OP-ED: Perspectives of an Environmental Minister on the GAIN Index

Global warming, climate change, and other global challenges were hardly heard of a few years ago. Scientists studying this issue confirmed these emerging challenges, but their recommendations have not been implemented. Finally, the international community has agreed on the need to take action, and established the Kyoto Protocol within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to push the most developed countries to start reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. This resulted in the recent enforcement of practices such as the Clean Development Mechanism, a flexibility mechanism designed to promote cost-effective sustainable development.

In my years as El Salvador’s Minister of the Environment, the challenges faced were of incalculable dimensions. The “water” issue was the most important one for me, and one which needed to be dealt with the utmost responsibility. Although, my country receives enough rainfall during the year, water does not infiltrate properly, a situation that is worsened by the fact that many sources of pollution degrade our groundwater. Changes in the beginning and ending of the rainfall season precipitation patterns and the high variability of annual accumulation only increased the difficulty of any effort to improve the situation.

Nevertheless, the question remained of how to measure the outcomes of the domestic actions undertaken, as well as of local and international conventions subscribed by the Ministry of the Environment and ratified by the government of El Salvador. I needed to find a way to demonstrate the direct and indirect impacts on improvements to the health and welfare of our people.

El Salvador Honduras 001I have had the opportunity to participate in meetings of the newly created Global Adaptation Institute (GAIN) in Washington, DC and in my view, the GAIN index is a first major milestone. I would have used this tool to better convince the Minister of Finance at the time (now Founding CEO of GAIN) about the budgetary reinforcements needed to carry out the ministry´s most urgent actions.

I have learned through these experiences that public investments are not the only way for a country to be a regional leader in development and environmental protection, such as the case of Chile. Governments have the responsibility to create the ideal environment for the private sector to invest in those initiatives that it can develop more effectively.

The GAIN Index seeks to measure the most important aspects of a country´s vulnerability and its readiness to take action on adaptation, thus increasing its ability to adapt to climate change. The Readiness Matrix compares a country’s vulnerability and readiness and displays how countries move from one quadrant to another throughout time. This indicator tool can promote competition amongst governments by motivating them to improve upon specific indicators, with the aim of attracting more private investments. Thus, a successful combination of public and private economic actions can improve the well-being of a country’s citizens.

This is why I am inviting those in the international community who are convinced about the need to adapt, to take concrete actions in the promotion of government and private efforts by consistently using a measurement tool to see if their country is really on the right track. Today, the GAIN Index is available for this purpose and its application can improve each country´s plans and programs.

Walter E. Jokisch
March 23, 2012

Mr. Jokish is the Former Minister of Environment, El Salvador

Categories: index el salvador