In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, a worldwide strategic approach to tackling poverty is essential, says Patrick Verkooijen, CEO, Global Center on Adaptation

OPEC Fund Quarterly: What are the current priorities (if it is possible to generalize) for developing countries adapting to climate change?

Patrick Verkooijen: Around the world, governments are launching gigantic stimulus packages to prop up their economies during the COVID-19 pandemic. But these are being targeted exclusively at their own people and nothing is being set aside to help those who need it the most. It is also clear that to avert disaster, countries will need to help each other. If the virus is a shared challenge, so too should be the need to build resilience against future shocks. Emerging and developing countries are the

least prepared for the arrival of COVID-19, just as they are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Already today, many countries have to deal with the negative consequences of human- induced climate change. There’s a clear observed and attributed pattern of increased droughts and more frequent and longer heat waves, coral bleaching and dieback, melting mountain glaciers and so on. These and other problems are virtually certain to grow rapidly over the next decades and so it is urgent we adapt and prepare everyone to avoid the worst consequences of further global warming. The adaptation challenge is highly diverse

between countries, but also within countries and differs across locations, sectors and communities. Still, many common challenges exist and hence lessons can be learned and transferred, and solutions can be reproduced or scaled up. The highest priorities are those where addressing current climate hazards and development intersect. If communities are already suffering from droughts that are expected to intensify over


the next decades then clearly that is an area of high priority. The solutions are then found in the

direction of synergies and complementarities between investments and funding streams that address both current development priorities and adaptation efforts that limit the adverse effects of further climate changes. From a donor perspective it may matter if a particular investment, program, or project is solving a development challenge, or a climate-change adaptation challenge. However, on the ground the implementation challenges are often the same: how to mobilize finance flows and how to reach communities with the largest and most enduring solutions. If we’re talking about current priorities, of course the current COVID-19 poses a huge challenge to economies and communities globally. There is a risk that the associated global economic and financial crisis increases poverty and vulnerabilities in developing countries. Looking ahead a little bit, if the immediate emergency dissipates, we hope communities and economies can be supported in adaptation to be more resilient to both future disasters like today’s pandemic and the adverse effects of climate changes.

OFQ: Do these priorities differ by region? PV: Overall, climate change is making our world less equal. It is reversing decades of progress in the fight against poverty. And as the global youth climate movement has said loud and clear, it is also introducing profound inequalities between generations. A report by the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) estimates that 100 million people could be pushed back into poverty over the next decade as a result of the consequences

of global warming. That poor countries are shouldering the heaviest costs of climate change, when they have done the least to cause it, is a stain on our collective morals. We must do everything in our power to prevent this profound injustice. At the GCA, we work hard to strengthen global knowledge for prioritization with the highest urgency. First, there are very different effects of global warming on local conditions. To mention just a few examples of how different the challenges and therefore the solutions are, consider:

a. More frequent and longer heat waves, including for regions already very warm, such as the Arabian peninsula and the Sahel region.

b. Sea-level rise for Small Island Developing States in the Caribbean, South Pacific, Indian Ocean and near the coast of West Africa, as well as the densely populated coastal cities in Asia like Kolkata, Dhaka, Guanzhou, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Jakarta and many others, but also Lagos and Alexandria.

c. Melting mountain glaciers across the Himalaya, Andes and Central Asia regions.

d. Increased flooding risk due to higher-intensity tropical storms across the Caribbean and the South Pacific

Next, countries are in a highly diverse state concerning the enabling environment for adaptation. There are huge differences in awareness of expected climate change, knowledge and technical capacity, investment opportunities, income levels, etc. All of that combines to very different overall capacity to tackle the issue of climate change adaptation, if one compares, for example, a drought-stricken Least Developed

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