Publications on the internet
|©Parliamentary copyright||Prepared 18th March 2011|
Publications on the internet
CORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
This is a corrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee, and copies have been made available by the Vote Office for the use of Members and others.
The transcript is an approved formal record of these proceedings. It will be printed in due course.
Joan Walley (Chair)
Mr Mark Spencer
Dr Alan Whitehead
Witnesses: Dr Tom Mitchell, Head of Climate Change, Environment and Forests Programme, Overseas Development Institute, Dr Thomas Tanner, Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies, and Dr Camilla Toulmin, Director, International Institute for Environment and Development, gave evidence
Q1 Chair: I think we are all sitting comfortably, so we can start. Can I first of all welcome all three of you to this evidence session this afternoon? It is the first session that we are having on this issue of UK Aid and how it impacts, and thank you all for coming along today. We simply wanted to start off by asking you what your assessment is of the UK Government’s overall environmental impact overseas and to try and get a feel at this stage of our inquiry as to how much of a positive or negative effect it has, and also perhaps to get some understanding comparatively of how the content of our aid meets environmental objectives compared with other European countries or other countries as well. So perhaps if you could just start to guide us in that direction, we would be very grateful. I do not know who wants to kick off. Camilla?
Dr Toulmin: I’m happy to kick off.
Chair: Okay, Dr Toulmin.
Dr Toulmin: Thank you. I think it’s important to think of the multiple channels through which the UK as a whole, and UK Government more particularly, impacts on environmental issues both globally and in particular places. I’m going to do a bit of shameless salesmanship of a report that we launched in parliament this morning-the Foresight report on global food and farming futures-because that essentially tries to summarise how important the globalisation of food and farming systems has become, and how you can’t really address one part of the environmental picture without thinking about energy flows, consumer demand, and the pattern of private and public investment in food and agriculture. So it seems to me that with initiatives like that, the UK puts themselves in a fairly strong position to be able to see the big picture, and then identify those parts of the big picture that they can effectively handle. I think UK Government in terms of DFID have always been in the top tier of donor agencies in terms of their understanding of environmental dimensions, but that may say as much as anything about the weakness, perhaps, of a number of other donor agencies.
Q2 Chair: But in the sense of a new Government now and new policy objectives, are there specific directions that you think we should be really concentrating on as to which direction policy should go in?
Dr Toulmin: Well, for me, I think that while it’s been fantastic to have such a strong focus on climate change, I think we would all realise that there are other aspects of the environment that also need some attention, because they’re intimately linked to the climate change agenda. And if resilience to climate change is to be further built up, they will also need addressing-so questions around water, biodiversity, soils and so on.
Chair: Do you wish to add to that at all?
Dr Tanner: I support that latter view, particularly connecting climate change and the environmental protection, as this Committee is doing, and I’d certainly encourage you to keep pushing that, because climate change has become the "in" topic and it’s been given significant status by the previous Administration and by the current Government, but there’s a danger that if it’s de-linked from environmental protection and environmental resource management-and there’s questions around sustainability and growth-we lose a major dimension of sustainability policy.
Q3 Chair: But I just wanted to get a sense of what the specifics are that we should be perhaps raising with DFID in respect of making sure that there is that environmental impact and it is consistent with climate change policies as well.
Dr Tanner: Well, I’m sure we’ll go into it later, but procedurally, are there processes in place in the programming cycle, in the strategic cycle in DFID, to ensure that environment protection and natural resources are given sufficient weight and sufficient attention, because at the moment, climate change is certainly up there and in the headlights?
Dr Toulmin: If I can just add to that, like I think almost all other development agencies, DFID could do more on the urban agenda. I think it’s widely recognised within DFID that that’s not an area that has received much attention, but as I say, I think that’s common to most other development agencies. They tended to focus on the environmental dimensions of the rural and natural resource sector, rather than thinking through the hugely important power of cities either to deliver beneficial environmental impacts or render their hinterland very much more fragile.
Dr Mitchell: Yes, what I would say here is from my perspective, DFID, when it programmes money itself through country offices, it does as a good a job as anybody with environmental safeguards and with screening around climate change impact issues. But the problem is that UK Aid gets channelled through many, many different sources, and it’s very much more difficult to have the same kinds of environmental safeguards and checks on not increasing greenhouse gas emissions when the money is being programmed through many other different agencies; and it’s very much more difficult then to look at the whole supply chain, almost, of UK Aid and to be sure that an organisation twice removed from the UK has the same level of protection. It’s incredibly difficult to do, but we recognise that it’s right in some ways for the UK to be providing resources through lots of different channels for different purposes, but that makes it much more complicated.
Q4 Katy Clark: You just said it is very difficult, but to what extent do you think UK overseas aid does take the environmental impact into account? What is your evaluation at the moment?
Dr Mitchell: We’ve just been conducting a set of interviews with other bilateral donor organisations around the world and many have pointed to the fact that they felt that DFID has always been a leader in this area and are looking to DFID for continued leadership. But again, I think my assessment is that it’s good that there are some safeguards in place and environmental protection is there on the agenda, but more can be done and there are in the submissions that the three organisations have put forward indications where we feel more can be done. So it’s kind going well, it’s good, but there could be more done.
