Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80 - 97)



  80.  Hold on. If you say, "Of course we want to get it done but the people of Bangladesh (or India or China) have much less in the way of emissions per person than anywhere else and therefore we should be more equitable on this", if their emissions go up the impact will be disastrous for us all, including those whose emissions are not very large. What I really want to say is that I understand where you are coming from but is this not slightly an irrelevance?
  (Dr Müller) First of all the facts are that China, which is the second largest emitter after the US, actually managed to reverse its emission trend in 1996 and is now eight per cent below its 1996 emissions, the only country in the world apart from—

  81.  How?
  (Dr Müller) Market. They liberalised coal mines and all these sorts of things. There is an article which I can gladly give you which explains it all very well but it has happened.[32] The second thing is that this argument that they will nullify our efforts in a sense—

  82.  That was not my argument. I said we will all suffer.
  (Dr Müller) This has been put forward. The point is then that our efforts are just not good enough. If you look at responsibility and if you think that action has to be in proportion to one's responsibility, if their responsibility is still much less than ours then we just have to do more.

  83.  I suspect you might not disagree with this, but I would suggest to you that we have made our mistakes (and are still making them) in the developed world, for want of a better term, and some would say mistakes were made a hundred years ago and more, but we now have advancing technology where we could assist the developing world not to make the same mistakes we made, and in particular I am thinking of renewable energy.
  (Dr Müller) Yes, absolutely.

  84.  My question for you is, if we agree on that, should not a lot more of our development be going towards assisting the development of renewable energy which would benefit all those people in the developing countries?
  (Dr Müller) The point is that this has very little to do with the assigned amounts. We can do that anyway. I quite agree.

  85.  I think the assigned amounts seem to be slightly a red herring.
  (Dr Müller) Not really, no. Senegal has about 30 kilograms of carbon per head, the US has five tonnes. There is not a lot you can reduce with a CDM project in Senegal. These surplus permits which they will get would enable them to invest the money they get from selling them back to us in these technologies and do things which they otherwise could not do. They cannot sell CDM permits because they have no CDM capacity but with these surplus permits they can get these things going. That is why per capita allocation is not going to be very expensive for us either. We did calculations but it is a matter of not doing it via charity but via allocation of assets.

  86.  So it is not a cop-out from the developed world?
  (Dr Müller) No, I do not think so. We will still have to do a lot.

Mr Khabra

  87.  I do disagree with my colleague because I agree with Dr Huq's views on this allocation of emission targets on a per capita basis for a country like India or Bangladesh. They have got practical difficulties of planning and small business and small industry. The country is not yet fully equipped with the kinds of rules and regulations they need. It is difficult for a developing country, and a fast developing country like India, when the biggest culprit at the moment is America which is not prepared to accept any international agreements at all. I think there is scope for countries like India and Bangladesh not to accept these international targets which the highly industrialised countries want to impose on them.
  (Dr Huq) If I could add one point to that, the position of most of the developing countries, certainly my own, is that we are not opposed to action. Developing countries need to take action as well. You are quite right, we need to take a much more clean development path for the future, particularly in the energy sector, than the industrialised countries have done, and we are all prepared to do that. In the negotiations it is just that it is a question of who goes first. The Annex 1 countries have to go first and they have made certain commitments which we want to see them stick to and then with regard to future commitments developing countries will certainly come on board. This question of allocation is something that has to be worked out and there is a matter of principle involved in this as well. Who does the atmosphere belong to?


  88.  Migration has been seen as an important coping strategy. Is migration a viable coping strategy and what do you see as the risks of increased environmental refugees and further conflict as a consequence of that?
  (Dr Huq) My response to that would be the following. I think that environmental migration is already a major source of whatever migration we are seeing both within countries as well as internationally. There are large population movements from rural to urban. Much of that can be ascribed to environmental degradation in many countries and across borders as well. Climate change will simply exacerbate that, particularly in countries like Bangladesh where a one metre sea level rise, for instance, would wipe out a fifth of the country and more than a fifth of the population. Where are they going to go? There simply is not space in the country for them to go. Already a lot of Bangladeshis migrate to India. There is a lot of illegal immigration across the border into India which causes problems between our two countries. This will only be exacerbated. At an international level this needs to be recognised and some sort of regime for more equitable and better organised migration of people should be made available to countries such as these. In the case of climate change it is different from other environmental degradation in that it can be ascribed to actions that are taking place in other parts of the world. As you say, the United States is the biggest emitter and if certain things are happening because of climate change then there is a degree of responsibility for these people now which may not have been the case in the past when cyclones and so on were regarded as acts of God.

