A lesson in global crisis management


The global response to coronavirus has shown that “disruptive” change is possible to address a global crisis. Business as usual need not always endure, and we need not limit our responses to incremental change. If this is the one lesson we take away from the crisis, it could unshackle our collective imagination (in particular, the imagination of our leaders) and free us from the self-imposed limitations that have held us back, and resulted in an inadequate response to climate change.

Seven lessons from Nepal for the Green Climate Fund, on devolving climate action

IMG_1588Nepal is globally recognised as a pioneer in devolved approaches to address climate change impacts. We draw lessons from Nepal’s experience in devolution for other developing countries, but more specifically, for the Green Climate Fund and its “Enhanced Direct Access” modality.

A Conference Carol: The Ghost of Conferences Past

free-clipart-vintage-christmas-bells-holly-mistletoe-u1ogzu-clipart2016 brought the triumph of Trump, along with his coterie of climate change “bah humbug-ers”, threatening not only the future of the Agreement, but of any inclusive form of global cooperation. What will the future bring? We genuinely cannot say. In the spirit of the season, however, let the ghosts of climate change conferences past, present, and yet to come show us glimpses of what was, what is, and what could be.

A Conference Carol 2: The Ghost of Conferences Present

free-clipart-vintage-christmas-bells-holly-mistletoe-u1ogzu-clipartSome climate experts have tried to soften the blow of Trump’s election by saying the transition to renewable energy is “unstoppable”. This is misleading and dangerous, playing down the importance of US participation in the international regime.

A Conference Carol 3:  The Ghost of Conferences Yet to Come

free-clipart-vintage-christmas-bells-holly-mistletoe-u1ogzu-clipartThe disenchantment with unfair globalisation should be a wakeup call for those who think justice and ethics have nothing to do with global climate negotiations. Any global treaty or process that imposes an unfair burden on countries will eventually be rejected. It is imperative that the references to equity in the Paris Agreement are taken seriously, and translated to action. Far from derailing the negotiations, talking about the elephant in the room will engender trust, and enable a frank and free discussion on ambition.

Justice is still critical in the post-Paris world of “nationally determined” climate action                                                                                                                           logo-cop22-bbgstudio-3

Can we really solve the climate change problem without fair burden sharing? Talking about equity, it is alleged, may derail negotiations. But not talking about it can kill the possibility that the outcome of the negotiations will ever be implemented in good faith, with maximum possible ambition, or that countries will continue to engage.

Scaling up adaptation 5: Microfinance sparked by “social energy”

Microfinance is perhaps “the” success story for scaling up development interventions. bank21While it should continue to be a critical tool in providing climate finance to the poor and reducing their vulnerability to climate impacts, its early history also has lessons to offer for scaling up adaptation.

Leave room for legal ambition in the Paris Agreement

A picture taken on January 14, 2015 shows the logo of the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference, the Cop 21 summit in Paris, on January 14, 2015. AFP PHOTO /JACQUES DEMARTHONThe Paris climate agreement expected in December should include the option for countries to take on legally binding targets, even if no country is willing to enlist initially

Scaling up adaptation 4: Empowering women is a process, not a project

Kudumbashree demonstrates, once again, the importance of community-drivenness, fiscal freedom, and a strong capacity development drive.

Scaling up adaptation 3: Lessons from Indonesia

KDPThe Kecamatan Development Programme (KDP) had what has been described as an “explosive” scaling up, from initial pilots in 25 villages in 1998, to more than 28,000 villages by 2003.

Scaling up adaptation 2: Watershed management in India

This case study examines the elements that contributed to the successful replication of watershed management in India.

Scaling up adaptation 1: What does it mean?  

The development community has  important lessons in scaling up successful interventions, which can be imported to the adaptation context to avoid wasting precious time in the fight against climate change.

Consolidation for devolution: Balancing top-down and bottom-up elements of climate finance governance in India

Consolidating national and international climate finance in a national fund in India could help ensure a common vision and principles; coherence with national strategies; distributive justice; prioritisation of the needs of the most vulnerable; balance between adaptation and mitigation; and continuous review, to enable course corrections when necessary. However, this consolidation must come with a strong commitment to devolution.

As Indian budget increases climate allocation, coherent governance becomes an even more critical need

India’s 2015 budget was announced last week – the second budget of the National Democratic Alliance government, in power since May 2014. Although it includes an allocation for climate change, it sends out very confusing signals on the status and governance of climate finance in India.

Five important national considerations that must trump GCF readiness

2012102124291_2012102173891With pledges exceeding US$10 billion,the Green Climate Fund (GCF) is open for business, and expected to start disbursing funds over the next few months. This is a good time, therefore, to remind policy makers in developing countries that GCF requirements are only one part of the picture  – there are far more important national considerations that should be taken into account first, before deciding where the GCF arrangements will fit in.

