Much climate action focuses on cutting carbon emissions. But some effects of climate change are already happening, with often disastrous consequences. Projects that adapt people and places to these climate impacts are vital to the fight against global warming. This climate change adaptation doesn’t get as much media attention as electric cars, solar energy or wind farms, but it is just as important.
Adaptation involves infrastructure, such as stronger bridges to withstand floods, new offices that use less energy or better roads that don’t wash away in storms. It can mean the simple addition of air conditioning in schools in Asia, or be as complicated as installing storm-drain systems throughout an African city. Adaptation ranges from agriculture and education, to healthcare and water supply, to countering desertification and coastal erosion.
Island states or vulnerable regions in Asia and Africa need special assistance adapting, because they will be hurt most by climate change. They already suffer from rising sea levels, wildfires and more devastating storms.
“Adaptation helps people avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” says Nancy Saich, chief climate change expert at the European Investment Bank. “But this work is not easy, so we are working more with our clients to understand their vulnerability to climate change and how we can help them take measures to build up their climate resilience.”
More technical help and more money
Across the globe, countries and cities are starting projects to prepare for the effects of climate change. Many of these projects need technical help and much more financing to succeed.
In Laos, flooded roads cause huge problems every year. Landslides and flooding in the country cause frequent road closures that can last several weeks, preventing people from getting food at the market or visiting the doctor, while children often can’t attend school. The government is improving 1 400 kilometres of roads in rural areas to fight flooding and to repair damage from previous rains. The new roads will be stronger, use better materials and have improved drainage to reduce the number of road closures during bad rainstorms.
“Developing countries are vulnerable because repairs and designs are not always based on extreme weather predictions, and the construction standards may be low because of budget constraints,” says Meryn Martens, a senior transport specialist at the European Investment Bank.
The European Investment Bank signed a €20 million loan in 2018 and a €100 million loan in 2019 to help Laos build these new roads, better signs, footpaths, pedestrian crossings and lighting. The investment will help more than 1.6 million people. “This project will benefit communities across Laos,” says Kikeo Chanthaboury, vice minister of planning and investment for the country.
You can find more information about the climate adaptation project in Laos in our Climate solutions essay.
A similar adaptation project in the Dominican Republic is rebuilding roads and other infrastructure damaged by a hurricane in 2016 and flash floods in 2017. This project aims to build 1 100 affordable houses, 55 kilometres of roads and four kilometres of flood-prevention infrastructure. The project will also help communities integrate climate adaptation into municipal planning. The European Investment Bank signed a $50 million loan for this project in July 2019, and the European Union provided a €20 million grant. Across the island in Haiti, the European Investment Bank approved a €25 million loan in April 2019 to rebuild roads and bridges destroyed by Hurricane Matthew. This project will also receive an EU grant.
Increased water shortages
Water is another important adaptation issue. Lesotho, for example, is experiencing extended droughts and increased water shortages because of climate change. Many people in this African country do not have access to safe water and often have to walk for hours just to reach drinking water. One project in the country’s lowlands, where about two-thirds of the population lives, is improving access to potable water and sanitation. The project will improve river intake systems, water treatment plants, transmission pipes and pumping stations. The European Investment Bank approved an €82 million loan in 2019 for this project.
The EIB also supports innovative investment funds that are tackling adaptation challenges. A new fund called CRAFT, the Climate Resilience and Adaptation Finance & Technology Transfer Facility, is developing new technologies and specialised services to help developing countries address droughts, bad weather, disease, wind and solar energy. The European Investment Bank invested $30 million in CRAFT and also deployed €5 million via the Luxembourg-EIB Climate Finance Platform as risk capital that catalyses more money by drawing in private investors.
Adaptation is, in fact, a good example of how the European Investment Bank’s development work enables it to share European knowledge and innovation, while also advising on projects that are tailor-made for developing countries.