It is fair to say that the majority of the CSAG posts (mine included) have presented a fairly pessimistic view of the COP 17 meeting so far. However, this morning I am feeling upbeat…almost, dare I say, optimistic! Not about the chances of a legally binding, comprehensive and truly global deal to reduce GHG emissions (that would require optimism on a truly extraordinary scale) but rather about the possibility for real progress to be made in addressing adaptation.
I have just come out of a 2 hour session organised by the Munich Climate Insurance Initiative (MCII) held in the African Pavilion, which is aptly warmer than the rest of the conference facilities. The focus of the session was on risk transfer mechanisms to enable adaptation in Africa, with particular emphasis on index-based microinsurance solutions. For reference, index-based insurance is associated with payouts which occur when a proxy measure reaches a certain threshold, such as a deficit in rainfall accumulation over a season. The collective insights of the well selected panel and the thoughtfully posed questions from the small but attentive audience made for a good discussion.
Koko Warner from MCII chaired the session and began by urging the African delegates who attended to reach agreement regarding the “loss and damages” component of the Cancun Agreements. The ever-entertaining Pablo Suarez from the Red Cross Climate Centre described a recent Oxfam project in Ethiopia (HARITA), which appears to be working successfully in reducing the vulnerability of farmers to drought. Using innovative index insurance approaches, the pilot project aims to provide financial support to farmers when they need it, in a manner that preserves farmers’ dignity. Fatima Kassam from the African Union described the benefits of a cross-national scale pooling system, which could compliment locally-based microinsurance initiatives, to spread risk and ultimately reduce the costs of insurance to farmers. A member of the Nigerian delegate highlighted many of the challenges specific to Nigeria which may resonate with other African nations. Yet whilst there are evidently many challenges associated with the provision of microinsurance products within the African agricultural sector, I came out of the session with a sense that there is a shared desire amongst governments, financial organisations, NGOs, and research institutes to work together to make a real difference in reducing vulnerability for the African agricultural sector.
I am beginning to question whether a comprehensive emissions deal is the most important element of the COP negotiations. While I still believe that nations need to agree on a global emissions reduction target, the elements of the COP process which will help reduce vulnerability in the short- to medium-term are perhaps more pressing. Yes we need to avoid the possibility of high-end global warming but we must remember that the goal is to enable vulnerable people and vulnerable ecosystems to become more resilient to the increasingly volatile climate system. There are vast opportunities to make significant and valuable progress on adaptation to current and future climate and it appears that the dialogue and conversations occurring at the COP meeting are enabling progress to be made. This is why I am more optimistic today. I will have to remember this feeling next week when the media tells me that COP 17 was a failure!