Originally published by Michael Byron Nelson on www.newsecuritybeat.orgG


Most African states are more vulnerable and less prepared to address climate change challenges than the rest of the world. This observation is supported by a wide variety of sources, including the Climate Vulnerability Index and the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index. And in fact Africans and their political leaders frequently observe that this crisis, manufactured in the developed world, disproportionately affects their continent. During a meeting of the African Union in 2007, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni called climate change “an act of aggression” by the rich against the poor.

In response to these concerns, African states have worked collectively to influence global climate change negotiations. Two pillars underpin their approach: one is the development of an “African Common Position,” the other is the formation of a negotiating coalition for presenting that position. In some respects, these efforts have been met with success. Most African states were present to sign the Paris Agreement in New York this past April. That agreement promises to deliver on one of the continent’s key demands in negotiations: funding to adapt to climate change effects that are already present and will arise in the future.

However, African attempts to act collectively on climate change face important challenges. One key factor is the behavior of its major regional powers: Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and South Africa. All, with the notable exception of Nigeria, have attempted to play leadership roles in negotiating on behalf of the continent with varying degrees of success and priorities.

In a new paper in Global Environmental Politics, I argue that the interests of these four powers often differ from those of the rest of the continent. Additionally, even where they share interests, they often view the negotiation process as serving goals other than solving the problems of climate change. Given that the Paris Agreement represents only the first step in a new approach to addressing global climate change, understanding these dynamics is important for the future of the continent.

A Common Position?

The challenges of unifying the interests of more than 50 African countries, populated by over a billion people, on the second largest continent are daunting. It is unsurprising interests and priorities vary across the continent; however, the divergent interests of the regional powers are especially important.

The divergent interests of Africa’s four regional powers are especially important

South Africa’s energy consumption and carbon emissions, especially due to coal, immediately set it apart from the rest of the continent. Economically, it is in a far better position to cope with climate change than most countries on the continent.

Egypt similarly benefits from a higher level of development, which tends to correlate with higher carbon emissions. However, it is clear that the potential for rising sea levels and changes to the Nile River have made climate change a more central issue.

Nigeria is also highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, especially on agriculture, coastal flooding, and desertification. However, its economy is sensitive to policies that would reduce oil demand. This might go far to helping us understand how a country which actively strives to lead West Africa and the rest of the continent in so many other areas, including trade and security, has been mostly quiet on climate change.

Finally, Ethiopia – the weakest of the four regional powers considered here – is closest to continental averages in terms of vulnerability and readiness. Its leadership on climate change, particularly through former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, has been mostly tied to its own national interests.

Regional Powers and Strategic Choices

Regional powers often view climate change negotiations as part of a larger strategic situation. The choice to work with African partners can have less to do with climate change than with other policy goals, such as maintaining influence with global partners or increasing their status with domestic audiences.

Egypt, for instance, must contend with its dual membership in both the Arab Group (known to make statements about the scientific uncertainties of climate change) and the African Group (often called “progressive”). Similarly, Nigeria’s membership in OPEC sets it apart. For Ethiopia, the domestic audience may be most important. Addis Ababa benefits from the external legitimacy granted when others recognize it as a regional leader on such a major issue, bolstering its domestic position.

African states are increasingly using coalitions to influence global affairs

South Africa represents perhaps the most interesting case. South Africa’s leaders have been attempting to strengthen their regional and global roles for some time, even apart from climate negotiations. Former President Mbeki’s plans for an African Renaissance stated that “it is necessary that, acting together, we ensure that Africa…occupies her due place within the councils of the world.” President Zuma’s global ambitions contributed to South Africa’s membership in the BRICS alliance (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) and that membership in turn seems to rely at least partially on South Africa’s ability to represent the continent (a source of contention for many).

