News, 16 November 2010

Rich nations failing to keep Copenhagen promise to help poor nations adapt to climate-change

Research published today shows that developed nations are failing to keep the promise they made last year to provide adequate finance to help the world’s poorest countries adapt to the impacts of climate change.

The paper — published by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) — includes a five-point plan to enable developed nations to fulfil their pledges and build the trust needed to advance the next session of UN climate-change negotiations, which begin on 29 November in Cancun, Mexico.

"In last December's climate summit in Copenhagen the developed countries committed to provide developing nations with US$30 billion between 2010 and 2012, with the money balanced between funding for mitigation and adaptation projects," says Achala Chandani of IIED. "Our research shows that the developed countries have failed to meet their responsibility to help poorer nations."

The research shows that funding pledges made since the Copenhagen meeting are far from balanced, with very little earmarked for projects that would enable developing nations to enhance their resilience to climate-change impacts on agriculture, infrastructure, health and livelihoods.

"Only US$3 billion has been formally allocated for adaptation," says Dr Saleemul Huq of IIED. "There is also a danger that some of this could come in the form of loans which would further indebt already poor nations and force them to pay to fix a problem that the developed nations created."

The researchers warn that it is also unclear how the money will be disbursed, what type of projects it will support, and how the global community will be able to track adherence to pledges and ensure that the funding is truly new and additional to existing aid budgets.

"Currently there is no common framework to oversee, account for and enforce the delivery of the money that rich nations promised to support adaptation to climate change in developing nations,” says Dr J. Timmons Roberts, Director of the Center for Environmental Studies at Brown University and co-director of the AidData project (

“Industrialised nations seem to think they can get away with an “anything goes” approach—where whatever they describe as adaptation funding counts,” adds Roberts. “The danger is that existing development projects that are not specific responses to the threat of climate change will simply be relabelled as climate adaptation projects.”

The researchers say that to rebuild trust on both sides of the North-South divide, industrialised countries should support an independent registry under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and then provide it with detailed and timely data and on all their climate-related projects.

"We have technology now that would allow recipient governments and civil society groups of all types to add their own information about the progress and effectiveness of every adaptation project planned and underway,” adds Roberts. “By tracking funds all the way from taxpayers in developed nations to each expenditure in the developing countries, this system could create a new era in global cooperation, avoiding many of the pitfalls of past foreign aid."

David Ciplet, a researcher at Brown University adds: "The big promises for adaptation funding made at Copenhagen are not being met. Rather, a fragmented non-system for deciding what counts as adaptation funding is forming, and there is no way to truly measure whether the promises are being met."

"Adaptation funding is absolutely crucial for the billions of people who face the rising intensity of climate disasters, but making promises is only the first step,” says Ciplet. “What matters now is that developed countries make good on their promises and provide the funding needed to enable vulnerable countries and communities to increase their resilience to climatic threats such as droughts and floods, rising sea levels and new risks from diseases and crop pests."

Download the full paper


For interviews, contact:

David Ciplet
Achala Chandani +44 (0)207 388 2117
Saleemul Huq +44 (0)207 388 2117
J. Timmons Roberts +1 401-441-2103

For other enquiries, contact:
Mike Shanahan
Press officer
International Institute for Environment and Development
3 Endsleigh Street
London WC1H 0DD
Tel: 44 (0) 207 388 2117
Fax: 44 (0) 207 388 2826

Notes to editors

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) is an independent, non-profit research institute. Set up in 1971 and based in London, IIED provides expertise and leadership in researching and achieving sustainable development (see: