception index (CPI) of Transparency International.
In this backdrop, the South Asian vulnerable countries have utmost requirement of concerted efforts to ensure equity, transparency, accountability, responsiveness, participation, ownership, institutional integrity, and regulatory frameworks integrity in climate finance, especially in utilising the fund for not only resilience of the climate victims but also to achieve the relevant SDG goals.
M Zakir Hossain Khan is a climate finance governance analyst at TI-Bangladesh