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Premium Conversations | Adaptation finance will be key part of COP27: CDRI DG

New Delhi: Adaptation finance will be on top of the upcoming United Nations (UN) Climate Conference, Conference of the Parties (COP27) agenda at Sharm El-Sheikh in November according to Amit Prothi, director general, Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI). CDRI, which was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the UN Climate Action Summit in 2019, has 39 members including 31 national governments will be launching a trust fund at COP27 to call for finance for adaptation to climate change. Excerpts from the interview:

Q. What do you think will be the major issues on the COP27 agenda?

A. The COP 27 champion, Mahmoud Mohieldin visited us last week (The role of a High-Level Champion was created in 2015 at COP21 to help realise the ambitions of governments to lower carbon emissions). We discussed that this COP will be about solutions and mainly implementation, particularly around adaptation. CDRI is bringing two major initiatives. One is a continuation of the Infrastructure for Resilient Island States (IRIS) work that was announced last year. We will be launching a call for proposals on how to build resilience in the island states at COP this year. We have had some consultations in the Caribbean, in the Pacific and the Indian Ocean region on this. Based on what small island states are articulating as their needs, we will be calling for solutions. It’s about continuing what PM Modi had promised in Glasgow.

The second one is: We are working on a flagship report on the state of global infrastructure resilience at a country level. This would involve the kind of hazards countries are likely to face. The report itself will come out next year but at the COP we will have a panel to talk about the methodology and need for such a report. CDRI will be releasing this report on a biennial basis.

Q. Is money actually coming through for adaptation work?

A. We are in the process of setting up a trust fund. This is something that is already in the CDRI charter. At COP27 we will launch the CDRI multi-donor trust fund. That fund will essentially be the place where the commitments of different governments will be received. The agreement is that these commitments will come in as grants and support technical work in vulnerable countries. There is no provision for repayment of this money. So, they are not loans. Over the last year, India has committed 400 crores (~US$ 50 million) towards programmatic support apart from other funding for CDRI Secretariat etc; the UK has committed US$ 10 million towards corpus funding to IRIS and £1 million towards biennial report and organization policies; Australia has committed AU$ 10 million (~US$ 7 million) towards corpus funding to IRIS; European Union: € 5 million (~US$ 5 million) towards IRIS; Netherlands: € 1 lakh (~US$ 97000); US has supported in kind through technical support on strengthening CDRI secretariat and EU, France, Germany, Australia have also promised support through secondment of manpower resources.

Q. Will you be raising the issue of adaptation finance at COP27?

A. Yes. All of this technical capacity-building work that CDRI is doing doesn’t make any sense unless there is finance for it. When you map where financing is going for climate work, 90% is going towards mitigation. Only 10% or even less is going towards adaptation. There is also little work on how the private sector should come in to adaptation work and what should be the model of finance. We want to work on designing adaptation projects that can attract more financing.

Q. Will you be voicing your opinion on finance for climate reparations or “loss and damage”?

A. For CDRI, loss and damage and adaptation are separate issues. Loss and Damage is a political discussion and there are negotiations happening on a country level. CDRI is an international body with members from different countries and country types, our preference is not to enter this discussion. Where we come in strongly is: How does one support adaptation? This is because adaptation needs are increasing.

If you read the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports and study the recent extreme events, climate variability and disasters are increasing Some of these are attributed to climate change while some are attributed to other factors. Urban development patterns, for example, may be contributing to flooding which may or may not have anything to do with climate change. We want to focus on how infrastructure is at risk from extreme weather events like heat wave spells, extreme floods or intense cyclones.

Q. What is your take on the Pakistan floods in August? They also lost critical infrastructure due to extreme monsoonal rain.

A. Let me put it this way. When we look at the amount of infrastructure we will be building, we need to build something like 20 new Mumbais worth of development by 2050 in India. So, while we are investing in infrastructure how do we build it in a way that we are not adding risk to the system? That will be critical. How do we ensure that the new infrastructure that will be built is not being built in areas that are risk prone? There is a third part also on how can you build infrastructure where you can reduce costs. For example, costal protection can be taken up through hard infrastructure versus a combination of hard and softer infrastructure like mangroves with sea walls, the cost calculations can be vastly different.

Q. What work is CDRI doing to make critical infrastructure in India resilient?

A. We have started some work on this in Odisha. Given climate change, changing wind patterns and intense cyclones, whether the power infrastructure is able to withstand those wind speeds. Early findings suggest there is a way to improving the robustness of the system based on an understanding of the risk. There are some places in Odisha for instance we are suggesting that the transmission lines be taken underground. These are mostly coastal areas which are affected by cyclones. This is an ongoing study and all the results are not yet out. We discuss with relevant government entity to understand their need and then develop terms of reference and then we give the work to a consultant.

CDRI doesn’t do the in-house, technical work but we are actually the intermediary between governments and the service providers on resilience building. Once the Odisha work is done we are going to work with other states on the resilience of power infrastructure. We have also just started some work on telecom sector resilience where we are trying to understand the assets and the network system. So, if there is a risk from extreme events to telecom assets then how is the network going to handle that? We are starting the telecom work in 5 states. The learning from these projects will also be taken to our member countries.

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