Simon Maxwell

Climate Change 2010 - Chatham House conference

There were some useful take-aways, especially about the art of international diplomacy, the incremental nature of the Copenhagen process, and the scope for specific deliverables from Cancun. Chatham House will do a report. For me, one notable feature was that climate and development people seem to inhabit different worlds: despite the centrality of development to the climate agenda, there were few development specialists in the room. I picked this up from the podium in the afternoon session, and made three sets of points. In different ways, all offer opportunities or entry points for a new dialogue on climate change and development.

First, the link between development and climate change is non-negotiable. This is for political as well as welfare reasons: developing countries will insist on it in the negotiations, even if developed countries do not. The UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals illustrated the urgency of tackling problems like maternal or child mortality. That is why we in the CDKN talk about ‘climate compatible development’. This concept is not the same as ‘climate resilient development’, which implies working on vulnerability rather than mitigation; nor the same as ‘low carbon growth’, which has the reverse problem. Climate compatible development is about both, but also about capturing other changes in input-output relationships and prices. See my earlier contribution on why a focus on mitigation and adaptation conceals the real challenge of climate change; and further discussion below.

The development context is not unproblematic, however. In Europe, at least, financial problems remain acute, and aid budgets are under threat. Collectively, the EUEuropean Union is over 10  billion euros short of its past pledges. Even in the UK, where people have strongly supported aid, and where a commitment to reaching 0.7% of GNPGross National Product by 2013 remains sacrosanct, arecent survey showed 63% of people believing that aid should not be ring-fenced and should carry its share of the coming public expenditure cuts.

To the extent that aid continues, the public discourse from Ministers seems to be weighted to human development goals, in other words to social welfare investments in health and education, rather than to productive sectors, like, say, renewable energy. This may be related to the need to show leadership at the MDG Summit, but it is notable that UK Ministers have talked more generally about re-orienting the aid programme to deliver concrete results on issues like malaria. This is also important in maintaining public support for the aid programme.

Those of us with an interest in climate change and development recognise the importance of delivering concrete results, and certainly understand that human development indicators require investment and can be used to measure progress. We would probably argue, though, for an appropriate balance between spending on welfare and spending on production. It is only five years, after all, since the report of the Africa Commission reminded us of the need for poor economies to grow if poverty were to be reduced – and made a point of rehabilitating growth-oriented investments in sectors like infrastructure and higher education.

There is obvious convergence of interest around the use of ‘new and additional’ climate-related funds promised for development purposes in the Copenhagen Accord: the $30 bn fast-track money promised for 2010-2012, and the $100 bn per year promised for 2020, However, the development world is hanging on firmly to the words ‘new and additional’. The climate world is still very vague about the definition of additional, with some developed countries clearly targeting the aid programme as a source of revenue for climate funding. A minimum definition, for example, is that countries should identify money used for ‘climate purposes’ in some recent year, and then count any expenditure over that amount as additional. That comes as a surprise. Many of us had thought that ‘additional’ would mean ‘over and above money already pledged as aid’ – in a maximum form, over and above 0.7.

Spending current or promised aid on climate-related activity will be regarded as a hostile act. This is partly for inter-personal reasons: taking money from health clinics for mothers and children in one part of a country to pay for flood defences in another, say. It is also for inter-country reasons: taking money from Ethiopia, say, to pay for technology transfer to China or Brazil.

Securing the right form of words on additionality, and also the right level of flow, is a challenge for climate and development specialists, but also an opportunity to work together.

The second set of points is about the content of climate compatible development (CCD). As I have argued before, the terms mitigation and adaptation do not capture the range of changes needed to respond to climate change. A good example is the impetus that climate change gives to the development of new battery technology (for example, for electric cars) and the importance of lithium for this purpose. Bolivia finds itself sitting on large lithium reserves and is being talked about as the ‘Saudi Arabia of lithium’. Here we have a development opportunity which is centrally related to climate change, but is related neither to adaptation, as normally defined, nor to mitigation.

