Listening More, Engaging More: The Way Forward to Respond to Climate Change

Loren Labovitch, right, and Maria Blair, from the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Last week, MCC hosted a discussion in partnership with the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to solicit views from private sector stakeholders on international climate change adaptation and resilience. The discussion at MCC was part of a series of listening sessions organized by an inter-agency working group developing recommendations for coordinating the U.S. Government response to critical global climate issues. The working group is co-chaired by the CEQ and State Department and includes representatives from over 15 government agencies involved in foreign aid, humanitarian assistance, environmental protection, and national security.

MCC has a keen interest in the outcomes of the inter-agency process. We recognize that alleviating global poverty requires urgent attention to climate change. Thats why we continue to examine ways to more explicitly integrate climate considerations into our development assistance model, including better coordination with other government agencies and donors. The efforts of this working group are important to understanding the strategic implications of global climate impacts, identifying the most critical needs, and developing an effective and coordinated response within the U.S. Government and among international donors.

Government and donors cannot address these challenges alone. Private sector resources are vital, and U.S. foreign assistance plays an important role in helping developing countries establish an enabling environment to attract private sector investments and facilitate the transfer of knowledge and technology. At MCC, we have a number of initiatives designed to enhance the sustainability and impact of our poverty reduction programs through greater private sector collaboration. We are exploring ways in which these types of programs can be used to help partner countries adapt to climate change and pursue lower carbon growth strategies.

Last weeks roundtable discussion was attended by a range of private sector stakeholders, including, among others, engineering and consulting firms, financial service providers, and agribusinesses. Participants talked about the types of services and technologies being deployed to help developing countries cope with climate change and provided ideas for enhancing private sector participation and public-private partnerships. Much of the discussion focused on the vulnerability of smallholder farmers, as well as infrastructure, education, and information technology. Better data, additional research and development (especially agricultural research), and greater understanding of what climate change adaptation means were highlighted as important needs. Several participants discussed the importance of addressing climate change in an integrated manner and stressed the need to look across sectors, value chains, and other development priorities such as food security and disaster relief. Competitive challenge grants and demonstration projects were suggested to spur innovation and attract entrepreneurs. USAIDs Global Development Alliance was identified as a good model for creating effective public-private sector partnerships.

As this and other listening sessions have demonstrated, there is a tremendous amount of interest and knowledge about climate change and a clear desire among the private sector, NGOs, and other stakeholders to help respond to its effects. This initial listening session was designed to help frame the types of issues and questions the international adaptation working group must address as it develops its policy recommendations in the coming months. There will be additional opportunities in the future for input from the private sector and other stakeholders.