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A £50 million (US$77 million) programme to help developing countries navigate the challenges of climate change began last week (11 March) with the announcement of the consortium that will oversee it.

An alliance led by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the giant professional services firm, will run the Climate and Development Knowledge Network, which is funded by the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) for five years.

The network aims to help 60 developing countries access and share scientific information on the best way of tackling problems caused by climate change, and commission research. DFID said it will provide policymakers in developing countries with direct access to leading climate change experts.

"The idea is that if you are from the government of a developing country you can call [the network] up and ask them for information or to carry out research," a DFID spokesperson told SciDev.Net.

"We can make the biggest difference to the developing world's efforts to deal with the potentially devastating effects of climate change only by listening to the needs of individual countries," he added, saying that the network would help policymakers translate knowledge into practical policies .

The network also aims to support capacity building for developing countries so that they can make their own plans for mitigating climate change, rather than relying on expertise from developed countries.

Saleemul Huq, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development, has high hopes for the network.

"I think it's a good initiative — I'm glad it's happening," he told SciDev.Net. The initiative "could certainly work, so long as it is implemented properly".

Huq also highlighted what he sees as a crucial part of the initiative. Although two of the network's aspects — building capacity for a low carbon economy and dealing with the consequences of climate change — are both important, the latter holds much more importance for smaller, poorer countries and should be the focus of the initiative, he said.

"Whereas a low carbon economy might be important for large countries such as China, for the vast majority of poor countries dealing with the impacts of climate change is more important."

The PwC-led alliance includes the Overseas Development Institute — a UK-based think tank on development and humanitarian issues; Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano — a non-governmental organisation (NGO) for sustainable development based in Ecuador; LEAD International, a UK-based NGO that aims to inspire leadership in developing countries; South South North, which aims to reduce poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa; Intrac, an international NGO training and research centre in the UK; and Infosys, a business and IT consultancy.

A website for the network will be up in April.