Will India be the Grim Reaper again?

Ministers gather in a huddle where agreement was reached to extend the Kyoto Protocol during a plenary session at COP17 in DurbanAt the 2011 Durban climate conference, India was singled out in the final show-down, and portrayed as signing the death sentence for the poor of the world. History may well repeat itself in Lima and Paris unless India takes a more proactive position.

Vulnerable India 8: Weather advisories need a human interface, and crop insurance needs a makeover

Both need stronger partnerships with non-government actors                                           

The plight of India’s poor farmers is poignantly highlighted by the suicides that continue to take place each year. More effective risk management and transfer mechanisms are urgently needed – and this need is  likely to heighten as the climate becomes even more variable. This blog reviews India’s experience with risk management and transfer, through weather advisories and crop insurance.

Vulnerable India 7: Learning from India’s agriculture policy

Kisan2The threat to agriculture is one of India’s top concerns when it comes to climate change. This blog is a reflection on how India has sought to address the existing vulnerability of its rain-dependent farmers, and what lessons this experience holds for future responses to climate change.

Climate change and the post-2015 goals: Passing ships or all in the same boat?

Part 2: Means of implementation

polyp_cartoon_free_tradeWith 2015 potentially signaling a new chapter for the “global partnership” for poverty eradication and sustainable development, developing country leaders have to consider one question very carefully: do they really want to perpetuate the aid and charity paradigm that reduced them to unequal partners in this partnership for the last half century? This blog considers options, mainly in the context of the new report by the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts Sustainable Development Financing (ICESDF).

Climate change and the post-2015 goals: Passing ships or all in the same boat? 

Part 1: Differentiating responsibility

same boatThe principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities, viewed as a  dilution of the more straight-forward polluter pays principle when it was adopted, is being challenged by developed countries in both the post-2015 and climate change negotiations. But unless developed countries take the lead in accepting responsibility, and take steps to correct current deficits in global governance, multilateralism will degenerate into an even more acrimonious blame game.

Vulnerable India 6: Decentralisation and its discontents

Adaptation efforts are better off contributing to improving and strengthening  existing infrastructure for decentralised governance, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel within the limited budget, time and experience available for adaptation. As the experience in India shows, it is not easy to get the powers-that-be to relinquish their powers to local communities, or indeed to bring communities up to speed in self-governance.

Vulnerable India 5: Can the environment ministry lead on climate change?

The Indian Ministry for Environment and Forests (MOEF) has been renamed the Ministry for Environment, Forests and Climate Change by the new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This is meant to indicate the climate change will be a priority for the Modi administration, with MOEF in the lead. But is the MOEF really the best option to lead action on mitigation or adaptation in India?

Vulnerable India 4: Modi must deal with the ecological vulnerability of India’s poor

Narendra Modi, leader of the centre-right National Democratic Alliance, took oath as Prime Minster this week following a landslide election victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party. What will this mean for India’s poor, and their vulnerability to climate change? To answer this question, we must first delve once again into the causes of poverty and vulnerability in India.

Vulnerable India 3: The politics of vulnerability

What is the nature of India’s vulnerability to climate change? This is a very important question. How we choose to answer it will determine whether we see and respond to the whole picture; or whether we choose to see only part of it and address it with ineffective, inefficient, inequitable and piecemeal solutions.

Why do we pretend there is a “community”?

Guest Blog by Terry Cannon, Research Fellow for the Vulnerability and Poverty Reduction team at the Institute of Development Studies. Cannon argues that a great deal of “community-based” activity fails to take into account the power relations that lead to division and conflict within communities.

Vulnerable India 2: Beneath the veneer 

The polishing of India’s image in the recent past appears to be slowly erasing an integral truth about the country. ‘India Shining’ and ‘Incredible India’ at home, the country is commonly referred to as an ‘emerging economy’, a ‘key/large developing country’, and even a ‘major economy’ in the global arena, particularly in the context of the international climate change negotiations. ‘Vulnerable India’ – a country with more poor people than all the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) put together – is acknowledged less often in India and abroad.

Vulnerable India 1: Climate change in the world’s largest democracy

Can local governments and communities take the lead in development and in climate change adaptation? Do they have the capacity? What about problems with national and local governance? What about the power relationships between the rich and poor within countries? These are some of the questions that I have been asked in response to my previous blogs on Community Driven Development (CDD) and Community Driven Adaptation (CDA).

Why Community Based Adaptation is not enough

Community “based” can mean anything. It can mean that one meeting was held with a community to inform them of a project or activity that has already been pre-decided by a donor or a government. It almost certainly means that someone else is holding the purse strings, and is therefore calling the shots.

Don’t Sink Our Ship!

