The New Face of Climate Leadership

Op-Ed / Opinion | 16 March 2010

Later this week, when government policymakers, civil society, and climate experts gather in Manila for a Global Forum on Climate Investment, they will find a new partner joining those countries leading efforts for climate action. The Philippines is not only providing a host site at the Asian Development Bank for the meeting; it is one of the first developing countries to introduce transformational policies linking energy and low-carbon development with a solidly funded plan to implement them.

The Philippines is a "low carbon" economy with much of its power generated from renewable sources, and the government's vision is to keep renewable energy as a cornerstone of the national energy mix. Some $250 million in support from the new multilateral Clean Technology Fund (CTF) intends to help the government maintain the country's strong record of low energy intensity and greenhouse gas emissions, while ensuring energy security, and will help reshape the private sector's role in the process by easing the level of investment risk in energy efficiency and clean production. The plan also looks to revolutionize the use of solar energy throughout the country with a net metering plan, and will help introduce Bus Rapid Systems in Cebu and Metro Manila. So the plan helps change the key sectors which are fundamental to people's energy access while it avoids greenhouse gas emissions, greens urban areas, and makes it financially attractive to tap into the sun's power.

With help from the CTF, there has been a small ripple effect throughout Asia, with Thailand and Vietnam also drawing on CTF funds to reshape their citizens' energy future, and at least one other Asian country poised to do so shortly. The country investment plans include a serious leveraging effect: in the Philippines, the CTF money will mobilize up to $2.5 billion for the program from other sources, including the private sector.

From our vantage point in the multilateral development banks, partners in helping countries implement these CTF-funded plans, this bold action on the part of Philippines and other Asian nations is a harbinger of a fundamental shift on climate action around the globe. And the same action is being moved forward in developing countries in every region worldwide.

While developing countries have not been the primary source of climate change caused by explosive consumption and production of fossil-based energy services over the past century, they are taking positive actions to address climate change. As they continue on a path to growth for their citizens, they are making a smart choice to do so in a climate-friendly way that also helps ensure their energy security and improves the quality of energy and transport services for their citizens. This climate- smart approach offers lessons which all countries, including developed countries, can look to model in coming years.

The CTF, in its work to help finance these plans, is uniquely built on an innovative infrastructure molded from partnerships and alliances right across the spectrum of stakeholders, from policymakers to indigenous peoples to private sector entities. Its unique governance structure, which provides equal voice to contributor and recipient countries, also ensures that the funded work is fully owned by the recipient country and is embedded in national development plans. This reflects the early design of the CTF and its companion fund for climate resilience in lower-income countries (the Strategic Climate Fund or SCF). In its conception, designers thought it essential to ensure an equal playing field and broadly scoped voice to make the funds mean something potent and real.

A group of developed nations have pledged over $6 billion to the CTF and SCF, a powerful signal of their serious commitment and support to developing countries in their quest for climate-smart growth and effective climate resilience.

Without resilience-building measures we know that more than 60% of Asia and the Pacific's working population who rely on agriculture for their livelihoods will suffer. Fresh-water availability will fall, irrigation will be come more difficult, and millions more children will go home hungry. The SCF is piloting measures that support better water management and agricultural adaptation measures that can ensure food security for Asia and the world. The potential to replicate alternative approaches to energy and food production can transform development, placing us all on a more stable and sustainable footing.

Nonetheless, we arrive at the Manila meetings sounding a note of caution. As developing countries pick up the climate reins, we must all stand together to ensure their commitment to climate action is supported at the global level. The need is enormous, and so is the funding and knowledge gap. Developed countries must continue to provide financing for investments and knowledge, and a new regime for climate action must emerge. Without such actions, the progress achieved so far cannot be sustained. Together, the global community must test and apply effective ways to combine reducing poverty, providing economic growth, and building a climate-smart greener future.

The meetings in Manila, buoyed by the Philippine climate action, offer an important and welcome glimpse into such a future. At the Asian Development Bank and World Bank, along with our fellow development banks with whom we've joined in a first-time alliance on this issue, we pledge our support to make this future a reality.