All of this has the potential to undermine a unified African position in climate change negotiations. South Africa’s external alliances, for instance, have pushed it to take positions other African partners oppose. Those differences were perhaps most on displayin the brokering of the Copenhagen Accord in 2009. At the same conference, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, acting as head of the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change, also departed from the African script, endorsing French and American positions instead

Goods News, Bad News

Africa still needs its regional powers. African attempts to forge a common position and approach to climate change only became significant following Kenya’s hosting of the 2006 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties. In the decade since, the “two pillars” has emerged, reflecting a growing tendency for African states to use coalitions to influence global affairs. The support of the regional powers can add important political weight to these coalitions.

The good news for most African states is that on some issues, such as the transfer of technical knowledge from developed countries and funds for adaptation, there should be general support from these regional powers. The bad news is that it might be harder to gain unified support on issues where interests are more likely to vary, such as requirements for reducing carbon emissions. Additionally, it may be necessary to monitor the behavior of the regional powers to ensure their final goals in negotiations are focused on the continent’s collective interests and not on other regional and global strategic positioning. 


By Chen Chen, ND-GAIN. Originally published Op-Ed on Triple Pundit:

The Paris Climate Agreement put climate adaptation squarely on the climate agenda when it established a global goal to “enhance adaptive capacity, strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change.”

Through the agreement, funds from developed countries are pledged to fuel adaptation planning and implementation in vulnerable, developing countries. Similar to other issues related to global development, garnering monetary pledges could be the crucial first step toward positive change. But what can we expect to come out of the multibillion-dollar pledge for adaptation?

If we look at typical development projects, we can anticipate the output of development investment because the unit costs of the projects are often provided, as in anti-malaria efforts in Malawi or DRC, or learning opportunities for refugee children in Syria. We must now ask: What is the unit cost of improving adaptive capacity or reducing climate vulnerability?  No such measure yet exists, making it difficult to identify measurable goals for adaptation funds.

In a recent webinar hosted by the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN),private-sector, climate-adaptation investment mavens discussed how an adaptation assessment measure could inspire a larger market to meet the needs of the developing world. The creation of a Common Adaptation Unit (CAU) allows us to quantify the adaptation goals. This discussion inspired me to consider the steps needed to conceptualize a measurement unit for adaptation based on the three years of inquiry leading ND-GAIN’s research on adaptation measurement at the global, country, city and project evaluation levels.

A critical step is to derive a per-unit measure that is comparable to outputs in a typical development project, such as the number of insecticidal nets distributed or the number of refugee children gaining learning opportunities.

The impacts of climate change manifest in two ways – through climate-induced shockssuch as extreme weather and climate disasters like floods or landslides, and climate-imposed stresses such as shortened growing seasons or extended disease transmission periods, both of which could take an enormous toll on lives and assets. Adaptation success can therefore be measured using the number of lives saved or assets value preserved. However, this way of quantifying adaptation success would be comparable to measuring the outcomes of usual development projects (e.g., increased retention rates of school children due to funding to improve education accessibility), which requires a complete cycle of project impact evaluation to quantify such unit. 

The improvement of adaptive capacity or reduction of vulnerability is the intermediate step leading toward a scenario where climate disasters cause less or no damage to lives and assets.  Therefore, what we need is a unit to measure the intended “output” from adaptation funds in its immediate form, a unit by which taxpayers understand what the funds are going to be spent on.

This novel CAU would quantify the progress of adaptation. As a standardized measure, the use of this CAU would precede the measures of lives and assets impacted by climate change. It can be helpful to think of the CAU as similar to Intelligence Quotient (IQ). One common feature of CAU and IQ is that they both measure something that only exists conceptually. Some standardized tests can gather key information from an individual to measure IQ. Similarly, standardized tests, in a form of standardized surveys, can be given to a country or a community to measure CAU.

City surveys have been gathering data on the perception of climate risks and adaptation planning that can serve as the basis for a CAU for certain cities.  Although further quantification challenges remain to formalize the unit, standardized surveys that quantify adaptation progress at multiple scales will bring us closer to developing a baseline for adaptation and to a setting adaptation targets.

