Future of climate change in the LDCs

Tags: Op-ed
Future of climate change in the LDCs
AFP
BEING PROACTIVE: In this 2011 file photo, members of the World Wide Fund for Nature handover a symbolic planet Earth (auctioned to raise funds towards tackling climate change) to local children at the Durban Beach in South Africa
Least developed countries (LDCs) are a group of 49 countries that are considered to be the world’s poorest and weakest countries. Among these 49 countries, 33 LDCs are in Africa alone. These LDCs have a gross domestic product (GDP) of less than $900 per capita and very low levels of capital, human, and technological development. In addition, according to United Nations, these LDCs have a world population of 785 million, that is, over 10 per cent of the world population lives in these countries. Given the low levels of economy and the large population size, the future impacts of climate change for LDCs are likely to be catastrophic.

In contemporary times, LDCs emit relatively small amounts of greenhouse gases, the main cause of global warming and climate change, compared with other developing countries. However, LDCs are extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change as they lack the resources necessary to adapt.

According to intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC)’s 2001 report, adaptability is regarded under the following criteria: a stable and prosperous economy; a high degree of access to technology at all levels; well delineated roles and responsibilities for implementation of adaptation strategies; systems for the national, regional and local dissemination of climate change and adaptation information; and an equitable distribution of access to resources. The LDCs have low levels on almost all of these criteria and thus, portray a low level of adaptive capacity.

Given the low adaptive capacity, climate change will have a significant impact on the quality of life in most of the LDCs. According to United Nations, it is projected that by 2020, between 75 and 250 million people will be exposed to an increase of water stress owing to climate change in Africa. Coupled with increased demand, this will adversely affect livelihoods and exacerbate water-related problems in Africa. In addition, glacier melting in the Himalayas is projected to increase flooding, rock avalanches from destabilised slopes, and affect water resources within the next two to three decades. River flow is also predicted to decrease as glaciers recede. Thus, according to United Nations, LDCs of Bhutan and Nepal will likely to be severely affected by these changes.

Among health risks, using parasite survey data in conjunction with results from the global circulation models (GCMs), UN projected scenarios estimate a 5 per cent to 7 per cent potential increase (mainly altitudinal) in malaria distribution, with little increase in the latitudinal extent of the disease by 2100. According to IPCC, previously malaria-free highland areas in Ethiopia and Rwanda could also experience incursions of malaria by the year 2050, with conditions for transmission becoming highly suitable by the year 2080. By this period, areas with low rates of malaria transmission in central Somalia and the Angolan highlands could also become highly suitable.

It is believed that African and Asian places of interest for tourists, including wildlife areas and parks, may also attract fewer tourists under marked climate changes. Climate change could, for example, lead to a shift of tourist activity towards the poles, as well as a shift from lowland to highland tourism.

Given their low adaptive capacity and the widespread impacts, the world has started to look for ways to help LDCs to successfully mitigate and adapt to climate change. For example, Marrakech Accords, a special LDC fund, has been established for the purpose of assisting LDCs to adapt to

climate change. Similarly, in a number of LDCs, some adaptation projects are being

implemented through the

national adaptation programmes of action (NAPA) to enhance resilience and adaptive capacity.

The World Bank has estimated that between $10 billion and $40 billion will be required for adaptation in developing countries. At the global level, some global funds, which have been established to assist LDCs with the costs associated with adaptation.

In addition, resources for adaptation projects are also being provided through the least developed countries fund (LDCF). Some of the adaptation projects being supported through the LDCF include, community based adaptation to climate change through coastal deforestation ($3 million) in Bangladesh and reduction of the climate change-induced risks and vulnerabilities from glacial lake outbursts in the Punakha-Wangdi and Chamkar Valleys ($3.64 million). These projects are likely to provide the needed help by these Asian LDCs to adapt against a changing climate.

However, the main dilemma for LDCs is that they are members of the same negotiating group with countries whose emissions levels are continuously increasing. These same countries are reluctant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because of their development objectives. Here, the large developing country emitters, who are members of G77, often refer to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, as a justification for not taking action to reduce their respective greenhouse gas emissions. As a consequence, LDCs are at different plane with their developing country negotiating partners with regard to greenhouse gas emission reductions, and LDCs will need to convince their partners to take on the responsibility of reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

In fact, adaptation to climate change in LDCs is not only a sustainable development challenge, but also an issue of survival. Let’s hope that future climate negotiations see LDC-related issues in this light.

(The writer is on the faculty of Indian Institute of Technology, Mandi, India)

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