The climate talks in Cancun have ended with a formal recognition by nations that further emission cuts are needed, though there was no agreement on the mechanisms required to achieve those cuts. Delegates also endorsed a framework for reducing deforestation and the creation of a new Green Climate Fund for developing nations. This fund will provide 100 million dollars-worth of finance to help poor countries combat the effects of climate change and assist them with low-carbon developments. A senior spokesperson for the International Union for Conservation of Nature group declared “developing countries can now see new money on the table which they can draw on to adapt to the impacts they’re already facing”.
The Green Climate Fund will initially have the World Bank as a trustee, though eventually a new body will be organised to represent both developed and developing nations. However, at this stage it is unclear how the fund’s money will be raised. US officials stated the likeliest source of the income would come from the private sector. Existing schemes set up by charities and private organisations have already shown what can be achieved to help the poorest nations deal with climate risks. One such scheme is run by a pioneering insurance company called MicroEnsure, set up to help farmers in developing countries. Set up by UK entrepreneur Steve Coffey, MicroEnsure offers loans to farmers backed up by insurance. The loans assist farmers to buy seed, fertiliser and other supplies which boost production, but if crops should fail through climate-related disasters such as drought or floods, the insurance element provides a cushion for any bad years. Backed with an initial 24 million dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the company aims to help 500 million small farmers facing increased climate risks and raise them out of poverty within 10 years.
With assistance from the charity World Vision, MicroEnsure schemes have already been operating in drought-prone northern Tanzania. Here, farmers have received insurance-backed loans of around 1,000 dollars per year, which have helped them boost production from five bags of maize per acre to 29 bags in good seasons. Even once the loan, interest and cost of the insurance have been repaid, the Tanzanian farmers have tripled their earnings for each acre of land. The extra money has allowed them to expand and diversify their agriculture, put their children through school and provide savings for lean years. Schemes have also been working in Malawi, Rwanda and the Philippines since 2005. Even where harvests fail as often as every three years, the schemes have proved successful in raising the income level of rural communities. A similar pilot programme trialled by Oxfam with the insurance provider Swiss Re, has also proved effective in Ethiopia.
If insurance-backed loan schemes can be adopted more widely, as well as helping communities adapt to climate change, these programmes could boost agricultural production across the developing world and meet the demands of the world’s growing population. One micro-insurance expert believes such schemes will soon be common in the poorest parts of the world which “have no other solutions”.