by Renato Redentor Constantino

Jakarta, 01 September — The news of men, the concerns. It’s a curious thing.

Elsewhere in the world, three Category 4 typhoons have formed in the Pacific, an unprecedented gathering.

Colorado state hurricane expert Phil Klotzbach pointed to “a couple of big factors [that] have led to the very active Central Pacific season.” Klotzbach said “We’ve had both anomalously warm waters near Hawaii as well as significantly reduced vertical wind shear in that same region.”

The Washington Post also reported “As of this week, El Niño has surpassed the 2 degree Celsius threshold in one of the key regions in the Pacific Ocean – something this region hasn’t done since the most powerful El Niño on record in 1997.”

In Europe, a pageant of ugliness. Doors are slammed, gates are shut, walls are erected to stem the river of Middle East refugees fleeing war – the latest brutal iteration piled on top of dozens of others, the foul legacy of colonialism and, more recently, the harrowing consequence of greenhouse gas emissions from the Richistan republics built on the theft of relics, resources and the atmospheric share of those they conquered.

In East Java, the Indonesian Ulema Council are taking offense and demanding the change of name of a 42-year old Muslim. The man is named “Tujan”, which means “God” in Bahasa Indonesia.

In the capital, Vincent Lingga of the Jakarta Post tells of an “alcohol industry terrified” as the “political process for prohibition advances”. The ban on Indonesian alcohol sales slapped by the Trade Ministry on minimarts slashed sales by 40 percent, and profits are down 47 percent. Politicians pandering to the growing influence of fundamentalists in the vast archipelago have even filed a bill banning the distribution and production of alcoholic drinks containing more than one percent alcohol.

Horrible? Perhaps. But ultimately it’s just hooch for the thirsty. Instead, try to imagine the increasingly restrictive conditions Indonesian women have to bear with.

Imagination is important.

In the Sudirman business district of Jakarta, the Asia-Pacific Regional Forum on Climate Change Finance and Sustainable Development is imagining what exactly will be required to effectively respond to what may just be the most serious challenge ever to face human communities.

From the conference, delegates discussed findings from twenty countries that had undergone Climate Public Expenditure and Institutional Reviews (CPEIR), which provide “a starting point to mainstreaming climate change into the budgeting and planning process.” An interesting insight: so far, most climate expenditures appear to have been funded by domestic sources – 50 to 80 percent is the estimated range – and which takes up around “5-7 percent of total government budgets in most cases.”

It’s an interesting situation. The climate crisis is largely the responsibility of rich countries, yet poor communities have ended up footing the bill. Of course, assigning blame is far easier than having to attend to worsening impacts with coffers and capacity that may not be enough to begin with. But developing countries have little choice other than to respond with what they have.

Tools such as CPEIR nonetheless help decision-makers “improve their understanding of how and how much they are spending on their national climate change responses.” A recent report by the United Nations Development Programme points out the initiative helps “identify the public programmes with climate change objectives or co-benefits in which governments are investing. Importantly, they have provided more robust data and evidence upon which to base policy recommendations and future spending decisions.”

Certainly the day must come when developed nations shoulder their fair share not only in dramatically reducing their emissions but also in shelling out resources that can enable poor communities in developing countries to adapt – and which can compensate, to the extent possible, the irreversible losses and damages certain to be inflicted by climate change.

Budgeting and tagging initiatives are important first steps. The CPEIR initiative itself is a good initiative. But we’re really still in the early days of exploring what is possible, what we’re capable of and in determining what is ultimately within and out of our reach.

The limitations of CPEIR itself, and not just the governments it is engaged with, need urgent attention. For instance, the Review tends to inflate actual allocations. New to the process and the uses of tagging results, the bureaucracy appears to have developed the curious tendency to tag with less than appropriate rigor.

The Review likewise does not appear to consider international sources, which can be reported as well by national government agencies involved in domestic tagging processes. The Review also lacks local perspectives, which can result in mismatches between actual implementation on the ground and reported project designs of, say, adaptation-tagged activities. The Review’s evident lack of familiarity with country structures and policy-making processes, at least in the Philippine case, has also proved problematic.

All in all, the CPEIR represents a mere snapshot of a small section of a great and growing and increasingly more complex climate finance arena. It is a one-off initiative that should have ideally been sustained over a longer period, with domestic institutions playing a verifiably greater progressive role, resulting in governments taking action to institutionalize accountability practices and processes that go beyond tagging and which operationalises the essential role of public involvement and the principle of shared leadership.

Much to do in the near future, no doubt. A lot of work ahead. ###


Originally published in ABS-CBN