Using standardized survey to obtain a measurable state of vulnerability can help global adaptation leaders realize many uses of CAU, as listed in its concept note, including providing a target to guide future Conference of the Parties similar to greenhouse gas mitigation targets. We can then estimate the cost of improving a country’s, city’s, or community’s CAU and know what outputs we can expect from monetary pledges for adaptation.

Image credit: Flickr/COP21 Paris

Chen Chen is the research scientist at Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative’s (ND-GAIN) and Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development, focusing on adaptation measurement at various scales to serve a prospective adaptation market.

Just as climate change disproportionately affects the poor, so must efforts to reduce its toll.

By Joyce Coffee, ND-GAIN. Originally published by University of Minnesota's Ensia at

One of the biggest threats to a thriving world today is that the world’s poorest people face disproportionate risk from climate change. The World Bank’s Turn Down the Heat report notes that climate change threatens to erode progress made on reducing poverty, while a Stanford studyreveals that global incomes for 2100 could be 23 percent lower than they would be in a world without climate change. While it is sobering that over the past 30 years one dollar out of every three spent on development has been lost as a result of coastal storms and civil conflict, among other shocks and stresses, the long-term impact of lower incomes relates to shrinking global markets and thus has impact on economies around the world.

For leaders working on development issues in least-developed and lower-income countries, these trends call for more resources to support climate adaptation, such as improving water security through conservation and modernizing infrastructure to withstand extreme storms.

A trifecta of global influence has identified adaptation as a key climate action strategy for national and local governments, the private sector, and donors: the Paris Climate Agreement, which mentions adaptation more frequently than mitigation; the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, which prioritize adaptation; and Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, which calls out the imbalance between the global north and south in a climate-changed world.

In an average year, climate change affects more than one out of five people. Scientists from the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, a climate adaptation think tank I lead at the University of Notre Dame, have calculated that people living in the least-developed countries have 10 times greater chance of being affected by a climate disaster than those in wealthy countries. They also have calculated that it will take more than 100 years for lower-income countries to reach upper-income countries’ current level of capacity to adapt to changes in climate.

Climate change disproportionately harms the poor in wealthy countries, too.

Not only that, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that while climate change heavily burdens the poor, it also worsens preexisting poverty by exacerbating the effects of other poverty causes, such as loss or erosion of physical and financial assets, including land, housing and jobs. Take Africa as an example: In 2015 alone, the continent faced about 50 events that were influenced by climate change — such as droughts, wildfires, landslides, extreme temperatures and floods — as calculated by the International Disaster Database at the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. These events affected more than 20 million people, killed 1,139 and created damages amounting to more than US$2.5 billion. Such events and changes to historical trends are likely to worsen the symptoms of poverty. One likely outcome is decreased production of staple foods in many of the poorest regions — by up to 50 percent by 2020 in some African countries — increasing malnutrition and undernutrition, which currently cause 3.1 million deaths in children under five every year around the world.

Climate change disproportionately harms the poor in wealthy countries, too. Superstorm Sandy was one of the most expensive extreme weather events in history, costing corporations and governments more than US$40 billion. According to a report by Rutgers University, although registration for Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance by ALICE households (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, which means they are above the poverty line but still not financially stable) exceeded registrations by non-ALICE households by 13,000, FEMA provided US$61 million more to non-ALICE households. Of the homeowners who applied for assistance, only 10 percent of ALICE applicants had received relief by February 2013 as opposed to 26 percent of all household owner applicants. Even after this relief, disparities remain. While ALICE households received some other help — through public assistance, private insurance and nonprofits — as a group they’re still left with $2.2 billion worth of residential damage and lost income that’s likely to stay unrelieved.

With hazards and vulnerabilities in mind, leaders can create strategies that increase adaptive capacities, especially for those most sensitive to climate hazards, including the world’s poorest citizens.