  89.  We have got a cluster of things. We have got environment plans, we have got national strategies for sustainable development, we have got poverty reduction strategies. We have got strategies coming out of our ears. Are they sufficiently well co-ordinated and what should be done to ensure they are fully and properly co-ordinated?
  (Dr Huq) Unfortunately they are not, and I think that there is a growing realisation that they are not and they need to be. I would say that there are two levels of this question. One is that there is a proliferation of the multilateral environmental agreements. There is climate change, there is biodiversity, there is desertification and so on which produce their own international bureaucracy and requirements and countries have to respond by developing a biodiversity plans or a climate change plans and so on. These need to be better integrated at a global level but then at a country level again this tends to separate out the little capacity that there is into responding to international requirements rather than addressing national needs and trying to integrate them at a national level. I certainly feel that the approach of integrating climate action plans or the adaptation plans that are now being discussed, international sustainable development strategies, or whatever shape they might be,—some countries call them Agenda 21, some countries call them national plans—but whatever a country has in place as its national strategic thinking it needs to incorporate these climate change strategies as well as the adaptation plans. It is much more important than just doing another stand-alone plan which will be left on the shelf or brought to international meetings but not have any relevance for the country.

  90.  Dr Müller, we have read your work and your proposals about a global compromise set of quotas whereby each country gets an allocation somewhere between their present use and a per capita entitlement. How could developing countries play a more significant part in international agreements and negotiations on climate change? What are the most significant barriers to them doing so?

  (Dr Müller) It is a very good question. I will give you an example. There are I would say not more than 15 people from developing countries who I meet regularly at every single conference. Saleemul is one; there are a couple of others. They represent the developing world policy analysis community. One always meets the same people. One good friend of mine from Senegal once said that he could actually live on a first-class airline ticket the whole of the year but he could not afford a research assistant. He gets money to go to all these conferences and be the token developing country representative but at home for someone to help him to do the work he cannot get money. This is a very concrete, very simple example of what in particular DFID could do to help these NGOs, these analysts, these groupings, to do their work. There is now a Dutch consortium which is sponsoring a programme where a researcher from Senegal and one from Bangladesh are going to come for six weeks to Oxford and we are going to do work together. These sorts of things are extremely important because ultimately the policy and policy analysis has to be home grown. We all know that we trust other people but we trust our own people the most. This capacity to analyse these things is largely not existent. Another thing which I did find is that I engaged in a little project about the perception of climate change in different regions and there is a very strong divide north/south on what climate change is all about. In the north, quite correctly, it is seen to be a pollution problem. Like we had with industrial pollution, it is a matter of emissions and all that, quite rightly so. We are richer and less vulnerable, so vulnerability does not come into the picture that much for us, but we have to cope with the emissions. If you read the DFID memorandum they say, quite rightly, that sustainable development is no longer a matter of just environmental protection but they identify climate change as an environment matter. For developing countries climate change is a matter of disaster management and a matter of survival. It is not a matter of pollution prevention primarily. I am talking about the main focus. In our study we looked at all the ministerial statements at Marrakech, which no-one ever reads, and it was very interesting reading to see that again we have a complete north/south divide. The map was almost like the Commonwealth, where impacts are mentioned and where they are not. In the north there is no mention of them. Europe is a little bit of a mixed bag. They did mention developing country impacts in their ministerial statements which we have to remember are three minutes so you have to be rather concise. The point is that we have to get away from thinking that climate change is purely a matter of a mitigation regime. I was very pleased to see that the witnesses here, apart from me, were all involved in adaptation and impacts. That is very rare. The international regime up to now has almost exclusively been about mitigation. We need to turn away and tell development agencies that they are involved in this. This is a main theme. Climate change needs to be mainstream in development policy, not the other way round. It is not environmental protection; it is human impacts which count in the developing world.

