“When we started, climate change was for outsiders”
Interview with Roberto Ridolfi
Director for Planet and Prosperity at EuropeAid
This year will be an important anniversary for GCCA+…
When we started 10 years ago, the Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) was a new initiative – nobody knew, nobody was linking climate change to improving livelihoods, at the time climate change was something for outsiders… But I came from the Pacific – I was Ambassador in the Pacific from to 2005 to 2007 so I knew very well what climate change was. For some people it was a matter of life or death, for others it was a question of survival, while for many it was an issue of economic empowerment.
So, what happened?
The main effort 10 years ago was to mainstream climate change methodologies in everyday development programmes. Incorporation of climate change into daily practice introduced a cultural shift to the European Commission, in the way we organise our partners. At the beginning, partners were reluctant; they said: “What we need is roads and infrastructure – forget about climate change”.
In 2007, the European Union first proposed to launch a global alliance with those developing countries that were most vulnerable to climate change. By focusing on the Least Developed Countries (LDC) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), the alliance offered an opportunity for dialogue and concrete cooperation. The decision to deliberately target SIDS was pioneering amongst the international donor community at the time.
What has changed over these 10 years?
Today, the EU and its Member States have assumed a leading role on climate finance and since the Paris Agreements everybody has been talking about climate change. What has changed is that people listen more. The difficulties are the same, the problems are the same as 10 years ago, perhaps even worse, but people are more aware and money is more available. In the EU, at least 20 % of the 2014-2020 budget – as much as EUR 180 billion – will be bookmarked for climate-change-related actions, EUR 14 billion of which is expected to be spent on the EU’s development policy and related countries. For the GCCA+ in particular, commitments total EUR 780 million for the period 2007-2020.
Where is GCCA+ now?
GCCA now has a lot of methodologies, a lot of success stories, many countries have joined it and we have been able to step into ‘GCCA+’. Today, GCCA+ has 61 projects in more than 50 countries.
Today, many countries we have worked with have stronger policy frameworks and strategies to tackle climate change. Successes are shared, scaled up and duplicated in new countries or regions. GCCA+ has created a platform for ‘actors of change’ and strong advocacy networks, as well as contributing to negotiating powers for SIDS.
What is the most striking example of climate change you have witnessed?
I think it is soil deterioration, especially in semi-arid East Africa countries: soil desertification in Ethiopia, in Northern Uganda, in Sudan, in South Sudan and in West North Kenya. I saw the soil degrading so much that it’s now becoming a desert. And that is a big lesson and a big challenge.
Is there a particular success story you would like to mention?
I have seen wonderful small but scalable projects on biodiversity. I do believe in agro-biodiversity as a significant driver for change. If agro-biodiversity becomes a funding principle for the food industry on the planet we will see a massive change.
What is the biggest challenge in the years ahead?
Commitments were made two years ago in Paris to limit the effects of climate change. It is still under discussion whether they will be sufficient to reach the development path decided by the international community. The next Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report will be key to providing the necessary information on the efforts needed to stay on the 2 °C path, or the more desirable 1.5 °C goal.
And your wish for the very near future?
I would like to see climate change included in school curricula. This is something islanders, SIDS, are starting to do, because for them it’s survival. But they must become more proactive so that the new generation of citizens becomes not only aware of climate change but capable of taking action and of being engaged in the fight against climate