The fight against eco-imperialism
It is not acceptable to use climate change as an excuse to limit growth in poor countries as the west's carbon emissions rise
Thursday the World Bank approved a £2.4bn loan to build a huge new coal-fired power station in South Africa. The issue has exposed the rift between two central international goals – alleviating poverty and preventing global warming. South African ministers claimed that the project was essential for their country's development, while a concerted environmental campaign lobbied international governments to block the scheme. Amid concerns about global warming, this question of development versus environment may become one of the most contentious international issues over the next few years.
Since the 1970s the green movement has acquired ever-greater prominence in international development. In the last decade, global warming concerns have refocused the emphasis of poverty reduction strategies away from development and towards the environment. This is portrayed as a win-win situation – where the interests of the local people are perfectly aligned with the interests of environmental campaigners. Sustainable technologies like wind turbines and solar panels improve the lot of the recipients while keeping their carbon emissions to a minimum. However, this approach has been criticised as a form of eco-imperialism – because western carbon considerations remain a limiting factor on developing world progress.
The Working Group on Climate Change and Development is a network of more than 20 NGOs including WWF, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace. Founded in 2004, its "central message is that solving poverty and tackling climate change are intimately linked and equally vital, not either/ors".
The group's most recent report lists the overarching challenges as (1) how to stop and reverse further climate change, (2) how to live with the degree of climate change that cannot be stopped and (3) how to design a new model for human progress and development that is climate-friendly. The makes fascinating reading – and is illuminating as to the ideological backdrop to development policy.
These environmental groups, while spanning quite a large spectrum, tend to demonstrate an affinity with the pro-rural socialist left. The report describes climate change as not just a threat but also an "opportunity" to re-think the entire global system. It challenges western notions of development and growth and, most starkly, concludes that "mere reform within the current global economic system will be insufficient" to tackle poverty in a carbon constrained future. Indeed, members of these groups often seem to embrace rural village life as representing a pre-industrial idyll which should be preserved.
Such romantic ideology therefore seeks to largely maintain the status quo – where the African poor are kept "traditional" and "indigenous". It's hard to disagree with Lord May, former president of the Royal Society in his observation that "much of the green movement isn't a green movement at all, it's political".
With poverty redefined in terms of the environment and infused with pro-rural socialism, large-scale projects to industrialise or modernise are not the priority – indeed, western-style development and modernisation are seen as part of the problem. Instead there is a self-limiting bottom-up approach which subsidises underdevelopment not as a transitionary phase but as an end goal.
To effectively sideline the development strategy that every western country has undertaken in raising living standards is remarkable. Indeed, while India and China have lifted at least 125m people out of slum poverty since 1990, over the same period 46 countries have actually got poorer – the large majority of them African states.
Environmental policies that seek to reinforce the rural status quo as a means of limiting carbon emissions may be of benefit to the developed world, but they are detrimental to the long-term ability of the poor to cope with climate change. The planned South African power plant at Limpopo exposes the collision between these different policy aims. With the country going to the World Bank for a £2.4bn loan, international governments have been forced to weigh up developmental advantage versus environmental damage.
South Africa suffers major power shortages and insists that a new plant is essential to the country's economic progress. Environmentalists are horrified that the plant will emit 25m tonnes of carbon per annum, and point out that much of the new electricity will be used by heavy industry. Despite a concerted lobbying campaign from environmental groups, the loan was approved on Thursday – albeit with abstentions from Britain, America and the Netherlands. A US treasury spokesman explained that the abstention was due to an "incompatibility with the World Bank's commitment to be a leader in climate change mitigation and adaption". Considering that the World Bank's first affirmed purpose is to alleviate poverty, we can see how pervasive the reframing of poverty in terms of environment has become.
It is up to the developed world to produce the technologies for cleaner energy and implement policies to significantly reduce carbon emissions. It is not acceptable to use global warming as a way of limiting growth in poor African countries when our own climate emissions continue to rise.
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfr ... nge-carbon
A Call to Look Past Sustainable Development
American diplomats are upset that dozens of countries — including Nepal, Cambodia and Bangladesh — have flocked to join China’s new infrastructure investment bank, a potential rival to the World Bank and other financial institutions backed by the United States.
The reason for the defiance is not hard to find: The West’s environmental priorities are blocking their access to energy
A typical American consumes, on average, about 13,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year. The citizens of poor countries — including Nepalis, Cambodians and Bangladeshis — may not aspire to that level of use, which includes a great deal of waste. But they would appreciate assistance from developed nations, and the financial institutions they control, to build up the kind of energy infrastructure that could deliver the comfort and abundance that Americans and Europeans enjoy.
Too often, the United States and its allies have said no.
The United States relies on coal, natural gas, hydroelectric and nuclear power for about 95 percent of its electricity, said Todd Moss, from the Center for Global Development. “Yet we place major restrictions on financing all four of these sources of power overseas.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/15/busi ... .html?_r=1
President Obama infamously told Africans they should focus on their “bountiful” wind, solar and biofuel. If they use “dirty” fossil fuels to raise living standards “to the point where everybody has got a car, and everybody has got air conditioning, and everybody has got a big house, well, the planet will boil over.”
So when South Africa applied for a World Bank loan to finish its low-pollution coal-fired Medupi power plant, his administration voted “present,” and the loan was approved by a bare majority of other bank member nations. The Obama Overseas Private Investment Corporation refused to support construction of a power plant designed to burn natural gas that was being “flared” and wasted in Ghana’s oil fields.
As David Wojick and I have documented (here, here, here, here and here), eco-imperialist, carbon colonialist policies by the World Bank and other anti-development banks have perpetuated needless energy deprivation, poverty, disease and early death in Africa, Asia and beyond for much too long.
In recent years, the World Bank strayed far from its original 1944 mission of reducing global poverty, providing financial aid and guidance to needy countries, and giving “life-saving global health and humanitarian assistance” to “the world’s most vulnerable populations.” Instead, it increasingly focused on “fighting the effects of climate change,” supporting wind and solar energy projects, and combating emissions of plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide.
Other supposed multilateral “development” banks followed the World Bank’s callous lead. Most stopped financing coal-fired power plants, slashed or ceased funding for oil and gas exploration by poor countries, and emphasized “total de-carbonization” in their lending practices.
In their warped worldview, manmade climate change dangers that exist only in computer models are a far more pressing concern than horrific real-world, present-day deprivation, disease and death.
Right now, around the world, over a billion people still do not have electricity; another 2 billion have electrical power only sporadically and unpredictably. In Sub-Saharan Africa, nearly 700 million people (the population of all Europe) rarely or never have electricity, and still cook and heat with wood, charcoal, and animal dung. In India, over 200 million people still do not have access to safe drinking water.
Every year, hundreds of millions become ill and 5 million die of lung and intestinal diseases from inhaling pollutants from open fires, and from lack of clean water, refrigeration, bacteria-free food and decent clinics. Largely because they lack electricity to power modern economies, nearly 3 billion survive on a few dollars per day, and more millions die every year from preventable or curable diseases.
But the anti-development banks still focus on “climate change mitigation” and financing “the shift in energy production to renewable energy technologies, and the shift to low-carbon modes of transport.”
Such as horses, oxen and walking, one supposes. People in those countries have been there, done that. They will no longer tolerate being told these banks will help themimprove their lives only a little, only to the extent that doing so would conform to climate and sustainability guidelines, only as much as could be supported by wind, solar biofuel and geothermal energy.
http://www.eco-imperialism.com/sanity-a ... orld-bank/