Ban Ki-moon, Gates lend muscle to help world weather climate change

  • By Megan Rowling
  • 13/09/2018

Soda Mbengue looks over the edge of her fishing district, where buildings have been damaged by rising sea levels and coastal erosion, Saint-Louis, Senegal, March 16, 2018. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Nellie Peyton


 A high-powered commission set to launch next month aims to strengthen funding and practical solutions for people and economies coping with climate change.

The body will be led by former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, philanthropist Bill Gates and World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva for its two-year term.

Ban told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that adapting to intensifying heatwaves, droughts, floods and storms would be "much more important" in the coming decades.

"Adaptation is a global challenge; it requires coordination across boundaries," he said in an interview ahead of this week's announcement of the commission's formation.

"Climate impacts in one country can have knock-on effects on the other side of the world - therefore nations need to learn from one another."

The Global Commission on Adaptation will unite scientists, economists, city-dwellers, farmers, mayors and company CEOs to discuss solutions to the climate pressures hiking human and economic losses around the world, Ban said.

Researchers and development groups have worked for years on measures to soften the blow from wilder weather and higher seas.

Tested practices range from switching to hardier crops, to sending flood alerts by mobile phone, and putting more green spaces in cities to soak up excess rain and combat pollution.

But climate change adaptation has not received the political attention nor the funding it deserves, even as the urgency is growing, experts say.

"This Global Commission will play a vital role in elevating the political importance of adaptation, and also in making the case that greater resilience is achievable - and that is in all our interests," said Ban.

The commission, which will be supported by the Netherlands-based Global Center on Adaptation and the World Resources Institute in Washington D.C., plans to deliver a flagship report at a U.N. climate summit next September.

Its roughly 20 commissioners - expected to include some world leaders - and 10 convening countries will be unveiled in The Hague on Oct. 16.


Patrick Verkooijen, CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation, one of the commission's co-hosts, said his organisation would promote "much bolder, bigger approaches".

The low-lying Netherlands is already sharing its expertise in managing water risks with other cities around the world, for example, and there is growing knowledge about "climate-smart agriculture", from planting trees on farms to mulching, he said.

But those methods were not yet being used in every place that would benefit from them in Africa or Asia, said Verkooijen, while new technologies and funding options were also needed to meet challenges at the local level.

"That will happen when there is a push to put adaptation on the global agenda equal to other critical issues," he said.

Government officials and businesses have focused more on steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions that heat the planet, such as using more renewable energy and improving energy efficiency. Far less is spent on adaptation measures.

In a 2017 report, the Climate Policy Initiative, a think-tank that tracks spending, said emissions-reduction activities accounted for an average of 93 percent of climate finance from 2015-2016.

Looking only at public sources of funding, adaptation received just 16 percent.

Sven Harmeling, policy lead for climate change with aid agency CARE International, said the global commission could explore new ways to raise cash for adaptation, and show why governments especially should allocate more for that purpose.

He urged the commission to include the perspectives of marginalised people living on coasts crumbling into the sea or mountains threatened by landslides and flash floods.

It should highlight the barriers they face in protecting themselves - mainly a lack of expertise and money, he added.

"The people who are hardest-hit often fall through the radar of ... companies, and the solutions they need are not available on the market," Harmeling said.

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