Climate adaptation requires several basic steps. First, leaders in government, the private sector and philanthropy should examine the relative hazards based on climate models for areas relevant to their work. Then they should identify adaptive capacities that are lacking and creating the greatest risk based on those exposures. ND-GAIN can help, identifying which countries are most prepared — including resource constraints — to handle and adapt to global challenges brought about by climate disruption. Other helpful resources include the World Economic Forum’sGlobal Competitiveness Report, an assessment of the economic drivers of countries’ productivity and wealth, which helps determine viable markets for corporate investment in projects in other countries, and the World Resources Institute’s Aqueduct, which identifies water risks around the world.

With hazards and vulnerabilities in mind, leaders can create strategies that increase adaptive capacities, especially for those most sensitive to climate hazards, including the world’s poorest citizens. Increasing access to electricity, water and sanitation and improving community health-care options are further examples of the dozens of adaptation actions available. Quickly, leaders will see that not only are there parts of their current efforts they can claim are adaptation — which will burnish their brand and inspire further effort — but there are numerous collateral benefits to adaptation: lifting more out of poverty, strengthening economies, preventing civil conflict, buttressing food security, protecting natural resources and ensuring a brighter future for generations to come. 

Originally published by Tanya Campbell on

New index lists nations in dire need of help with regard to climate change

Researchers at the University of Notre Dame have developed a global league table that identifies the nations that are most vulnerable to climate change. Poor nations are considered to the ones that are most vulnerable to climate change and least responsive.

The Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index measures a nation’s vulnerability in relation to its ability to cope with climate change. The index calculates a number of factors, including exposure to climate stress, sensitivity to the impact of climate shocks and adaptive capacity.

As a part of the index, country’s readiness is also scored. It means willingness to take steps to reduce climate change. Eritrea, Chad, Central African Republic, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been found to be the world’s five worst performers.

Adaptation, which is how to live with a warming world, is now the main factor. Second factor is the realization that poorer nations will now require support. In the Paris climate summit in December, financial target was kept of $100 billion a year from public and private sources by 2020. The Green Climate Fund was also considered to be an important part, as it will provide 50% of all its funding to adaptation.

Barbara Buchner of the Climate Policy Initiative said that it is not only about money. There are many challenges along with it, including technical capacity to come up with bankable proposals, knowledge and capacity gaps and provision of access to resources.

Koko Warner of the United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security, said, “We need to find ways to increase the absorptive capacity of countries that need the funding the most, and harmonize investment standards, transparency and governance issues”.

Warner also acknowledged that there is lot to learn. Projects that provide an access to affordable, clean energy and expand sustainable agriculture can support economic development, poverty alleviation and climate change.

Originally published by Tyler MacDonald on

With poorer countries having a harder time adapting to the increasing effects of climate change, many are wondering how we can help them through the process.

Climate Change

With poorer countries having a harder time adapting to the increasing effects of climate change, many are wondering how we can help them through the process. (Photo : Getty Images)

Now that the Paris climate agreement has successfully pushed 195 nations to reduce their emissions in the struggle to prevent global warming, a new questions arises: How will the countries most vulnerable to climate change - usually the poorest ones - respond and adapt, and how can we help them?

A global index managed by the University of Notre Dame reveals the five countries that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change: Eritrea, Chad, Central African Republic, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The findings stem from 25 years of data that take into account countries' preparedness for risks connected to climate change such as overcrowding, food insecurity and civil conflicts.

The least vulnerable countries are New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, the United Kingdom and Germany, and ideally they will help their neighbors financially to ensure that the less vulnerable regions are properly prepared to adapt to climate change.

At the Paris Conference of Parties climate talks, the wealthy nations agreed to provide $100 billion through 2020 to the least developed countries in order to help them combat the negative effects of climate change. The money given to these countries - which are defined by the United Nations - will flow through the Green Climate Fund.

"We will not leave the most vulnerable nations among us to weather the storms alone," said John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, shortly after announcing that the U.S. plans to double its grant money over the four next years with the goal of aiding vulnerable countries in their response to climate change.

Despite the benefits of this financial support, it is important to understand that for vulnerable countries, adapting to climate change is not necessarily about money, it's about the fact that climate change will alter numerous facets of each country.

