Home > ‘Decarbonising’ development – The Express Tribune

‘Decarbonising’ development – The Express Tribune

Develo­ping countr­ies are suffer­ing the impact of climat­e change­s which have not been instig­ated by them

The writer is author of the book Development, Poverty and Power in Pakistan, available from Routledge

The writer is author of the book Development, Poverty and Power in Pakistan, available from Routledge

The consensus concerning the evident risks of climate change grows with each new weather-related disaster that indiscriminately wreaks havoc on the lives of people around the globe. It is also alarming to note that the pace of climate change is faster than initially anticipated. However, effective global measures to tackle the phenomenon of climate change, particularly to reduce carbon gas emissions which have a direct correlation with global warming, are still not adequate to the task.

The Kyoto Protocol formulated in the late 1990s saw many prominent industrialised countries, which are also major global polluters, refusing to sign the deal. The subsequent Copenhagen Accord saw 90 countries, representing some 80 per cent of global emissions, submit pledges to curb carbon emissions. However, this new accord is too weak to cap global warming below two degree Celsius above pre-industrialised levels. UN agencies estimate that the existing pledges will achieve less than half of the reductions needed by 2020.

There is lingering divergence between developed and developing countries concerning how to tackle climate change. Developing countries have rightly pointed out that they are suffering the impact of climate changes which have not been instigated by them and that they lack resources to adapt to climate change, and to mitigate the disasters it causes. Developing countries also argue that industrialised countries have polluted the environment in order to reach their existing level of development and it is thus unfair to deny developing countries the right to do the same. Countries like China and India are now also major polluters. However, man-made climate changes have impacts which transcend national boundaries, such as causing rising sea levels, glacial meltdowns and changes in precipitation levels, and this means that all countries must agree to curb emissions or climate change cannot be minimised.

International development agencies have been trying to call upon the developed world to finance climate change mitigation and prevention measures within the developing world, such as strengthening their disaster management mechanisms and helping them invest in alternative forms of energy. It is in this broader context that the need for ‘decarbonising development’ is gaining increasing recognition.

At the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris this coming December, donors are expected to pledge billions of dollars to developing countries to help address climate change concerns by 2020. Multilateral financial institutions like the IMF, the ADB and the World Bank will be at the forefront of funnelling aid to the developing world, and they have also begun increasing their commitment to climate change mitigation and adaptation measures. However, the overall approach of the multilateral financial institutions to climate change seems confused and also contradictory.

It is high time international financial institutions shifted their ongoing development investments to renewable energy and renewable energy infrastructure rather than providing finance for fossil fuel production. Civil society assessments of this multilateral financing also indicates a need for multilaterally financed development projects to incorporate assessments related to climate change risks into their design, and to assess greenhouse gas emissions from project activities they finance. The resolve in this regard remains more lacklustre than the rhetorical statements concerning the resolve to tackle climate change would suggest. For example, earlier this year, the international news agency Reuters ran a story pointing out how “World Bank’s pension investments clash with its own principles” since around 40 per cent of the equity holdings in its own multi-billion dollar pension funds are being invested in industries associated with environmental or health problems, such as coal production.

The world still needs a much more honest approach to help avoid the climate-related threats it is facing today. Besides greater commitments by industrialised countries to curb emissions and providing the means to enable developing countries to do the same, stronger climate-related policies must also be adopted by the powerful multilateral financial institutions which are currently at the forefront of financing development interventions in countries across Africa, Latin America and Asia.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2015.

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