Supporting the fight against climate change in vulnerable countries

Climate change is one of the biggest threats of our time. The 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development (and its Sustainable Development Goals) and the Paris Agreement make it clear that tackling climate change is a global key priority.

Farmers in Malawi study climate-smart agriculture

Climate change is an economic as well as an environmental threat. Research1 suggests that effective adaptation and mitigation could cost EUR 18 trillion by 2050 - but that is considerably less than the cost of doing nothing, put at EUR 29 trillion.2 We are notably under-estimating the benefits of strong climate action and the real benefits of low-carbon climate-resilient development in terms of new jobs, economic savings, market opportunities, and improved well-being for people worldwide, including avoiding 700,000 premature deaths from air pollution3. It could deliver at least EUR 22 trillion in economic benefits through to 2030, compared with business as usual. By taking action now, we could halve the macroeconomic impacts of climate change by 2060.4 In addition to the economic aspects, fighting climate change is also pivotal to reduce poverty, prevent conflict and address the migration challenge.

Climate change can only be addressed at a global scale and is hence a key priority for the EU not only within our own borders, but also in our cooperation with third countries. This is strongly reflected in the new European Consensus on Development.

In the EU's current budget spending plan – the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) –– the EU has put as target that 20% of its expenditures should be climate-related. If looking at expenditures for our development cooperation specifically, the numbers are good: current trends are moving from 10.3% of expenditures climate change related in 2014 to 25.5% in 2017. In the context of the current negotiations of the next MFF (for the period 2021-2027), it is clear that climate change will continue to be a key priority for the EU for the foreseeable future.

But how do these commitments and numbers translate into concrete actions? This is where the EU flagship initiative – the Global Climate Change Alliance+ (GCCA+) – this year celebrating its 10th Anniversary – comes in to the picture.

The GCCA was born in 2008. The focus was then – as it is now – on the most vulnerable, the ones with the smallest carbon footprint who at the same time suffer the most from climate change, namely Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Starting with just four pilot projects, the programme is today funding close to 70 support actions in more than 60 countries, including 37 LDCs and 36 SIDS across Africa, Asia, Caribbean and the Pacific.

After a successful first phase, GCCA was continued for a second phase and upgraded in 2015 to reflect the Paris Agreement. The budget for the GCCA’s first phase (2007-2013) was EUR 285 million, and the European Union plans a total allocation of EUR 465 million for the second phase (2014-2020). The initiative contributed to the implementation of over 50 national climate change strategies, 26 UNFCCC related strategies and programmes and 20 awareness campaigns in over 50 countries. In addition, GCCA+ interventions have also contributed to the restoration of protective forests in eight countries (Bangladesh, Benin, Eastern Caribbean, Mauritius, Suriname, Gambia, Cape Verde, Mozambique); Early Warning Systems for climate related natural hazards in five countries (Bangladesh, Benin, Lesotho, Ethiopia, Cape Verde) and in the Pacific Region; promotion of efficient and clean cooking stoves in seven countries (Djibouti, Guinea Bissau, Lesotho, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda); and enhanced access to climate change financing in 20 countries.

The Chakma family in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh

However, it is easy to lose sight of the human stories behind the facts and figures. The GCCA+ supports developing countries in implementing their adaptation and mitigation strategies (including their Nationally Determined Contributions under the UN Paris Agreement) in line with their development objectives. It also helps countries to mainstream climate change into poverty reduction efforts as well as to increase their resilience to climate-related stresses and shocks while bringing socio-economic benefits. In more concrete terms, it promotes national, regional and global projects and programmes, which help farmers, fishing communities, small businesses and others become climate-resilient and low-carbon. Initiatives range from providing a social safety net for Ethiopian farmers hit by drought to restoring traditional riverbank forests in Benin; from protecting the world-famous tourist beaches of the Seychelles to replanting mangrove swamps in Guyana; from solar-powered water pumps in the Sahel to irrigation schemes in Timor Leste. Later in this newsletter, you will be able to read stories from the field from GCCA activities in Benin, Liberia and Tanzania. And in a couple of months, the GCCA+ will be in the centre of attention at a side event during COP 24 in Katowice, Poland.

Participants in a capacity-building programme, Timor-Leste

The EU has taken the lead, and the GCCA+ shows that wise use of funding can produce positive results, in particular for the most vulnerable. As we head towards COP24 in Katowice, we reaffirm our commitment to work together with all our partners to boost economic development through climate financing, build resilience, and reduce emissions so as to achieve the objectives of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement.

Marjeta Jager
Deputy Director General
Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development
European Commission


1 From the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

3 Global Commission on Economy and Climate - Climate Economy report 2018