"Many countries are grappling with a hierarchy of needs that puts climate risk close to the bottom," said Joyce Coffee, managing director of the global index, suggesting that the least developed countries need to grapple with widespread poverty, which can influence other factors such as health and corruption. "While I believe very strongly that solutions to climate come from within a country, they won't come until leaders embrace the changes that are coming."

Ideally, the financial aid provided by the least vulnerable counties can help the countries most vulnerable to climate change by reducing poverty and getting them started on the path to adapting to the new world. 

Originally published by Jeanne Rife on

Poorer Countries vulnerable to Climate Change need Help to live in Warming World

Climate change will impact almost every region of the planet in the coming times and the impact can be seen in terms of unpredictable and inclement weather, which would impact crop yields. It is important for governments to be ready to combat these changes as there could be food scarcity and people in the coastal regions would face frequent flooding. Climate scientists found that nations around the world that are at high risk of catastrophic impacts of climate change are among the poorest.

Now, a global league table has been developed that can help identify countries most vulnerable to climate change. Researchers from the University of Notre Dame are behind this unique global league table. The table, dubbed as the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN), is capable of figuring out a nation’s ability to deal with climate change.

The index can measure a country’s exposure to climate stress, adaptive capacity and sensitivity to climate shocks’ effects. After that, it calculates how a nation’s sources would be impacted due to change in climate.

The University of Notre Dame also used the index to find the five worst performing countries in the world: Chad, Eritrea, Sudan, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. On the other side, the nations that are performing better than expectations are Norway, New Zealand, Britain, Germany and Denmark, as per the index.

In December last year, world leaders gathered in Paris for a climate summit where they concluded that reducing greenhouse gases is not a solution to slow down climate change. They agreed to a fact that it is important to look for a way to live with a warming earth. They also said that poorer countries are not able to fight global warming alone, and they will need support.

“Paris was wonderful, but what’s really important now is what happens on the ground. The true yardstick of success is in these highly vulnerable countries”, said Koko Warner from the United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security.

Originally published by Melany Mejias on

By analyzing 25 years of data, the University of Notre Dame in Indiana developed a Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN) that ranks 192 nations annually on their readiness to face a warming world. The index takes into account risks increased by climate change, including food insecurity, overcrowding, civil conflicts and poor infrastructure.

ND-GAIN reveals the most vulnerable and therefore least prepared countries to deal with climate change, as well as those which are in the best conditions to face a warming world.


In Burkina Faso, extreme droughts are killing off livestock and devastating crops. In Micronesia, rising water levels have spurred residents to dismantle ancient ruins for the construction of seawalls. And in the Western Region of Kenya, the aftermath of severe 2011 flooding continues to threaten the livelihoods of thousands. Credit: The Verge

Eritrea, Chad, Central African Republic, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are the five nations least able to respond the severe effects of warmer temperatures, according to the index. And the most prepared countries are New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, Britain, and Germany.

The index developed by the University of Notre Dame calculates countries’ exposure to climate stress. Reliance on agriculture serves as a good example of that. ND-GAIN also takes into account sensitivity to the impact of climate shocks and overall adaptive capacity. It then scores a nation’s preparedness by looking at its willingness to take action in order to improve its social, economic and governance resources to reduce climate risk.

Adaptation is a keyword. Nations must learn how to live in a warming world but the most vulnerable happen to be also the poorest, which means that they need urgent help from rich countries.

Financial help is not enough

One of the highlights of the Paris climate talks in December was that world leaders admitted that it would not be enough to tackle climate change by only reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They agreed to donate $100 billion a year by 2020 and the Green Climate Fund vowed to devote 50 percent of all its funding to adaptation.

However, money alone will not save the most vulnerable countries from calamities caused by their unpreparedness to face climate change. Climate security also requires “technical capacity to develop bankable proposals”, said Barbara Buchner of the Climate Policy Initiative in an emailed response, partially quoted by the Los Angeles Times.

