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COMMENT: Canada Must Balance the Climate Finance Books Between Adaptation and Mitigation

Farmer in Malawi by Stephen Morrison, AusAID/Wikipedia

By Shaughn McArthur and Stephanie McDonald

COP23 could mark a paradigm shift in the way the world talks about, and seeks to address, climate change.

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Not only is this the first time the UN climate talks are being led by a small island developing country. A year of climate-related devastation has made the immediate impacts of climate change on people’s lives and livelihoods impossible to ignore.

Yet this shift is not adequately reflected in negotiations—particularly not in the increasingly untenable imbalance in international climate finance.

While the costs of adaptation are expected to double or triple every year that action is delayed, international adaptation investments still make up only about 16% of overall climate finance.

Imbalance also characterizes Canada’s international climate finance, contradicting commitments under Article 9 of the Paris Agreement. And that imbalance creates hardship for the most vulnerable people and communities in the world.

Article 9 calls for scaled-up financial resources to be balanced between adaptation and mitigation, and favour public and grant-based financing.

Just two years ago, Canadian civil society welcomed Prime Minister Trudeau’s announcement of $2.65 billion over five years to “support the efforts and actions of the poorest and most vulnerable countries to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change”.

But now, there are worrying trends in the way these funds are being allocated.

From a high of 39% of Canadian climate finance in 2013-15, the country’s financial support for adaptation is on track to make up an even smaller proportion of the government’s 2016-2021 commitment.

And nearly 70% of Canada’s $2.65-billion contribution will be delivered as loans, which risks increasing the debt burden on developing countries—those least responsible for causing climate change in the first place.

Outside the climate talks, small-scale food producers have made it clear they can’t wait any longer for the global community to act.

Take it from André Fucien, a Haitian farmer.

“Every year we seem to say, ‘last year was better’, and ‘yesterday I ate more,’” he said in 2015, as drought dragged through a second year in the region.

André’s few hectares of land in central Haiti feel a world away from the halls of the World Conference Centre, where COP23 enters its second week today.

But what happens here in Bonn has a direct impact on small-scale food producers all around the world. This is no truer than for the most marginalized members of society.

For women and girls around the world, limited access to information and resources intersects with social inequality. They eat last when food is in short supply, and walk longer distances for increasingly scarce resources like water and fuel.

If Canada truly wants to support women and girls, in line with its feminist foreign policy, it must increase support for adaptation.

Investments in community-led adaptation—such as training in farming techniques that can improve soil health and retain rainwater, support for reforestation, preservation of biodiversity, and savings and loans groups for women—can deliver immediate impact where it’s most needed. For farmers like André, these investments could mean increased yields and more food for his family.

At Fiji’s COP, Canada must lay out a plan to balance its books.

Shaughn McArthur of CARE Canada and Stephanie McDonald of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank have been following agriculture negotiations at COP23.

This analysis first appeared in CAN-Raction, Climate Action Network-Canada’s daily newsletter at COP 23 in Bonn.