Climate Adaptation Finance in World Bank Economic Development Programs: The Challenges of Systemic Transformation via “Scaling Up”
This article, published in the journal Sustainability, indicates that adaptation funding tends to be directed more to more climate-vulnerable nations and those with greater state fragility, but not to low-income countries versus high-income countries.
Worldwide only about four percent of the estimated $500 billion-plus in public and private climate finance in 2017 was destined for adaptation. However, institutions like the World Bank are positioning themselves for a transformation in adaptation finance, seeking to provide substantially more adaptation finance as distinct from financial support for greenhouse gas mitigation. This article explores the recent emergence of adaptation as a higher priority and how a longer-term time horizon is necessary if a transformation in climate change governance is to occur which places greater emphasis on sustainable development goals relating to improvement of circumstances of citizens in the most climate-vulnerable nations, mostly in the Global South. The article also considers the important debate in the climate change policy literature over the extent to which funds supporting adaptation are going to lower-income nations or people, as might be anticipated given the view that the poor are more vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change. Data linking World Bank project funding to climate change adaptation and mitigation, derived from a keyword-matching approach, show that from 2010 to 2018, the share of climate-change-related finance devoted to adaptation in World Bank projects increased considerably. The data indicate that adaptation funding tends to be directed more to more climate-vulnerable nations and those with greater state fragility, but not to low-income countries versus high-income countries. Implications are considered for how this change might be “scaled up” to achieve a transformational status.
Michael A. Toman
Michael A. Toman is a Senior Fellow at Resources for the Future. His current research interests include climate change adaptation, international climate policy, energy and economic growth, and sustainable development.
Todd A. Eisenstadt
Center for Environmental Policy at American University
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