She added that tackling the knowledge and capacity gaps was essential to reduce climate risk, as well as providing access to all kinds of resources needed to achieve adaptation.

Koko Warner of the United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security said that world leaders need to find out how to increase “the absorptive capacity of countries that need the funding the most, and harmonize investment standards, transparency, and governance issues”.

The adjustments needed to efficiently provide help to countries that need it the most should happen quickly. Buchner warned that $100 billion would not be enough to truly cover the real costs on the ground and the climate bill could go higher if the Earth cannot keep below 2 degrees Celsius of global warming.

Farming community

While financial aid may help the most vulnerable countries adapt to global warming, that is not the main solution. The key is to accept change and be inspired by that belief to work against climate change. (Photo : Gabriel Mistral | Getty Images 

Originally published by Rina Marie Doctor on www.techtimes.comAlso published by Daniel McDonald on

Accepting that climate change is happening, and not merely relying on financial support from wealthy nations, is the key for poor countries to survive the effects of climate change, experts say.

Embracing that a different type of climate may alter the way of life could be the big motivating push that the most vulnerable nations need to be able to adapt and respond efficiently to the changing world.

While it is important to have lots of financial resources to support technologies and start projects to combat climate change, that is not the main solution. Surviving is not about the money, it is about having the willingness to fight climate change early on before things get worse.

Embracing Change, Especially Leaders

The University of Notre Dame has come up with a Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN), which sums up the vulnerability of nations to climate change and other global problems together with their preparedness to boost resilience. According to the index managers, adaptation is rooted in embracing change.

"Many countries are grappling with a hierarchy of needs that puts climate risk close to the bottom," says Joyce Coffee, the managing director of ND-GAIN. The most pronounced challenge in poor countries is to tackle poverty and its effects on things that matter the most, like health.

Coffee says this acceptance of change will not be realized within a nation unless the leaders do so themselves.

Coffee cites the situation of African nation Ivory Coast as an example. In the said country, cocoa is the main product for export. However, since the plants are very sensitive to temperature changes and takes years to grow, the industry is at the greatest risk of peril because of climate change.

Now, if the government will not help the farmers realize the changes, anticipate the effects and prepare for what is about to come, it will be difficult for those who have managed to get out of poverty to triumph over climate change.

Ivory Coast has made tremendous improvements in solidifying its foundation to help the nation manage climate-related risks. In fact, the nation has ranked better by nearly 20 points in the vulnerability and preparedness list of ND-GAIN involving 192 other countries.

Willingness Of The Wealthy To Help

During the December 2015 Paris conference, which was attended by numerous world leaders, wealthy countries agreed to give away $100 billion through the year 2020 to aid nations that have been identified by the United Nations as the least developed cope with climate change.

The money will be placed in the Green Climate Fund, which collates grants from different rich countries and private firms.

The United States even announced a much more ambitious pledge during that time as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the country is looking at doubling the $430 million it has given out in 2014 over the next four years.

But then again, while these financial aids are significantly beneficial, the most essential first step for efficient adaptation to climate change is acceptance.

Global Index Results

The ND-GAIN uses 25 years' worth of data to rank 192 nations every year on their readiness to tackle risks made more severe by climate change. The index specifically looks at factors such as food insecurity, insufficient infrastructure, overcrowding and civil clashes.

The top five countries considered to be the most vulnerable and least ready to handle climate change are Eritrea, Chad, the Central African Republic, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

On the other end of the spectrum, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, the United Kingdom and Germany round up the top five least vulnerable nations. These nations ideally will support their neighbors in terms of finances.

Worthy to mention are the countries that have improved their rankings. These nations include the Philippines, Poland, Mongolia, Laos, Russia and the Solomon Islands, among others. These countries are said to have improved their sanitation, agricultural efficiency and availability of potable water, while reducing slum areas and childhood malnutrition.

Climate Change: Taking A Toll On Human Health

On April 4, the White House released a new report, which details what climate change means for public health and families.

