EBRD acts on adaptation to climate change

By Craig  Davies

The EBRD continues to boost international partnerships supporting adaptation, with its recent accreditation as an implementing entity of the Adaptation Fund. The Fund was established under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to promote effective adaptation projects in developing economies. The accreditation is particularly timely; in a new report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) has issued its starkest warning yet of the severe challenges faced by countries worldwide as they adapt to a changing and more variable climate.

The report, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability (Summary for Policymakers), which forms part of the IPPC’s Fifth Assessment Report, describes the threat of climate change as "severe, pervasive and irreversible", with severe implications for the health, homes, food and safety of people around the world.

The EBRD region remains vulnerable to the threats posed by climate change. In June last year, the Danube basin suffered extreme flooding caused by rainfall described as a “one in 100 year event”. A devastating heat wave in Russia during the summer of 2010 brought economic losses estimated at US$15 billion. The EBRD region includes some of the countries with the worst water shortages on earth, such as Jordan. It also encompasses other vulnerable countries such as Turkey, where water stress has intensified at an alarming rate over the past few decades.

In response, starting in 2010 the EBRD began supporting adaptation to climate change in the countries where it invests. This approach complemented the Bank’s Sustainable Energy Initiative (SEI), which invests in renewables, energy efficiency and the reduction of carbon emissions. Since 2010, the Bank has provided €424 million of climate change adaptation finance through 78 projects in 20 countries. In 2012, the Bank’s SEI formally introduced climate change adaptation as a strategic direction, and reinforced this with the launch of the Sustainable Resources Initiative in May 2013. Projects in this field have included water supply improvements, industrial water efficiency and climate-resilient infrastructure.

For example, the North Tajikistan Water Project upgraded the water supply systems of seven Tajik cities, making them more resilient to shifts in climatic conditions. The EBRD has now replicated this approach in many climate-vulnerable countries. Other adaptation projects have introduced water-efficient technologies to agri-processing firms in countries such as Romania and Ukraine, which are expected to experience increasing water scarcity.

The Bank continues to engage with emerging climate-finance mechanisms established by the international community, such as the Climate Investment Funds and the Global Environment Facility, channelling their resources into practical projects that help businesses and communities become more resilient to variable and extreme weather.

Looking ahead, the EBRD is also developing upgrades to hydropower dams that take into account projected climatic variability. In addition, the Bank is investing in projects designed to help ports cope with rising sea-levels, and financing technologies that help businesses and households deal with with extreme weather through improvements in water, energy and resource efficiency.

The IPCC assessment follows a year in which extreme weather has barely been out of the headlines. Media attention has fuelled debate about how long-term climate change influences weather patterns. Politicians, climate scientists, the media and the public have argued passionately over the influence of greenhouse gas emissions on fluctuations in our weather systems.

With the IPPC report stating that dramatic and swift action is required to tackle the threats posed by a rapidly changing climate, and the prospect of a more variable and unpredictable climate looming large across the EBRD region, the Bank’s practical approach to financing tangible climate resilience improvements to infrastructure, assets and operations across a wide range of sectors is more pertinent than ever.