Saturday, 5 June 2010

“Mal adaptation conditions offensive, says Cook Islands negotiator

By Makareta Komai for Climate Pasifika in Bonn, Germany

04 June 2010, Bonn, Germany --- Cook Islands is taking the lead on adaptation negotiations for Pacific countries represented at the climate change talks in Bonn, Germany, which has completed its first round of talks.

Pasha Carruthers, one of the veteran negotiators for Cook Islands and the Pacific is passionate about adaptation and wants developed countries to be genuine in their commitment to help vulnerable states.

As it is, Carruthers said, the negotiation text demands conditions for any financing mechanism set up to help countries that need immediate help. 

“We don’t want conditions in areas we know we are most vulnerable and in most cases, we, especially in the islands have had to adapt to our situation on our own because of the scale of the problem that we are already facing.

In negotiation language, conditions are put in place to avoid what donors call ‘mal adaptation.’

“I find mal adaptation an offensive concept. It’s quite patronising because they are assuming that we will waste money on doing things that either don’t really need to be done or make the situation 

“It’s not like you are going to build a big building for adaptation research as your adaptation project. For us we will propose projects that will deal with the immediate problem at hand, like sea level rise or coastal erosion.

“The whole point is, we urgently need these assistance and right now, said Carruthers.

She admits, however that like everything else, there will be mistakes.

“Every step will be taken to try and avoid mistakes. Right now, it’s not easy to have adaptation projects.  If it is happening in the Pacific, it’s only tiny pilot projects, and this is what many countries are complaining about.  

The Cook Islands negotiator said government need to work with communities to avoid mal adaptation projects.

“In the Pacific, if you go to a local community that is seeing changes as a result of climate change and you ask them what needs to be done, they will probably say they want a seawall built. This could be seen as mal adaptation if the seawall is not built the right way, Carruthers explained.

“At the village level, they need the technical assistance of government to advise them on the best option to meet their needs. It may be replanting mangroves or something like that.
If mangroves replace where the beach fales were built to attract tourists, then we have to think of the social costs of adaptation replacing something that was bringing economic benefits.

In the proposed Long Term Co-operative Action (LCA) text before negotiators in Bonn this week, ‘mal adaptation’ is referred to as one of the conditions to funding.

“Donors want a whole bunch of studies done before approval is given for adaptation projects.

“This is exactly what some countries call an adaptation deficit. You are already experiencing the problem and they want studies done to prove that you need to adapt and when the funds are approved, it’s hard to reverse the damage done to the environment.

This, Carruthers said is another way ‘to avoid paying money to vulnerable states’ to adapt to the changes now experienced as a result of climate change.

“They also want to pay as little as possible.” Carruthers said.

Ms Komai will be covering the Bonn Climate Change negotiations from 31 May – 11 June 2010, thanks to support from Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). She will provide daily coverage of the negotiations via PACNEWS and the SPREP website, the climate pasifika blogspot, and the PINA Green page

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