The report explains the different health consequences that humans may have to suffer as climate continues to change. Among these health woes are allergies and asthma due to air pollution, premature deaths due to extreme heat, earlier occurrence of Lyme disease due to warm winters and spring, water-related medical conditions and increased exposure to toxins.


Originally published by Lonnie Shekhtman on

How will poor countries, in many cases the most vulnerable to climate change, respond and adapt to a changing world?

    That's one of the biggest questions lingering after the Paris climate agreement succeeded in mobilizing 195 nations around reducing their emissions to prevent a warmer world.

    According to a global index managed by the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, the five countries most vulnerable and least prepared to deal with climate change are Eritrea, Chad, Central African Republic, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    Using 25 years of data, Notre Dame’s global adaptation index ranks 192 countries annually on their preparedness for risks exacerbated by climate change, such as overcrowding, food insecurity, inadequate infrastructure, and civil conflicts.

    One of the big accomplishments at December's Conference of Parties climate talksin Paris was getting wealthy nations to agree to provide $100 billion through 2020 to help the least developed countries, as defined by the United Nations, adapt to a changing climate. The money will flow through a Green Climate Fund, which is a combination of grants from wealthy countries, such as the United States (ranked #11), and investments from private companies.

    “We will not leave the most vulnerable nations among us to weather the storms alone,” US Secretary of State John Kerry told a packed news conference in Paris, after announcing that the US plans to double the $430 million in grants it gave out in 2014 over the next four years, to help vulnerable countries adapt to the risks of a changing climate, reported the Financial Times.

    Logistical stumbling blocks must still be worked out, such as ensuring that countries contribute the money they promised and that receiving countriesspend the money wisely.

    But the people behind the index say one of the keys for adapting to a new world for vulnerable countries is not about money at all; it’s about acknowledging that a different climate will change things.

    “Many countries are grappling with a hierarchy of needs that puts climate risk close to the bottom,” says Joyce Coffee, managing director of the index, in an interview with The Christian Science Monitor. The biggest needs in the least developed countries revolve around managing widespread poverty and its effects on things like health and corruption, she says.

    “While I believe very strongly that solutions to climate come from within a country,” she says, “they won’t come until leaders embrace the changes that are coming.”

    One example of where embracing change makes a difference, said Ms. Coffee, is in the west African country of Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast). Cocoa, its major export, is at great risk from climate change, since the plant is sensitive to temperature changes and takes years to grow.

    “If the federal government isn’t helping farmers see changes and anticipate and prepare for them,” she says, “they’re making it hard for those who have emerged from poverty to get a leg up in a climate change world.”

    Over the last five years, Cote d’Ivoire has made enormous headway in building a strong foundation to help the country deal with climate-related risks, according to the index. The country has climbed nearly 20 pointshigher in the vulnerability and preparedness rankings to #131 out of 192 countries.

    Other countries that have improved in the rankings are Laos, Georgia, The Philippines, Russia, Poland, Rwanda, Mongolia, Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. Researchers say they have each improved their economies and other basics necessary to deal with new challenges from a changing climate, which include increasing sanitation, agricultural capacity, and access to drinking water, while decreasing slum populations and child malnutrition.


    NASA climate change map

    The countries most vulnerable to climate change are among the poorest and least able to respond. How to resolve that dilemma and help these places adapt to a warming world remains among the knottiest problems facing climate financing.

    Originally published by Obi Anyadike on

    The good news is that identifying those most in need – step one – is now a good deal easier thanks to a global league table developed by the University of Notre Dame.

    The Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN) measures a country’s vulnerability in relation to its ability to cope with climate change.

    It calculates exposure to climate stress (for example a reliance on agriculture); sensitivity to the impact of climate shocks; and adaptive capacity. It then scores a country’s readiness – defining that in terms of a  willingness to leverage its economic, governance and social resources to reduce climate risk.

