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On May 4, 2023, Fair Finance Asia (FFA), Oxfam in Asia, and Seoul National University Asia Center (SNUAC) will conduct a public seminar alongside the 56th Asian Development Bank Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors (ADB AGM) in Incheon, Republic of Korea. Titled, “Towards an Equitable Asia: Climate Finance, Just Transition, and Leverage Points Lens,” this seminar aims to facilitate dialogues around climate adaptation finance, emerging social, environmental, and rights-based considerations with regards to ADB’s Energy Transition Mechanism (ETM), and the paradox of palm oil as leverage points lens for systems framing. These topics will serve as entry points to explore wider socio-political challenges and opportunities towards achieving an ‘Equitable Asia’.
Asia faces a ‘polycrisis’ wherein the climate emergency and extreme inequality mutually reinforce one another: while extreme inequality deepens the climate crisis, the climate crisis fuels ever greater inequalities. Meanwhile, the environmentally unsustainable model of growth and development is causing immense destruction of ecosystems and biodiversity loss.
Calls for an ‘equitable and just’ policy agenda have grown, although the details of this agenda are ambiguous. Questions remain: for example, how can we mobilize “just” finance to address the climate harms faced by communities on the frontlines? How can we transition to renewable energy from fossil fuels in a way that is socially and ecologically just? Or, how can we green the production and consumption of commercial agricultural commodities. Moreover, how do these pressing issues intersect with the agenda of regional financial institutions such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and the multilateral process such as the UN climate talks? How are these agendas reflected in the civil society-led initiatives of just transition and sustainability transformation? And how can all these leverage points and processes be scientifically monitored, assessed, and intervened to ensure the integrity of ecological-societal systems?
The seminar aims to initiate a dialogue to address these questions through presentations and a multi-stakeholder discussion. Professor SooJin Park, Director, Seoul National University, will conduct opening remarks. Professor Brian H.S. Kim, Regional Information Studies, Seoul National University, will be the Panel Rapporteur.
Oxfam’s session: Towards a just climate finance in Asia: the status and possibilities (14:15-15:00 KST, GMT+9)
In December 2022, Oxfam published a briefing, “Climate finance in Asia: Assessing the state of climate finance in one of the world’s most climate vulnerable regions.” The report anlayzed the climate finance flows to climate vulnerable Asian countries. It found:
- Asian countries need $1.3 trillion a year until 2030 to meet their estimated climate needs, or $371 billion a year without factoring in China. The current levels are woefully inadequate. A significant share of these estimated needs must come from international support.
- Only a third of Asia’s climate finance went to help countries adapt and cope with climate-induced harm, despite the likes of Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar and Afghanistan being among the world’s most vulnerable and worst-prepared.
- The majority of flows into Asia came as loans, often forcing already indebted countries to cut public services in order to repay.
- Donors almost completely ignored locally-led initiatives – only about 0.5% of all climate finance went
- directly to local Asian communities, civil society organizations and authorities – giving them less say in how this money is governed.
- Asian Development Bank (ADB) is the largest multilateral climate finance provider totaling $17.6 billion over a period of 2013-2020. However, when factoring loans, ADB had a ‘grant equivalent’ spend of just $2.1 billion
The session will deliberate on these issues and amplify the call to action in mobilizing just climate finance to vulnerable Asian countries. The speakers featuring CSO representatives will share their insights on the status of climate finance and make recommendations on the need for adequate and grant based financing to tackle the climate crisis, as safeguarding standards that champion the rights and well-being of vulnerable communities and groups.
- Arati Poudel, Senior Research Officer, Digo Bikas Institute
- Uchita de Zoysa, Chairman, Global Sustainability Solutions and Executive Director, Center for Environment and Development
- Sunil Acharya, Regional Policy and Campaigns Coordinator, Oxfam in Asia
FFA’s session: Rethinking Financing Mechanisms (15:15-16:00 KST, GMT+9)
In January 2023, FFA, together with the NGO Forum on ADB , raised critical questions regarding the ADB’s ETM through a white paper highlighting issues, including:
- The mechanism does not require participating governments or companies to suspend the development of planned or under-construction coal power projects and commit to phasing out coal power by 2040, as the Paris Climate Agreement mandates.
- There is a lack of clarity regarding the extent to which the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) social and environmental safeguards will apply at pilot coal power project sites during retirement (estimated by the ADB to take between 10-15 years) and whether surrounding communities will have access to filing grievances under the ADB’s accountability mechanism.
- Community groups, labor rights groups, local union bargaining units, and other concerned civil society groups lack channels to meaningfully shape the terms of coal power project retirement (and hence their future) as negotiations for site-specific retirements occur behind closed doors.
- There is a lack of clarity on the definition of clean energy options to be developed and the parameters for repurposing projects.
- There is a lack of transparency regarding the actual terms and conditions for coal power project retirement.
To raise greater awareness on these issues and amplify call to action in addressing them more transparently, FFA’s session will feature participation from CSO representatives who will share their insights on the critical social and environmental risks of the ETM. The panel will also discuss recommendations to align the regional energy transition in Asia with science-based imperatives as well as safeguarding standards that champion the rights and well-being of vulnerable communities and groups.
- Fiza Qureshi, Program Implementation Manager, Indus Consortium
- Aoi Horiuchi, Senior Advocacy Officer, Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC), Secretary-General, Japan Civil Society Coalition on G7 Summit 2023
- Bernadette Victorio, Program Lead, Fair Finance Asia (Moderator)
SNUAC’s session: Complex systems thinking: Use of Leverage Point Lens for systems framing, understanding, and intervention (16:00-16:45 KST, GMT+9)
Complex ecological-societal systems (ESS) manifest their capacity to cope with natural, social, and technical stress on a continuum of self-organizing capability that ranges from fragile (degrading by stress) to robust (unchanging to stress) to antifragile (improving with stress). Therefore, disturbed ESS undergo shifts to different regimes with changes in their dynamic order through reorganization of system structure and function. The key challenge of governance and management of sustainable ESS is to promote regime shifts that are favorable to humanity while ensuring the integrity of ecosystems. Ignoring such complex systems’ traits can result in untimely and inappropriate interventions that will limit not only the effectiveness of policy making and implementation but also the services and economic values of ecosystems. In session 3, we introduce ‘palm oil paradox’ as an example and scrutinize the systems interventions through the leverage point lens and visioneering (i.e., adaptive triad of governance, management, and monitoring).
- Dr. GoWoon Kim, Research Fellow, SNUAC
- Professor Joon Kim, Director, Future Earth Program, SNU
Dialogue & Concluding Remarks (16:45-17:30 KST, GMT+9)
The seminar will conclude with a dialogue and summary remarks on key points discussed in each session.
To read FFA’s Discussion Guide on the ADB ETM, click here.