June 23, 2023 — This week's Summit for a New Global Financial Pact in Paris represents an important recognition that the current global approach to climate financing is not working properly for the communities most impacted by the climate crisis. But time is running out for world leaders to make concrete commitments and bridge the gap between words and action for climate-vulnerable, conflict-affected countries that are suffering the most immediate consequences of climate inaction, and yet receive just a fraction of climate financing and funding to combat it.
Climate vulnerability, extreme poverty, and food insecurity are increasingly concentrated in a handful of conflict-affected states the International Rescue Committee (IRC) works in, like Somalia, Mali, and Yemen. These climate-vulnerable, conflict-affected communities are increasingly left out of global efforts on climate action, even efforts specifically designed to support low-income countries. Conflict-affected countries receive a third of climate finance compared to non-conflict-affected countries. Even when funding does reach these most at-risk communities, traditional approaches to climate finance often fund programs and approaches that don’t work in conflict settings and disproportionately funds emissions mitigation instead of adaptation, anticipatory action, and resilience.
Four key gaps must be addressed:
- Improving subnational and community-level risk mapping of the intersection of poverty, climate, and humanitarian risk;
- Unlocking more funding to support adaptation and climate resilience in climate-vulnerable, conflict-affected countries;
- Rethinking and expanding delivery partners to include local civil society groups best positioned to support hard-to-reach communities;
- Investing in innovation to test and scale solutions that insulate people against the worst impacts of the climate crisis, such as climate-resilience agriculture, anticipatory cash, and community-based disaster-risk reduction.
Multilateral development banks like the World Bank fund a large share of global climate finance, so the vision statement for MDBs was a critical outcome of the summit. While it is welcome that the statement calls for a focus of concessional finance on low-income countries experiencing conflict, extreme poverty, climate impacts and high debt, the reliance on grants and low interest loans, particularly those provided by the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), means that this source of funding must be replenished by richer countries. Commitments announced today to explore innovations like channeling Special Drawing Rights to the African Development Bank have the potential to support countries experiencing conflict and climate crisis, but only if accompanied by reforms in ways of working. Innovative financing options, such as sovereign debt swaps for humanitarian aid, should also be explored.
Unlocking more climate resources is only half the challenge: MDBs, including the World Bank, will also need to shift from their traditional approach of working through central governments and move towards a “people-first model” normalizing options for supporting NGOs, local civil society organizations, and women-led organizations often best positioned to reach vulnerable communities.
While the steps made on increased funding are important, they will only make an impact if they are paired with concrete commitments to specifically address barriers to action in climate-vulnerable, conflict-affected communities. This puts even more pressure to make these pledges concrete at upcoming forums: COP28, G20, UNGA, and the World Bank's Annual Meetings. The wealthiest nations need to be bigger, bolder, and more inclusive of people already suffering the devastating impacts of the climate crisis. The mechanics of that funding and financing must change to significantly raise the accessibility for the climate-vulnerable, conflict-affected countries on the frontline of the climate crisis today.