Interview with Roberto Ridolfi, Former Director for Planet and Prosperity at EuropeAid


This year will be an important anniversary for GCCA+…

When we started 10 years ago, the Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) was a new initiative, nobody knew, nobody was linking climate change to improving livelihoods, at the time climate change was something for outsiders…  But I came from the Pacific, I was Ambassador in the Pacific from to 2005 to 2007 and therefore I knew very well what climate change was: for some people it was a matter of life or death, for others it was a question of survival, for many it was an issue of economic empowerment.

So, what happened?

The main effort 10 years ago was to mainstream methodologies of climate change in every day development programmes. Incorporation of climate change into everyday practice brought a cultural shift in the European Commission, in the organization of what we do with our partners. At the beginning partners were reluctant, they said, “what we need is roads, infrastructure, forget about climate change”.

In 2007, the European Union first proposed to launch a global alliance with developing countries that were most vulnerable to climate change. By focusing on the Least Developed Countries (LDC) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), the alliance offered an opportunity for dialogue and concrete cooperation. The choice of deliberately targeting SIDS was pioneering amongst the international donor community at the time.

What has changed in these 10 years?

Today the EU and its Member States have assumed a leading role on climate finance and after the Paris Agreements everybody talks about climate change. What has changed is that people listen more. The difficulties are the same, the problems are the same as ten years ago, perhaps even worst, but people are more aware and money is more available. In the EU at least 20% of the 2014-2020 budget – as much as €180 billion – will be bookmarked for climate change-related actions, €14 billion of which is expected to be spent on the EU’s Development Policy and related countries. For GCCA+ in particular commitments are 780 million euros for the period 2007-2020.

Where is GCCA+ now?

Now GCCA has a lot of methodologies, a lot of success stories, many countries have joined it and we were able to step into “GCCA Plus”.  Today GCCA+ has 61 projects in more than 50 countries.

Many countries we worked with today have stronger policy frameworks and strategies to tackle climate change. Successes are shared, up-scaled and duplicated in new countries or regions. GCCA+ has created a platform for 'actors of change' and strong advocacy networks, as well as contributed to negotiating powers for SIDS.

What is the most striking example of climate change you have witnessed?

I think it is soil deterioration, especially in semi-arid east Africa countries, soil desertification in Ethiopia, in Northern Uganda, in Sudan, in South Sudan, in West North Kenya. I saw the soil degrading so much that now it’s becoming a desert. And that is a big lesson and a big challenge.

A particular success story you would like to mention?

I have seen wonderful, small but scalable projects on biodiversity. I do believe in agro-biodiversity as a big driver for change. If agro-biodiversity becomes a funding principle for the food industry in the planet we will see massive change.

What is the biggest challenge in the years ahead?

Commitments have been made two years ago in Paris to limit the effects of climate change. It is still under discussion if they will be sufficient to reach the development path decided by the international community. The next Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report will be key to provide the necessary information on the efforts needed to stay on the 2°C path, or the more desirable 1.5°C goal.

And a wish for the nearest future?

I would like to see climate change included in school curricula and this is something islanders, SIDS, are starting to do, because for them it’s survival, but they must become more proactive so that the new generation of citizens becomes not only aware of climate change but capable to take action, capable of being engaged in the fight against climate change.