Development is always, and by definition, transformational. It is about change. In the CDKN, we are trying to make change management central. For example, we are enthusiastic about projects which use scenario planning and modelling techniques to project development trajectories forward, say to 2030, without climate change and with climate change, asking questions about the current development trajectory and how it needs to change. I discussed this in relation to Bangladesh with Saleemul Huq, in our recent video conversation.

Our work is just beginning in this area, but an obvious place to start is by looking at current growth models, such as those in the Africa Commission, or, more recently, the Commission on Growth and Development, and test them against changes expected as a result of climate change. We should link up on this with the International Growth Centre. The debate about the Washington Consensus and the post-Washington Consensus could also prove useful, especially in terms of re-thinking taking place since the global financial crisis.

Here’s a simple example. Paul Collier argued in the Bottom Billion that a good growth strategy for Africa would be to build export enclaves along the coast, in order to provide core business services efficiently, and connect Africa to larger economies around the world. Testing this against climate scenarios would require us to ask about the likely future of export industries if transport costs rise (especially if air and maritime emissions are brought into targets and emissions trading schemes). We would also want to be sure that coastal cities were safe from sea level rise.

A third set of issues is about the politics of climate change. As I have argued in work on the politics of climate change, climate change policy-making is rife with trade-offs, between generations, genders, sectors, regions, and employment groups. A national consensus is desirable in order to set long term policy goals, but very hard to achieve. In fact, this is a paradox, and following the lead of Tony Giddens (who devised Giddens’ paradox, which is that people will not act on climate change until they can see the immediate effects, by which time it is too late), we might call this Maxwell’s paradox: the paradox that on a topic where we most need consensus, it may be hardest to achieve.

From the development side, we can help with this, through our experience of multi-stakeholder planning processes, and cross-sectoral government planning. It was interesting to hear at Chatham House that Governments are concluding that climate change is too much of a cross-cutting issue to be left to Ministers of the Environment, and that Heads of State and Foreign Ministers are now finding themselves leading cross-Government and international engagement. We can learn from the experience of food security, poverty and gender planning, to name just three, about the difficulties of leadership, coordination and mainstreaming in multi-sectoral planning. Just one lesson, to illustrate: cross-Government units are far more successful when they think of themselves as facilitators of other ministries’ work rather than managers or coordinators, with line management of large programmes.

Development specialists can also help with effective engagement in the policy process. Climate experts often complain that their evidence-based interventions are not taken sufficiently seriously, in Government or among the public. Climategate, of course, did not help. That is not an isolated phenomenon. Work on think-tanks and policy processes, for example in the RAPID programme at ODI, has thrown up important lessons, for example the need to win the argument about the problem before taking on the argument about policy. Strategic opportunism is also necessary in policy circles – seizing moments, like using the floods in Pakistan to make the case for long-term attention to climatic shifts. In fact, floods, food, flames (as in Russia) and fallen trees (as in hurricanes) all provide opportunistic entry points: the four ‘Fs’ of a new conversation about climate.

There were some interesting responses to my presentation, and some good questions. For example, I was asked about lessons from development for climate compatible development: where there some ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’? I took this as an invitation to argue for lower consumption in the North and for vegetarianism, but ducked the opportunity, for now. Growth will be essential for the poorest countries, and we probably do need a bigger conversation about global consumption. There was also a lot of discussion about additionality of finance and the role of the private sector. I’m puzzled by the private sector contribution, however. Of course, private sector finance will play a big part in climate compatible development. I work a good deal on the private sector myself. But surely, we won’t be counting all fdi and portfolio investment in developing countries as climate-related? Say an oil major decides to develop a gas field in a developing country. Does that count? No-one seemed to be able to say, but there is an expectation that Ban Ki Moon’s Advisory Group on Finance will advise. The report is due in a few weeks.

Add comment

Security code
Security code:

latest pollVote now: 

Is the concept of 'fragile               states'                   over-                   burdened?


Follow me on Twitter