With the increasing risks of loss and damage (L&D) associated with the impacts of climate change, all nations are facing unprecedented complications in providing for the protection of their citizens. This burden of meeting this challenge is especially felt by those countries with less access to the variety of resources necessary to adequately innovate unilaterally. These developing countries lack the finances, information, and collaboration to successfully adapt and therefore reduce the amount of loss and damage suffered by their citizens. In the face of various types of weather and climate events, developing nations have to entertain multi-faceted approaches. While some have similar themes, they often differ in some key areas.
At an official COP22 side event, government ministers, private sector representatives, and other interest parties gathered to discuss these approaches. The first to speak was Dr. Abid Qaiyum Suleri, executive director of SDPR in Pakistan. He set the mood by describing their inadequate responses to climate change. Pakistan, and now other nations as well, experience a cycle of intense floods and droughts that have been exacerbated by climate change. Local communities are not provided with enough resources to adapt to one extreme by the time the other has set it. This instability is intolerable, and compounds the already devastating impacts. Dr. Suleri stated that because of the unstable climate, Pakistan is experiencing a brain drain which further reduces their capacity to innovate. The other represented countries’ perspectives prove that Pakistan’s is far from unique, but the remedy is far from clear.
The dialogue centered around disagreements on innovation. The representative from Kenya, Kennedy Mbeva believes the risk posed through L&D requires a three-pronged innovation paradigm shift: technology innovation, policy innovation, and institutional innovation. As for the first, Mr. Mbeva focused on lack of access to technology and the redundancy in inventing existing renewable energy sources. Also, Kenya does not have the access to the financial and human capital necessary to promote such invention in the first place. The international community needs to create a platform for sharing as these innovations usually come from outside developing countries. As for policy innovation, Mr. Mbeva recognized the hostile environment many developing nations pose to outside investment. Tying this in with the third prong, he suggested reducing the risk to private and public institutions through proactive government policy founded in corroborated evidence. This evidence would provide investors security in their returns, and would hopefully encourage outside contributions through the private sector and public funds.
The Director General of TERI in India, Dr. Ajay Mathur simply focused on the expense incurred at the individual level by being a climate-progressive consumer. He stressed the need to create companies that can appreciate the long-term returns on renewable and sustainable innovations, like LED lightbulbs, that the average consumer would immediately write off as beyond extravagant. Through economies of scale, those businesses can receive short-term benefits that will only increase in the long-run. Once solutions are affordable and make economic sense to the private sector, then adaptation and L&D risk reduction follow. However, this approach does not incorporate the blatant urgency reflected in the expedited ratification of the Paris Agreement.
As the sole representative from a developed country, Dr. Edward Cameron of the U.S., Managing Director of BSR, closed the meeting with some concerns, recognizing that issues of innovation — those mentioned above as well as cultural innovation — do not incorporate the complexity of international investment. The expedited ratification sent a message to investors emphasizing the importance of climate resiliency. Still, direct investment will only occur if the private sector is confident in the countries rule of law and its ability to provide a favorable return on investment. As for public funds like the Green Climate Fund (GCF), not only is the capital dwarfed by the resilient climate market, but it does not address accessibility of finance to vulnerable minority communities, or those without access to information on finance and resource availability. Developing nations need to provide some sense of reliability for returns and equal distribution so the funds are not wasted in this crucial window of opportunity.