Development aid focuses on climate change
The development arm of the Swiss foreign ministry will be paying particular attention to climate change in 2008.
The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) says that while overcoming the effects of global warming has been part and parcel of its mission for years, it is now more important than ever.
"The relevance of climate change to development aid is obvious now," Walter Fust, head of the SDC, said in Bern on Thursday. "The impact of natural disasters is just one example.
"It's said that wars kill development aid. If we do not adapt to climate change, a lot of development that has already been carried out will be destroyed too."
Fust denies that he is using a buzzword to try to win extra funding.
"It's true that climate change is definitely easier to understand for citizens here than it is to understand poverty in faraway countries," he told swissinfo. "But even so, we all know that developing countries are much more exposed to the effects of climate change."
The SDC says it wants to heighten awareness about climate change in its projects, taking into account the specific vulnerability of partner nations. But it also admits the issue is something it has been dealing with for years.
"Promotion of renewable energy or energy efficiency for example, something we have done for the past 20 years, is nothing more than concrete measures to ensure climate stability," said Jean-Bernard Dubois.
"We have to increase the quality of our projects though, by taking into account the climate change dimension more specifically."
For Dubois, deputy director for natural resources and the environment at the SDC, this means making sure development investments are now both sustainable and climate-proof.
"Around 2.6 billion people lack access to modern energy and one of our tasks is to help bring electricity to these populations," he told swissinfo. "But we have to make sure that by doing this, we are not increasing emissions and not making climate problems worse."
For the SDC, this does not mean just pointing the finger at developing nations. Countries including the United States and Switzerland are far worse offenders when it comes to emissions.
The agency suggests reducing the per capita output of greenhouse gases in industrialised countries while allowing developing nations to increase their output.
These levels should eventually converge by 2050, albeit at a level that is acceptable for the whole planet.
The SDC has two projects underway in South America and Asia. One, about to be launched in Peru is aimed at reducing the impact of climate change on the population in the Cuzco and Apurimac regions.
Frost, snowfall and drought are just some of the problems people face there. As recently as last February, frost caused some much damage to crops that the government had to set up an emergency food programme to help farmers.
The Asian project focuses more directly on air pollution, and more specifically on the brick industry. Since 1993, the SDC has helped transfer Chinese technology to India, replacing traditional kilns with more modern ones that produce lower emissions.
The project has since been extended to Vietnam and Nepal. According to Dubois, besides reducing emissions, it has also had a beneficial effect on the health of the workers and their families, demonstrating the social impact of the change.
And he says that it is not just locals who are benefiting.
"If we reduce emissions in Asia, it benefits everyone," he added. "Increased energy use in Asia can also impact on us, especially when you look at prices."
swissinfo, Scott Capper
Dealing with climate change
Peru's Climate Change Action Plan aims to reduce vulnerability to climate change of the poor local populations in the Cuzco and Apurimac regions.
Focusing on water resources, disaster prevention and food security, the plan combines local and scientific knowledge to identify the most suitable adjustment measures.
Examples include increasing water reserves, introducing crop varieties capable of enduring extreme weather conditions, integrating specific disaster prevention measures in regional planning.
The project begins this year and will last seven-and-a-half years. The budget will be a total of SFr12 million over that period.
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