The IPCC has warned us that developing nations are poised to bear the most dramatic effects of global warming, and so far we (the world) have done practically nothing to counter or prevent that fact. But the UN is trying.
This week in Bali the UN announced that it will go carbon neutral by offsetting the operations of over 20 agencies, including the office of Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. With the money collected, the UN will invest in an Adaptation Fund to help developing countries combat the consequences of climate change in coming decades. At its start, the fund will be worth no more than $50 million, but advocates hope that number will grow as we see increasing need for a fund of its type.
The UN stepped over indecision as to who should be responsible for an adaptation fund — the World Bank or the Global Environment Facility (GEF), which has undergone criticism of its attempt to manage a sufficient fund.
The need for a pot of money devoted to adaptation is dire.
If we fail to slow global warming soon enough, it will cause sea levels to rise and consequently threaten major coastal and deltaic regions of Africa and Asia. Limited access to freshwater and generally strained water resources will devastate hundreds of millions, possibly billions, of people and force mass migrations and famines. For more details, see the second report released by the IPCC this year.
Despite how much they will suffer, to date, developing countries have not made a sizable contribution to global warming. As a result, their ability to act is limited. Since these countries have underdeveloped industry, there is little they can do to reduce emissions in the industrial sector. And the question of how to incorporate agricultural and forestry emissions into carbon markets, currently excluded, is still up in the air (though the World Bank is giving it a shot). Therefore, adaptation must weigh heavily on the minds of those contemplating policy in developing countries.
Unfortunately, much, much more dedication from government and private investment will be needed for the fund to make a difference.