With the 26th Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) being around the corner, member nations are engaged in preparations. The forthcoming COP marks the completion of five years of the Paris Agreement (2015), which is of immense importance as the countries are revising their Intended National Determined Contributions (INDCs).
For the first time in 2015, the Paris Agreement recognized the importance of global adaptation and agreed that investment in climate adaptation is cardinal for society. Thus, COP-26 comes with new hopes as far as the climate adaptation action and finances are concerned.
The disproportionate use of atmospheric space by developed countries for dumping carbon emissions makes them liable for providing developing and least developed countries “adaptation debt”, which is owed to the latter for adapting and responding to climate impacts.
The countries which are closely associated with raising the issue of climate justice must push for the equitable billing of the adaptation and mitigation agenda. Assuming leadership, they must emphasize the need to increase adaptation finance significantly in order to minimize the climate loss faced by vulnerable communities and women in particular. ‘
Furthermore, countries should emphasize the maximum inclusion of women in climate decision-making. As women are closer to nature and often the first to respond during any crisis, their role is extremely important in forming effective policy interventions for long-term actions.
The consequences of climate change are faced by society; however, the extent of consequences faced varies between the rich, poor, powerful, and marginalized, thus making climate change an inherent justice issue.
The climate impacts affect the poor and marginalized communities significantly more since they lack an effective coping mechanism like resilient housing, income, and others. Often, women are at the centre of these impacts, overburdened with the massive responsibility of adapting to climate risks. For example, if changing climate affects the local water bodies, the girl child needs to travel a considerably greater distance to fetch water. In some cases, the girl child needs to give up on school to fetch water for the household, while the male child might continue with their education.
These arguments bring us to three major questions “How much finance?”, “For whom?”, and “On what basis?” While there are no ideal answers to these questions, we must consider that different people are exposed to different levels of climate impacts. For example, climate impacts on rural Himalayan households must differ from that of an urban household in the plains.
But if we are thinking of “how much finance”, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) highlights a need of 140-300 billion US dollars by the year 2030 and USD 280-500 billion by 2050. However, the current adaptation finance falls far short of the required financing; a report by the Climate Policy Initiative tracked that the year 2016 received just USD 22 billion for adaptation and resilience to climate change.
The need for adaptation finance is highly context-specific, i.e., people living in different geographic areas, having different livelihood options, and playing different roles in their communities would have different requirements. Similarly, the need for adaptation finance for men and women differ too. Without understanding these complex dynamics, there are chances that people in greater need of adaptation finance might be missed.
Thus, while deciding the basis of distributing adaptation finance, individuals from every sector must be considered. In contrast, the reality is different from what we envisage, and women are often under-represented in climate change decision-making, owing to certain outdated assumptions about them. A recent study by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies highlighted that four outdated assumptions around gender continue to hinder effective climate adaptation policies globally.
This raises a serious concern. If women are not involved in decision-making, or are systemically stifled because of outdated assumptions, how likely is it that their interests are being represented?
Thus, it is of immense importance that we consider everyone’s voices while talking about adaptation. As climate change is also a social justice issue, we must consider that every voice in the room matters; regardless of whether they are rich or poor, powerful or marginalized. Only if we act properly can we promise a resilient climate future underpinned by the pillar of social justice and equality.