Can Scotland's Climate Justice Fund show the way?

Scotland has shown international leadership with its Climate Justice Fund and by recognising the country’s responsibility towards climate-vulnerable communities.

10 October 2013

The fund got a boost yesterday at the Scottish Government’s International Climate Justice Conference when First Minister Alex Salmond announced a new pledge of £3 million. This follows a previous allocation of £3 million that helps communities in Malawi and Zambia adapt to climate change through projects in the water sector.

The challenges now are for Scotland to both demonstrate that the fund truly meets its goals, and to use it to attract further resources from the private sector and other sources. This is important as it could enable Scotland to show other nations – and the designers of the Green Climate Fund under the UN Framework Convention for Climate — how to dramatically increase climate finance availability and ensure that investments deliver climate justice.

Scotland’s commitment

The Ministers of the Scottish Government at the meeting stressed their commitment to climate justice as national and international policy priorities. They are proud of Scotland’s ambitious climate legislation, which commits the country to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 42 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, and 80 per cent below by 2050. Legislation is in place. The monitoring of emissions from different sectors will attest to how well the country reduces them.

Meanwhile, the projects the Scottish fund has supported so far must be assessed to see whether they overcome the adaptation deficit, and how well they meet the climate justice criteria. To do this the projects must recognise the needs of the climate-vulnerable poor, ensure vulnerable groups participate in decision making on climate mitigation and adaptation, and distribute finance and other benefits equitably.

Delegates at the conference were in broad agreement with these imperatives. Now with an additional £3m in the Climate Justice Fund Scotland can adopt a more ambitious and innovative approach, which I outline in a policy brief I prepared for the conference.

As Alex Salmond himself recognises, the £6 million fund is "a drop in the ocean" compared to the finance the least developed countries need to adapt to the impacts of climate change. This is where the private sector can get involved.

Boosting private sector contributions

Globally, private sector investments have made huge contributions to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, but are largely failing to address the costs imposed on developing countries of adapting to climate change and achieving resilience.  

For this to change, the private sector will need scalable mechanisms with low transaction costs. Developments in Scotland’s Climate Justice Fund — proposed in this paper — could enable private sector contributions and ensure they have significant outcomes.

This could include finance (loans, risk share, grants, etc.) from institutions such a pension funds as well as technology, training and international collaboration from businesses. Scotland’s thriving renewable energy sector and expertise in the water sector are among the obvious contenders to participate.

Conference delegates from the private sector acknowledged that they have to learn about climate change and realise their responsibilities in contributing to climate justice. They said they want governments to set ambitious targets for reducing emissions and to create enabling policy frameworks and investments in business models that can contribute to climate justice.

There is much work to do before climate justice can develop from a philanthropic concept into a practical and pragmatic framework that actors from all sectors can rally around and contribute to.

The fact that Scotland is addressing climate justice in a way that streamlines approaches to international development and climate change resonates well with what the UN High-Level Panel on the post-2015 development agenda recommends. It is up to Scotland now to show how well it achieves this.

Simon Anderson is head of the climate change group at IIED.

Watch a video message Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond recorded at the International Climate Justice Conference.


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