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Grants Help Three Countries Battle Climate Change

November 11, 2010

  • Niger, Tajikistan and Bangladesh each receive $50 million in grants to pilot climate resilience strategies.
  • Countries are first to participate in the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience, part of the Climate Investment Funds, a global partnership.
  • Grants will be used to protect people and land in low-lying regions; prepare for changing weather patterns; and fight drought and increase food security in drought-affected regions.

November 11, 2010—Three countries highly vulnerable to climate change—Bangladesh, Tajikistan and Niger—will each receive $50 million in grants to pilot climate resilience strategies and integrate climate risk into their economic plans, a multinational committee decided yesterday.

The countries will be the first to participate in the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR) under the auspices of the $6.4 billion Climate Investment Funds (CIF), created in 2008 to finance renewable energy, clean technology, efficient mass transit in cities, forest preservation, and climate resilience. The funds’ partners—donor countries, funding recipients, and five multilateral development banks—are meeting in Washington this week to take stock of progress toward these goals.

It was very important that we managed to approve the first three investment programs under the pilot program on climate resilience,” said PPCR Committee Co-Chair Christoffer Bertelsen, chief adviser, minister counsellor in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark.

We hope that this will set an example and show the outside world that the Climate Investment Funds is doing a great job in order to move ahead on climate change activities.”

North Africa Solar Power Could Prove 'Transformational'

Several countries in the Middle East and North Africa are moving swiftly to tap an energy source more abundant than the region's vast oil reserves--the sun.

Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Jordan plan to build concentrated solar power plants to supply their own energy needs and help meet demand for renewable energy in Europe. By 2020, solar power capacity in the countries could reach 5 gigawatts, according to a progress report to be presented on Friday to the Clean Technology Fund (CTF) Committee during the meeting of the Climate Investment Funds in Washington.

Since last December, the countries have scaled up an already “ambitious” program to be “something more transformational,” says Jonathan Walters, director of regional strategy and programs for the World Bank's Middle East and North Africa region.

The first project in the program to go online--in 2014--will be the first phase of Morocco's 500 MW Ouarzazate plant, expected to be largest concentrated solar power plant in the world.

Other such solar plants will be clustered in the region, helping to drive down technology costs and launch a globally important climate change mitigation technology. The Ain Beni Mathar solar plant in Morocco is already supplying electricity to the grid.

The CTF committee oversees $4.3. billion in grants and concessional financing and last December endorsed a plan that would allow these Middle East and North African countries to reduce CO2 emissions by about 1.8 million tons a year, while enhancing energy security and forming closer economic ties with Europe through renewable energy exports.

The sheer size of the Ouarzazate project and commitment from the Moroccan side has really changed the whole tone and nature of what's going on in the region,” says Walters.

Buffering Coastal Areas in Bangladesh

Bangladesh has suffered a high proportion of the world’s deadliest cyclones and is ranked one of the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world. Its $50 million in CIF grants and another $60 million in concessional loans will support one of the country’s top priorities: protecting people and land in low-lying coastal regions, says Maria Sarraf, PPCR task team leader and a senior environmental economist for the World Bank’s South Asia region.

Bangladesh has experienced natural disasters, whether cyclones, storm surges or flooding, for a long time, so when climate change threatened to make things worse, the government took action very promptly,” she says.

Of the grant money, $25 million will be used to leverage much larger investments to shore up the coastal embankment to be higher and better constructed to withstand cyclones and storm surges. The program, to be managed by the World Bank, will also likely use $300 million from the International Development Association, the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries.

The project is expected to develop a long-term plan for the country’s coastal embankment and begin in about a year.

Another $25 million grant, along with $50 million in concessional lending, will supplement $215 million in financing from the Asian Development Bank for a water supply and sanitation project in the coastal area.

A third $3 million grant and $10 million in concessional financing will encourage farmers in the coastal area to plant crops that are resilient to changes in weather. This project will be managed by the International Finance Corporation.

Building Climate Knowledge and Resilience in Tajikistan

Tajikistan’s $50 million in grants will be used to prepare for changing weather patterns. The country was found in a 2009 World Bank study, Adapting to Climate Change in Europe and Central Asia, to be most climate-vulnerable country in the region and one of the least able to adapt. Glaciers melting and the risk of drought and flooding are projected to increase in coming decades.

Tajikistan’s Soviet-era infrastructure “does not have the capacity to deal with the variability we now see in the climate, let alone what the future would hold,” says Ron Hoffer, a multilateral development bank coordinator for the Tajikistan program and a lead environmental specialist at the World Bank.

The CIF grants will boost six proposed projects aimed at improving Tajikistan’s disaster preparedness and ability to respond to climate change. The projects are backed by the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and the European Development Bank and will tackle big gaps in climate data collection and weather forecasting, while bolstering the capability of key sectors to respond to projected climate change.

Major goals include development of early warning systems, protection against climate impacts for existing energy services, including renewables such as hydropower and water management, land management practices that promote sustainable agriculture, and building resilience in vulnerable ecosystems such as in the Pyanj River Basin.

The pilot program has already played a key role in kickstarting efforts in Tajikistan, says Hoffer.

The PPCR has provided the first forum for stakeholders and the government to focus on the adaptation issue,” he says.  “The $50 million in grants is a significant contribution that would go a long way in dealing with this enormous challenge. It has been an enormous amount of work but also very satisfying to be able to see all development partners working together on this critical issue.”

Niger: The Race Against Hunger and Desertification

In Niger, the $50 million grant is an important step in the country's battle against the encroaching desert and drought, says Taoufiq Bennouna, a senior natural resource management specialist from the World Bank.

Niger is one of the countries most hard hit by climate change,” says Bennouna. “Most of the agriculture is rain-fed, and with lack of rain, crop yields are poor. Niger has had seven droughts in the last 40 years, and this year's drought has brought famine to several regions of the country.”

Niger's grant and an additional $60 million in concessional financing will support projects and programs to improve climate resilience and food security, with special focus on gender and the most vulnerable groups. The strategy calls for mainstreaming climate resilience into development strategies; expanding sustainable land management initiatives and integrating them into planning and budgeting processes; updating the quality of weather and climate information and making it publicly available; and improving monitoring and evaluation methodologies.

The ultimate goal is to help Niger achieve its development and poverty reduction goals,” says Bennouna.

The climate resilience pilot program is part of the $1.9 billion Strategic Climate Fund, which administers programs financing forest preservation and renewable energy in low-income countries. Six additional countries (Bolivia, Cambodia, Mozambique, Nepal, Yemen and Zambia) and two regions (Caribbean and South Pacific) are currently working toward joining the climate resilience pilot program and are developing strategic plans.