    According to the index, the world’s five worst performers are Eritrea, Chad, Central African Republic, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. By comparison, the over-achievers – and you'd guess at least a couple of them – are New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, the United Kingdom and Germany, in that order.

    Hooray for Paris

    One of the important outcomes of the Paris climate summit in December was the recognition that reducing greenhouse gasses is not enough. Adaptation – how to live with a warming world – is now also accepted as key, and there is a greater realisation that poorer countries will need support to help achieve that.

    Paris affirmed the financing target of $100 billion a year from public and private sources by 2020. A game-changer could also be the Green Climate Fund, which will devote 50 percent of all its funding to adaptation, which has historically been overshadowed by spending on mitigation projects like renewable energy.

    “Paris was wonderful, but what’s really important now is what happens on the ground,” said Koko Warner, of the United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security. “The true yardstick of success is in these highly vulnerable countries.”

    Money alone will not be enough to build climate security. “The question of access [to financing] is not a simple answer as it concerns multiple challenges including technical capacity to develop bankable proposals, [tackle the] knowledge and capacity gaps, and provide access to resources needed to do the necessary feasibility studies,” Barbara Buchner of the Climate Policy Initiative said in an emailed response.

    “We need to find ways to increase the absorptive capacity of countries that need the funding the most, and harmonise investment standards, transparency and governance issues,” noted Warner. “We need more nuance on how to deliver financing to really help the poor, to unravel the knots around climate impact and livelihoods.”

    That needs to happen quickly, because the estimates are that the true climate bill will be in the trillions rather than billions of dollars – especially if the world cannot keep below two degrees Celsius of global warming agreed in Paris.

    “We know that public resources in all countries are stretched, and that $100 billion will not satisfy the needs on the ground,” said Buchner. “It is therefore essential that the $100 billion be spent wisely. If we can do this, much more private investment will flow.”

    Making money

    The ND-GAIN index is more than a ranking system. Its purpose is "to help businesses and the public sector better prioritise investments for a more efficient response to the immediate global challenges ahead,” explained Joyce Coffee, ND-GAIN managing director.

    "The private sector is looking for projects where it can make money," she added. "They won't be investing in countries with poor governance records, or social structures that are completely confusing to them." That, she suggested, will be left to multinational funding mechanisms like the Green Climate Fund.

    There is no reliable data on the scale of private investment flowing to adaptation projects. But, said Buchner, “private investment will be key” and therefore “domestic policy signals are critically important because all investors want to see impact, and value for money.”

    Improving the “bankability" of projects involves quantifying and enumerating risk, and allowing the market to track progress, said Coffee. The private sector won't suddenly pivot to adaptation, but we should make it "more tempting".

    A business case is easily made for the mega alternative energy initiatives – from solar to wind – sprouting across the globe. But adaptation tends to be more granular and local rather than immediately transformational.

    “Tons to learn”

    Warner acknowledges there is “tons to learn” – but if public policy managers can “set the incentives, the private sector will respond”.

    While corporates may well hesitate to invest in the most vulnerable countries, “it is important to remember that households and families [in these countries] are also private investors,” said Buchner.

    Developing projects that help them access affordable, clean energy and expand sustainable agriculture "can support economic development and poverty alleviation as well as climate change,” she added.

    There is a gulf between genuine, community-appropriate adaptation projects and private sector "green- washing" – good old-fashioned PR spin. Coffee cited a Coca-Cola initiative in an unnamed country to improve the water sources where it bottles as a positive example that had a benefit “beyond its fence line”.

    She also pointed to a mining firm investing in Mali that built a hospital as part of its adaptation efforts. Yes, improving healthcare is a form of adaptation, but she acknowledged a sense of queasiness over that particular deal – with its hint of contract sweetening.

    “But we can't turn our back on investments. We just need to demand more from [the corporates],” she insisted.

    Warner agreed, saying the magnitude of investment and the scale-up required to respond to climate change means there is a “significant role for the public and private sector – we just need to get the mix right”.

    Photo credit: Alberto Guzman, NASA ARC-CREST