Guest blog by . In November 2011, at the climate change conference in Durban, the Chair of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group ended his address with a passionate plea to Parties that are unable or unwilling to sign up to a legally binding Protocol. He asked them to let others who are willing, like the LDCs, to go ahead instead of sinking the entire ship. Two years later, half way to when the negotiations are meant to conclude, that plea unfortunately needs to be repeated more than ever.

The Green Climate Fund’s redress mechanism: A cautionary tale from Nagarahole

The experience of forest communities in Nagarahole National Park in South India highlights just how difficult it can be for local communities to have their concerns reflected in activities financed by global funds, and for them to seek redress when their basic rights are flouted. It points to the need for GCF activities to not only seek prior informed consent from potentially affected communities, but also to create effective redress mechanisms that are easily accessible by local communities in case projects are deemed harmful after they have been approved.

In Bali, build a Fund you can be proud of

In about a week’s time, the Green Climate Fund Board will meet in Bali to continue discussions on the design of what could be a radical new global fund. This will be a critical meeting – it will decide whether the GCF Board chooses to be radical in order to be effective, or simply opt for the easy, same old International Financial Institution (IFI) business-as-usual model of “doesn’t really work, but we’re afraid of transformational change”.

Forget global goals. Focus on empowering communities.

There is a lot of talk about “paradigm change” and “transformational change” these days, both in the context of climate change, and the post-2015 process. Do we, and our governments (in both developed and developing countries), have the stomach for it? If so, we should make Community Driven Development the primary goal for global development policy.

Let form follow clarity on function in GCF design

The “access modalities” of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) – how countries will gain access to GCF funds – will largely determine the architecture of the Fund, including the form and function of the National Designated Authorities (NDAs). It is therefore somewhat surprising that the GCF Board chose to discuss NDAs first, before a discussion on access modalities. How can it expect agreement on the form of the GCF’s national architecture, before first being clear on its function?

A Staged Approach: The sequencing of mitigation commitments in the post-2020 ADP negotiations

Guest blog by and Niklas Höhne. One of the key problems for the upcoming international Climate Change Conference in Warsaw is how to divide the work between now and the Paris conference in 2015, when a new agreement is meant to be agreed. We propose a three-stage approach, based on the successful sequencing used in the Kyoto Protocol negotiations.

Same old, same old … Too late for a paradigm shift?

Guest blog by “Paradigm shifts” are very often referred to in GCF parlance, but mostly in the context of low-emission and climate-resilient pathways. However, if the GCF is to achieve its objectives, then a “same old, same old” finance paradigm will not suffice.

Five reasons why Rajasthan is (a little) less vulnerable to climate change

Rajasthan demonstrates the effectiveness of local action in making and implementing policies, and giving real meaning to terms that remain abstract in the global negotiations on climate change.

Even God is vulnerable

Global warming melts one of the holiest Hindu shrines, which will need to be refrigerated in future.

Maladaptation in Maldha

Farmer vulnerability to floods in this district in West Bengal is compounded by poor planning.

Exile of the poor

Economists Jean Dréze and Amratya Sen say lack of focus on how to make decision makers and operators accountable and responsible, combined with the failure of the Indian media to point out the disparities and inequalities of Indian society, are responsible for the country’s poor performance on social indicators.

Can the system adapt?

Improving the effectiveness of existing systems and processes that address poverty and the needs of the poor is an important component of addressing their vulnerability to climate change. Are we investing enough effort in making these systems work? What more can we do?

Transparency on ice: GCF Board decision beggars belief

The Board of the Green Climate Fund takes an absurd decision on webcasting.

The depths of disaster

The flash floods in Uttarakhand, India, are a reminder that a cosmetic layer of “adaptation action” alone will not prepare us for future climate-related disasters. Deeper, more systemic issues must also be addressed if we are to limit human losses from the increased number of climate-related extreme events that are expected in future.

Where’s “Me”?

In which I try to come out.

Draft report of High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Agenda does not address the bigger (and more problematic) picture

The draft report of the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda does not convincingly address many of the key problems that currently stall international processes and agreements.

The rot starts at the top

Why are we here talking about SDGs, when someone else somewhere else is talking about successors to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)?

The Post-2015 “golden thread” must weave in a global strand

As co-chair of the U.N.’s High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, Cameron must ensure that a commitment to good global governance leads the way in the world beyond 2015. Otherwise, his golden thread might well be reduced to yet another global yarn.

Civil Society, Refuse to be Abused

Meaningful civil society engagement is perhaps the shot in the arm that can root global environmental policy making in reality and hence make it more effective.

A fig leaf for climate finance

It is a matter of considerable concern that the current draft of the Board’s Rules of Procedure are more regressive than existing procedures for stakeholder participation in other international financial institutions.

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