One Fund to Rule Them All – Consolidating Adaptation Finance in the Cancun Green Climate Fund

In August 2010, floodwaters swamped one fifth of Pakistan.[1]  Twenty million people fled their homes[2] to escape rivers swollen by torrential monsoon rains.[3]  Pakistan’s lead climate negotiator speculated that this perfect storm, which produced twelve feet of rainfall within one week (compared to a norm of three feet per year), demonstrated the devastating effects of climate change on vulnerable developing countries.[4]  Going forward, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (“IPCC”) predicts extreme heat and rains akin to those in Pakistan will become increasingly frequent.[5]  A recent report issued by the International Energy Agency suggests that global entrenchment of carbon-intensive energy infrastructure could cause irreversible climate change within five years.[6]  The failure to extend or replace the obligatory emissions reductions for willing countries, contained in the Kyoto Protocol,[7] heightens the risk that we will hit the point of no return.  Consequently, Pakistan will not be the last tragedy on this scale.  Further climate change cannot be avoided[8] and will cause Pakistan-type devastation again.[9]

As the likelihood of an imminent successor to the Kyoto Protocol dims,[10] the international community should focus on adapting to a changing climate.  The policy of adaptation attempts to minimize the deleterious effects of climate change[11] by strengthening vulnerable countries’ capacity to withstand the heavy rains, flooding, extended drought, or other extreme weather that will become more common with continuing climate change.[12]  An emblematic proposal for an adaptation project in Tanzania addresses specific effects of climate change by raising and rehabilitating sea walls, improving flood and storm drainage systems, and bolstering drinking water infrastructure.[13]  It also addresses more nebulous consequences by including transfers of technology to make livelihoods more resilient and improves coastal-area management.[14]

Traditionally, the international body addressing climate change, the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (“UNFCCC”), has neglected the issue of adaptation.[15]  Instead, the UNFCCC focused on mitigation measures to reduce carbon emissions––which appeal to developed countries[16]––and starved adaptation of needed financial resources.[17]  Developed countries have not taken the initiative apart from the UNFCCC because adaptation projects do provide the same opportunities for financial gain as mitigation.[18] Insufficient and poorly coordinated funding for adaptation evidences the glaring failure by the international community to raise and deliver adequate resources to the countries most vulnerable to climate change.[19]

To remedy its historic shortcomings, the UNFCCC should consolidate adaptation finance in the new fund created by the Cancun Agreement: the Green Climate Fund.[20]  Routing all financing through the Green Climate Fund will simplify verification of developed countries’ contributions, and the Fund’s structure satisfies developing countries’ demands for greater power in project finance decision-making.  The UNFCCC can then incentivize delivery of financing pledges by (1) establishing a clearinghouse as the forum for bidding on and securing contracts for adaptation projects and (2) granting priority for adaptation-project contracts to countries that fulfill their pledges.[21]  Requiring transactions to go through the clearinghouse will require countries to fulfill their pledge before their domestic firms can access the market.  The firms’ desire to access these projects will increase domestic political pressure on developed countries to participate.

– Samuel Quatromoni, Managing Editor

[1] Nathaniel Gronewald, The Night the River Roared Like A Demon, ClimateWire, Oct. 12, 2010,

[2] Lisa Friedman, After the Flood Vulnerability Drives Pakistan’s Position, ClimateWire,

[3] Carlotta Gall, Floodwaters Threatening the South of Pakistan, N.Y. Times, Aug. 20, 2010,

[4] See Friedman, supra note 2; see also Ricky Rood, A Climate Case Disaster Case Study, Weather Underground (Aug. 17, 2010, 6:18 AM), (professor at the University of Michigan’s Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Science stating “[w]e have, here, harsh, brutish reality . . . .  We have here a case study of a climate disaster”).

[5] See Working Grp. I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, The Physical Sci. Basis 15 (Susan Solomon et al., eds. 2007).

[6] Fiona Harvey, World Headed for Irreversible Climate Change in Five Years, IEA Warns, The Guardian, Nov. 9, 2011,

[7] See id.

[8] See id.

[9] See Rood, supra note 4.

[10] See Harvey, supra note 6.

[11] Glossary of Climate Change Acronyms,, (last visited Mar. 6, 2011).

[12] See Working Grp. I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, supra note 5.

[13] Request for Project/Programme Funding From Adaptation Fund by Republic of Tanzania,

[14] Id.

[15] See Arunhaba Ghosh & Ngaire Woods, Developing Country Concerns about Climate Finance Proposals, in Climate Finance 157, 159 (Richard Stewart et al., eds. 2009).

[16] See Roger Pielke, Jr., The Case for a Sustainable Climate Policy: Why Costs and Benefits Must Be Temporally Balanced, 155 U.Pa L. Rev. 1843, 1853–54 (2007).

[17] Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Cancun, Mex., Nov. 29–Dec. 10, 2010, Outcome of the Work of the Ad-hoc Working Group on Long Term Cooperative Action under the Convention, FCCC/CP/2010/7/Add.1, available at [hereinafter Cancun Agreement].

[18] Jessica Ayers et al., Global Adaptation Governance beyond 2012: Developing Country Perspectives, in Global Climate Governance Beyond 2012 at 270, 274 (Frank Bierman et al., eds. 2010); see also Hugh Bredenkamp & Catherine Pattillo, IMF, Financing the Response to Climate Change 7 (IMF Staff Position Note 2010) (“Resources for mitigation, by contrast, can be expected to yield some positive return, and hence the related financing could take the form of loans.”).

[19] Richard Stewart et al., Climate Finance for Limiting Emissions and Promoting Green Development, in Climate Finance 3, 17 (Richard Stewart et al., eds. 2009).

[20] See id. ¶¶ 13, 100.

[21] This proposal is fully fleshed out in my note, Samuel P. Quatromoni, Note, One Fund to Rule Them All: Consolidating Adaptation Finance in the Green Climate Fund.

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