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The need for LDC leadership in driving adaptation action in a post-COVID world

Date: 21 July 2020
Cecilia Silva Bernardo

I have been working on climate change in my home country of Angola for the past ten years.  I don’t know how I fell in love with climate adaptation – the process of preparing and adjusting to actual and expected climate changes – but something drew me to it.

In December 2016, the Least Developed Countries Group elected me to represent them on the Adaptation Committee, the international body tasked with promoting the implementation of enhanced adaptation action.  I am now a Co-Chair of the Committee at a time when the world faces two crises: climate change and the COVID pandemic.

The climate crisis means that every society must adapt.  I know from my work in Angola that the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are already acting.  The main problem I see with international cooperation is conflicting understandings of what “results on adaptation” are, which is exacerbated by two other problems: miscategorising and a lack of means.

The adaption problem

LDCs don’t often identify our development actions as adaptation, even though they’re working to build low carbon, climate resilient economies.  The money used to fund this work is often our own investment from national budgets.  This means that when we’re asked to identify national adaptation needs, we don’t know how to separate or we can’t separate them from our development goals.

Then comes the problem of finance.  The LDCs are not getting the international funds that were put in place for adaptation action not only because delineating adaptation from national development needs is complex, but also because accessing these funds is difficult for many different reasons that LDCs cannot overcome alone. There must be joint efforts and interest in overcoming the challenges to reach success.  Discussions on how to improve finance access should be open and not politized.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) for example, is the most difficult fund for LDCs to access.  Efforts to clarify and simplify access procedures need to extend to how the GCF works with accredited agencies supporting the LDCs as well.

The challenge of COVID

At the Adaptation Committee for example, we work to develop tangible and technical recommendations about how countries can progress adaptation actions, capacities and finance.  This means navigating the different priorities across the world. But the COVID crisis makes these conversations more difficult.  We’ve had to adapt to.

The Adaptation Committee typically meets in person over the course of four days.  In March, we held our first virtual meeting.  Zoom discussions allowed us to discuss some technical work, but to really make progress and agree recommendations that will land in the UN climate change negotiations takes time and face-to-face interaction.  It is likely that we won’t be able to meet in person soon, but we will not stop our work since Parties don’t have the luxury of time.

What we can do

If we wait for the international community, even though they are responsible for the climate crisis, we will not survive.  The LDCs must advance.  If we lay down, we will not move forward.  What we bring from the international community should add to our efforts, which are already taking shape at national level and through Group initiatives like the LDC Initiative for Effective Adaptation and Resilience (LIFE-AR).

We also need to prepare next generation for this fight.  It will not end soon.  The LDC Group must continue to proactively capacitate and retain new, strong negotiators.  I was once asked if I came to the climate negotiations to make the lives of the LDC negotiating partners difficult because I passionately defend our positions.

I came to the climate negotiations to save my life.

It is that energy, emotion, and revolutionary spirit that LDC negotiators new and old must carry if we are to survive.


Cecilia Silva Bernardo is the Director for Cooperation of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Environment of the Republic of Angola. She has been involved in negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change since 2015. Cecilia is currently a member of the Adaptation Committee of the Convention in representation of the LDCs.


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