Climate can't crowd out social projects - U.N.

Responding to the escalating climate crisis should not come at the exclusion of funding health, education and justice initiatives, the United Nations' Resident Coordinator in Samoa says.  

Simona Marinescu noted that, in 2018, nearly 80 per cent of the U.N.’s US$29.7 (T$80.6) million budget for projects in Samoa went towards climate change and environment work.

And while managing the ongoing effects of climate change is costly and urgent, Ms. Marinescu argues other social issues plaguing countries such as Samoa cannot be left underfunded. 

“We cannot make a transformation if the social agenda remains unfunded or not sufficiently funded," she said. 

Part of the reason for the imbalance in funding, she said, is that specific “vertical funds” have been established to finance climate change related projects and those are funded and replenished every year. 

After its most recent replenishment conference in October, the Green Climate Fund has an endowment of US$9.78 billion over the next four years for climate adaptation and mitigation work. 

The Global Environment Facility’s fund for 2018-2022 was replenished by US$4.1 billion, while the Adaptation Fund has received an additional US$720 million since 2010 climate change related projects.

Meanwhile, funding for social projects, such as improving healthcare, education, access to justice have been dropping over the last few years, Ms. Marinescu says.

“Because the climate change agenda is so visible and there is so much noise around it those funds collect money, but how about the rest?," she said. 

“We need to ensure that while we protect people against extreme weather and climate related hazards we also understand they may die of non-communicable disease or poverty, or face injustice.”

To address this, the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General established the Sustainable Development Goals fund in 2014, which today holds approximately US$70 million in its coffers to fund work in 23 countries. 

It is specifically intended to help countries realise the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, and while several of those relate to climate change and environment, many do not.

“We do understand that dealing with climate change and the environment is very costly so we appreciate those vertical funds very, very much,” Ms. Marinescu said.

“But the S.D.G Fund prioritised the first round of disbursement around social protection because this is about people [and] to ensure we do have matching funds to the social agenda with what is available for climate and environment.”

In Samoa, US$1 million went towards getting youth into organic farming and cooking through a U.N. Development Programme (U.N.D.P.) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (I.F.A.D.) project from 2015 until 2018.

According to the project’s final report, 574 youth, 1027 farmers, one civil servant, 137 children, 30 businesses, and 61 non-government organisations benefited directly from the project.

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