Mr Walter

  91.  I was rather alarmed by Dr Müller's description of these 15 first-class season ticket holders who were carrying out research in the developing world which does tend to indicate that they are doing it somewhat in a vacuum. The question I have, and perhaps you would comment, is whether or not these people have the ear of their own governments, of the agencies in their own regions, if they cannot even get enough money for a research assistant.
  (Dr Müller) I think Saleemul will ultimately be better placed to answer this. I know for example that some African countries have recently abolished their environment ministry. The one important point is that one reason why impacts have been neglected in the international regime is because there was no sufficient voice there, not just in the NGO community. Take delegations at Bonn, COPS 5 I think. The US was there with 120 official delegates. India, which is one of the biggest countries, had seven. Some countries have one. If you remember that these negotiations can go on for three days without interruptions, you can imagine what this one guy from Senegal was doing. He was basically just sleeping. This is capacity building at ground level, why things which are important to developing countries are not brought on to the table.
  (Dr Huq) At a country level, and I have been involved in trying to do this in Bangladesh for some time, quite a few of the developing countries have over time been able to build a certain level of capacity doing work on climate change—vulnerability analysis, impact analysis, a lot of the time in collaboration with institutes abroad such as in the UK. There is a certain level of capacity that has grown I think which can be built on, and I would suggest that that is something that DFID might want to look at in terms of building from an existing level of capacity. With respect to the question of getting the Government's attention, I must admit that that has been relatively rare. Except for the island countries like the Maldives, who have really taken up this issue at a very high level within their governments, most of the other developing countries—and I cite Bangladesh as an example which is obviously one of the most vulnerable—it is very difficult to get high level policy makers and politicians to accept climate change as a particularly pressing problem in the light of all the other problems that they have. They see it very much as longer term, It will happen in a hundred years. What can we do about it? It is difficult for them to grasp the immediacy of what they can do in the short term. I think that is something again where DFID might help those within the country who are trying to do this. There are people even within government, within the environment agencies, who are aware of this problem but who are not heard at the higher levels of policy making.

  92.  What you are suggesting is that they are paying lip service to it.
  (Dr Huq) They do the best they can with whatever resources they do have, but they have very limited resources.

Mr Robathan

  93.  You said that too much development aid tends to be mitigating what is happening as a result of climate change. This is really my question because we of course are involved with the development aid policy of this country. Going back to what I was saying before, do you think we should re-focus on development aid, not away from the concentration on poverty, which I think we would all accept, but on to the longer term effects that by concentrating, for instance, on renewable energy the benefits that that would have both to the immediate population which was served by the energy and able to bring itself out of poverty, but also into what the people who are most vulnerable to climate change, such as the fifth of the population of Bangladesh who would be displaced by a metre rise in sea level? Do you think our environmental aid is focused too much on Band Aids?
  (Dr Müller) Probably. The one thing I have to say is that I am not an expert on the UK development policy but I give you an example where no-one knows what to do precisely with these refugees or displaced people as they are called. We have no clue of how to share this responsibility with anyone, let alone share it equitably. We have to start producing much more imaginative policies in that respect. I see your point about renewable energies. Energy is important for everyone; that is just standard of living. Renewable energies are all the better because they do not pollute, but the one thing which we have to look at is climate change as a disaster. I am not too sure how a meteorite catastrophe in the UK would be handled but I am sure there are lots of agencies involved, including the Army and all that. If we look at our own preparedness and plans this is the sort of thing, adapted to developing countries, which we have to look at—disaster management. It is not just a matter of getting a proper energy system going and not polluting because there we are again getting into the pollution prevention game. There are lots of studies about that, the penetration of renewables and how it will help, but where there is very little is about how we react to the disasters, the climate impacts.
  (Dr Huq) One of the things we need to distinguish between when we are talking about sustainable development and the question that you raised of tackling poverty first, is that that is obviously the primary target but it tends to be seen in terms of the shorter term. What climate change enables one to do, and I have found this very useful in arguing with people in development, is that it re-focuses attention on the "sustainable" part of the sustainable development if you like. Too many people in development see the short term development part of the picture, which is overwhelming and obviously can draw all your resources, without looking at the sustainability angle at all. If you look at it through a climate change lens, because it is a long term problem, it is not going to happen in the immediate future, it enables you to take a longer term perspective on all the different aspects of development, including the energy path that we are going to take, including disaster management, including population growth, so all the longer term problems can be incorporated into taking a climate change perspective on development which brings it back to the sustainable development paradigm rather than the immediate development paradigm which many people are locked into, both national governments and aid agencies.

