Strengthening climate resilience in developing countries: what are the priorities?

By Takayoshi Kato, OECD Development Co-operation Directorate and Nicolina Lamhauge, OECD Environment Directorate

Over the last 12 months, the Philippines has had to fight two rising tides threatening the population of its archipelago: the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the consequences of devastating weather events including several typhoons and tropical storms. Not only did Typhoon Goni lead to the evacuation of almost 1 million people from their homes last October, the country has also had to grapple with a string of less extreme, slow-onset changes, such as rising sea-levels, putting houses, schools, shops and infrastructure at risk. The Philippines is not an isolated case: all over the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has all but exposed the fragility of societies to systemic shocks, reminding us of the imperative of investing more resolutely in resilience building mechanisms and enablers.

The impact of climate change on developing countries is a case in point: by altering and intensifying risk patterns, it has been compounding other stressors such as poverty, inequality and discrimination, and threatening the ability of those countries to achieve their sustainable development objectives. Responding to this increasingly pressing need for climate action is a difficult task for administrations already struggling with other environmental challenges, on top of social and economic ones. International co-operation partners can provide critical support to partner countries. However, for finance and technical co-operation to be effective, and not complicate the task of the policymakers they mean to help, those partners must target and manage their support in a smart way, drawing from experience around the globe. As the OECD releases its updated guidance to making development pathways more climate resilient, three priorities emerge from our research and consultation process.

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The IMF’s turn on climate change

By Kevin P. Gallagher, Professor and Director of the Global Development Policy Centre at Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies, and Co-Chair of the ‘Think 20’ Task Force on International Finance to the G20

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has recently pledged to put climate change at the heart of its work. A laggard to date, the IMF has to catch up fast to ensure that the world community can meet its climate change and development goals in a manner that doesn’t bring havoc to the global financial system. The IMF’s first test on climate change will be the extent to which it incorporates climate risk into this year’s reform of IMF surveillance activities. Given that these reforms will lock in for close to a decade, if the IMF doesn’t act now the consequences for prosperity and the planet will be grave.

Kristalina Georgieva has been a strong advocate of greening the financial system through her new post of Managing Director of the IMF, which she began in the fall of October 2019.  Unfortunately, she took office when the shareholder of the IMF with the most voting power, the United States, was led by a President who claimed climate change was a hoax. In the face of that pressure and to her credit, Georgieva steadfastly advocated for incorporating climate change into IMF operations and for a green recovery from the COVID-19 crisis even though her biggest patron made it difficult to put her words into action.

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Transitions in development: the European Green Deal and Latin America

By José Antonio Sanahuja, Director, Fundación Carolina, Spain, Special Advisor for Latin America and the Caribbean to the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

The response to COVID-19, the ecological transition and strategic autonomy are the three driving forces of the European Union’s (EU) broad transformative programme. This programme involves deep changes in its own social and economic development model and in its relationship with the world. It is a short-term reaction to a pandemic that has fast become a systemic crisis. But it is also the EU’s long-term response to an international context of globalisation in crisis and challenges to the international order. The future of EU-Latin America relations will be deeply affected by these transformations.  

For the EU, as for Latin America, the pandemic is a catalyst for change. This time the reaction has been quite different in terms of monetary or fiscal measures compared to the self-destructive cycle of austerity adopted in the European debt crisis. Following an immediate response from the European Central Bank, the council adopted a first range of modest financial support measures. But in July 2020 the European Council agreed on an unprecedented package of 1.8 trillion euro, including the new 2021-27 budget and the “Next Generation” recovery programme. The programme involves linking budget, new common taxes and Eurobonds, paving the way to a common treasury. Therefore, this agreement is an important federal step forward, that just six months earlier would have been unbelievable. Beyond its macroeconomic and fiscal impact, these investment instruments will also push the EU towards an ambitious shift in its development model.

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Are African countries heading for a carbon lock-in or leapfrogging to renewables?

By Galina Alova, Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford

Non-hydro renewables are likely to account for less than 10% of Africa’s power generation by the end of this decade. My recent co-authored study predicts fossil fuels to continue to dominate the electricity mix in many African countries, and the continent as a whole.

Opportunity to power development with renewables

Africa is presented with an important opportunity to make a decisive leap to renewables this decade. The continent’s energy demand is projected to more than double in the coming years, as countries seek to industrialise and improve the development outcomes for their growing populations, including providing affordable power to close the energy access gap. At the same time, Africa – the land of sun and wind – possesses vast renewable energy resources.  

Against this backdrop, renewables have become increasingly more competitive in the past years, with their cost set to decline further compared to conventional fossil-fuel-based generation. The affordability of battery storage has also significantly improved, with lithium-ion battery packs hitting a record low in 2020.

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Climate resilience building in informal settlement upgrading processes

By Jorgelina Hardoy, Instituto Internacional de Medio Ambiente y Desarrollo, IIED – América Latinai

More than half the world’s urban population lives in urban centres with less than a million inhabitants; for Africa, it is 63%; for Asia and for Latin America and the Caribbean it is 54%. These cities get far less attention than their demographic, economic and governance importance deserves – and far less attention to developing their climate change policies. One difficulty facing climate change policy and action in cities is that so much of what is needed is not considered part of climate change policies. Another is that when there is attention paid to climate action, both nationally and internationally, it usually concerns larger cities. We know far less about how intermediary cities are responding to climate change, whom they are engaging with, the types of constraints they face, etc.

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Getting more durable deals in extractives: knowledge is a power best shared

By Iain Steel, Research Associate, ODI & Founding Director, Econias

“It’s a high-risk country, there’s no infrastructure, and the resources are low quality.” I have heard these arguments countless times over the years from investors in extractives projects. And in every single negotiation I have advised governments on, across Africa and Asia-Pacific, investors have asked for tax incentives that they claim are necessary for financial viability. But how are governments to judge these claims when investors don’t share the underlying data?

Extractives projects are uncertain and risky. Nobody knows the true geology of the asset before it is developed, the precise amount of investment required, and the operating costs to extract and refine the resources. And the only thing we really know about commodity prices is that they’re volatile and unpredictable. Who would have thought in January 2020 that within four months the price of oil would be negative?

Unbalanced deals are a bad result for all parties

Investors often have better information than governments when negotiating extractives contracts. This is not a criticism of governments, but a function of the work that is usually undertaken by investors. Investors tend to explore for resources and commission studies to determine the technical and financial feasibility of projects. They are also likely to have deeper sectoral expertise and experience than governments, and know the value of their intellectual property.

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The challenges and opportunities of implementing local climate action lessons from Quelimane, Mozambique

By Manuel A. Alculete Lopes de Araújo, PhD, Mayor of Quelimane City, Mozambique

Mozambique, one of the most vulnerable countries in Africa to natural disasters, has had to learn first-hand that the effects of climate change are determining factors in the country’s deteriorating poverty situation. As one of the hot spots for various types of natural disasters, mostly directly related to climate change, such as floods, droughts, and cyclones, the country’s development achieved over the years is periodically undermined. As a result, the country still ranks 180th out of 189 on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Index. Mozambique’s coastal cities, which could potentially represent a vital driver for the country’s growth, are also particularly exposed to disasters. Tropical cyclones, for instance, occur regularly in the area. Cyclone Idai and Cyclone Kenneth hit Mozambique in 2019 at just a few weeks interval, causing enormous destruction and the loss of many lives. But in recent years, the port city of Quelimane decided to tackle climate change through local climate action, involving a broad constellation of public and private sector actors, with the goal of triggering long-term systemic transformation and paving the way for other cities.

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