Just a little bit longer for climate justice in developing countries

Just a little bit longer for climate justice in developing countries*
With the way things stand at the moment, it is now clear that vulnerable groups in developing countries will have to wait a little bit longer to receive the climate justice they deserve through adaptation (see the optimism in the estimation of waiting times?).
The good news last week was that the Green Climate Fund (GCF) approved a total of $392 million for climate action in developing countries. Why is this good news? Well, first, because even though there is still a significant adaptation deficit as reported by a 2016 UNEP assessment, the GCF allocation can start off the adaptation processes while the world continues to explore new ways of raising climate finance. Secondly, we see a slow shift from the ‘usual suspects’ recipients of adaptation funding to inclusion of other states. Lastly, we acknowledge an increasing focus on adaptation actions in these developing countries, for example, several of these projects involve water management which is critical for adaptation in areas that are experiencing rainfall variability and water scarcity.
However, we don’t know the extent to which these projects will address integration of adaptation into development planning processes. Investing in capacities and institutions for adaptation policy planning, as highlighted in the 13th Sustainable Development Goal on Climate Action contributes towards sustainable development. Policies that have been appropriately developed and implemented enable targeting of adaptation action to the most vulnerable. The fact that insufficient funding might have been committed to policy and institutional development fuels fears that vulnerable communities will have to wait longer to receive climate justice through adaptation.
While many will agree that developing countries have made considerable progress in adaptation planning at both national and sub-national level, planning is still in its infancy and faces financial and capacity constraints. For example, most developing countries have already developed their National Adaptation Plans of Action (NAPAs), but implementation still depends on availability of funding. Some states are yet to implement the NAPAs. More adaptation policies have been developed post-NAPAs. After development, most of these sit and wait for external funding for implementation.
Uganda presents a good example. Uganda’s NAPA was only implemented after support from DANIDA. Lessons learned from the NAPAs helped inform the National Climate Change Policy (NCCP) and its costed implementation Strategy. The NCCP has a deliberate focus on building institutional capacities at the national and sub-national level to address climate change, which is expected to translate into substantial benefits for the socially and economically marginalized in Uganda for improved adaptive capacity. The Government of Uganda insists that actual implementation of this policy will be dependent on availability of financial support. Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture, with backing from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has taken a bold step to implement the NCCP by developing an Agriculture sector National Adaptation Plan (NAP-Ag). The NAP-Ag will address vulnerabilities in the agricultural sector, which is very essential for communities which rely on agricultural production as their main livelihood activity. As this draft policy goes through parliamentary approval over the next few months, the big question is – How long will it take for the policy to be fully implemented? Conversations with policy actors in Uganda reveal that the government does not have funding to implement the NAP-Ag. So, the answer is–probably a few more years. Until then, agrarian communities will remain vulnerable to climate risks, and will continue relying on isolated local scale interventions by government and non-government actors that can only build short-term capacities to adapt to climate change.
* This piece was inspired by a scoping field visit for research recently made to Uganda as part of the Climate Justice Doctoral program. The visit allowed me to partially understand Uganda’s national adaptation planning processes and the progress made with the NCCP and the NAP-Ag.

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