Tony Worthington

  94.  I have the same point as Andrew. It is a very simple issue as far as DFID is concerned. It now has a legal duty to develop all its concerns to lowering poverty; that is what it is about, and we are supposed to judge it as to whether it is doing that. In addition to all the problems that poor people have got, they have also got this thing called climate change. What is DFID to do about that? We have been to Bangladesh and seen the amazing ability of the Bangladeshi farmers and the adaptability to get drowned and then get up and get going again, but what are you going to do about Dhaka?
  (Dr Huq) Dhaka is a big problem.

  Tony Worthington: A lot of people live in Dhaka.
  (Dr Huq) A lot of people live in Dhaka and it is getting a lot more vulnerable with time. The solution to the urbanisation problem in Bangladesh in particular has to be to try and draw resources out of Dhaka to other urban centres. Unless we are able to do that we just cannot support the rapid growth of Dhaka that is going on right now and another dozen urban conurbations around the country. The good thing about Bangladesh is that it is geographically small and communications are relatively easy so people can move around. If there were resources being put into other urban centres in terms of industry and other infrastructure then I think that people, instead of migrating to Dhaka, would migrate to other cities as well. Migration to cities is in my view unstoppable. The push and pull factors are so strong that preventing it is almost impossible. The good story is that on the population growth front Bangladesh has actually made quite substantial achievements in bringing down the rate of population growth even though it is a very poor country.

  95.  But if you were saying to DFID, "Look: we recognise what you have done in Bangladesh, but for the future your emphasis should change to this", what would that be?
  (Dr Huq) I do not think it would be too great a change in emphasis. What I would say, as I said earlier, is that the issue of climate change is something that happens at a global level. It is something that the country and the development practitioners in the country are not really cognisant of enough. They do not really know what they may be doing which may exacerbate the problem, as we heard earlier from Dr Neil Adger. That needs to be brought in. Bringing in that dimension of climate change as a global problem that will affect Bangladesh, and everybody knows that Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries, beyond that fact of how that will play out and what we need to do about it is something that has not sunk into the development practitioners and policy makers in the country and even within DFID. I have had a tough time arguing to DFID that they should be taking this seriously.

  96.  But you are not saying to them what they should do.
  (Dr Huq) Two things need to be done. One is that all the development agencies need to re-examine their own development aid in the long term, to look at its long term impacts. Just to give you an example in the past, they have been funding roads all over the country. These roads have not always been done in the best environmentally planned manner. We are hydrologically a very flat country. In many places they have screwed up the hydrology of the place by not having enough bridges and culverts in them, which has exacerbated the flood problem. Similarly, other long term infrastructure investments may have detrimental effects without taking the long term consequences into account. The issue of looking at climate change impacts and particularly the adaptation options in planning are like insurance. It is like doing an environmental impact assessment which is the norm in any big project. You just add on a climate impact assessment to that. It is not changing things drastically. It is just re-thinking them in the light of these potential problems that are likely to occur to a larger extent in Bangladesh perhaps more than in many other countries.


  97.  Do you think there is sufficiently well co-ordinated UK Government policy on climate change with DEFRA taking the lead generally on climate change negotiations but with DFID really seeking to help promote effective negotiations by developing countries on adaptation and poverty reduction? Do you have any observations to make about the way in which the UK Government approaches climate change policy?
  (Dr Huq) From what I have seen I think that the UK Government is probably one of the better governments in terms of having good co-ordination amongst the agencies, amongst the people that I have met at the negotiations. Having said that, however, I have had difficulty in getting DFID to take on board the issue of climate change as a development problem—and not just DFID but development agencies in general with whom I talk regularly, such as the World Bank and various other bilaterals. It is difficult for people involved in development in the short term, looking at crises, to see what the relevance is of climate change—what is it they can do? I do not have ready answers for that. All I am saying to them is that it is something that they should be taking seriously and thinking through and seeing whether it is of importance to them and, if so, how and what do they need to do about it. That is something that DFID really needs to take on. It has not done so yet sufficiently in my opinion.

  Chairman: Thank you very much for two very interesting papers and also for giving evidence today. It is much appreciated. I have to say that I think I have been unlucky. Whenever I have been to Dhaka there always seems to be hartal between various groups and politicians and all their supporters. I do not think I have ever been in Dhaka without there being a hartal somewhere.

  (Dr Huq) It is good for pollution because there are no crowds on the streets!

32   Science Vol 294, 2001. Back

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