Q5 Katy Clark: DFID itself claims that it is actively mainstreaming climate and environment in all-country plans. Do you think that they do do that?
Dr Mitchell: This process of mainstreaming climate and environmental in all-country plans is something that’s reasonably new. There’s a set of countries that there have been pilots and trials in, and I think in those countries that the assessment I would make is that it’s gone fairly well. It’s a new priority for DFID to do this in the strategic programme reviews. Clearly, they’re making those steps, but I think it’s probably a little bit too early to make a systematic judgment on how well that process has gone.
Q6 Katy Clark: So, in terms of taking it forward and then trying to improve how we do things, how do we best climate-proof aid? How do we take this forward?
Dr Mitchell: That’s a big question: how do we climate-proof aid? At the moment one of the approaches-I think Dr Tanner can talk more to this-has been through a process of screening portfolios of spending in each of those countries in a very systematic way, looking at the impact of those projects and programmes on people’s ability to adapt to the impact of climate change on greenhouse gases and then to do a little bit of a projection and look forward, to see what is going to be the impact of climate change on UK spend, and how can we retrofit programmes and projects that we’re already working on to take this into account? And in those countries where the screening processes have happened, I think it’s working well. Extending the screening processes and doing this systematically across the board I think is going to be an important next step for DFID and it’s certainly something that’s happening. I think what we’d want to look to in the future is to say, "Well, all of the UK Aid portfolio has been through this process of a systemic screening of the current position", and then also look at what the situation is going to be ten years down the line. To do that involves some scientific assessment, it involves having good data sets, looking at how projects and programmes are going at the moment, and may need particular additional evaluation approaches that it’s probably too early to have in place at the moment.
Dr Toulmin: But I think what’s really vital on that, though, is to say this has to be a joint responsibility. It’s not just a question of what UK Aid does. It’s UK Aid in partnership with the national Governments in which we’re operating, and it’s key to build up the capacity, the understanding, the access to information, the ability to plan and listen of those national authorities if they’re to build a climate-smart form of development that takes into account the needs and aspirations of people within that country. So encouraging DFID-recipient Governments to move in that direction I think also has to be a very important part.
Q7 Caroline Lucas: Just a very quick follow up, which is just that I wondered if you could give some examples, just so we could get our heads a bit more clear about it, because when you talk about environmental screening, for me what that conjures up is a sense of someone saying, "Well, that does not appear to be doing any harm, so that is all right," and presumably that is different from trying to build in resilience right from the very beginning of any new project. I don’t know if there are examples that you could think of that might help us make the difference, because again, screening to me sounds very passive-"As long as it is not doing anything too awful, we will let it go through"-which is somehow different from right from the very beginning trying to construct whatever interventions you are making from a resilience-building point of view.
Dr Tanner: Taking that up, a good example would be not taking a purely risk-based approach. I think one of the strengths of the environment screening process in DFID at the moment in terms of risks and opportunities is that they are looking to sell environmental protection as something that will purchase you more poverty reduction for your pound. It’s not just about risk management. So there is an element of trying to put in place, for example, an education programme that looked fairly climate-benign but that can be strengthened significantly by thinking about use of school buildings that are going to be constructed for cyclone shelters, making them climate proof infrastructurally, but also socially designed so that they are fit for communities with gender differences-and perhaps places for people to bring belongings and that sort of thing. So I think that is being carried through from the environmental safeguards approach that DFID uses as one of opportunities, and I think that’s certainly one of the pluses. Since the Committee looked at DFID’s environmental screening procedures, they’ve certainly improved dramatically-albeit perhaps from a fairly weak baseline-but I think there’s still the difficulties of that process being in DFID itself and whether that then carries through to implementing partners, given that DFID itself doesn’t implement the majority of its funds.
Q8 Katy Clark: Dr Toulmin, you mentioned national Governments and I suppose what we were interested in is, is this agenda really something that’s coming from us, from donor nations, and from people sitting in this room, or is there very much an appetite in the recipient countries for this agenda? It may be that it is not the same in every country and maybe it depends on that country’s experience, but clearly we do need these countries to buy into this agenda if it’s going to be successful.
Dr Toulmin: Indeed, and if I think particularly of the climate change agenda and the work that DFID has been supporting with our help in Kenya and in Nepal, two countries that are particularly vulnerable to impacts of climate change, there is a very great appetite in Government to see how they can design these National Adaptation Programmes of Action that are able to meet local demand half way in the middle, if you see what I mean. You very often had in the past a sort of programmatic design at national level that hasn’t been able to listen to the diverse needs and problems being faced by local people. And what DFID has been wanting to do, with our help, is see how you can bridge the local and the national into a set of more targeted interventions that meet the diverse needs of different communities. So I think that on that, there’s a lot of interest.
I think where there’s less interest at the moment is on the sort of low carbon green agenda, where I think quite a lot of Governments think, "Another fad! Why are we being handed this when we have well-established sustainable development or poverty reduction strategies in place?" So they need persuading that this is something that can add something of value to an existing set of priorities, rather than throwing them out of the way and adding a new one.
Dr Mitchell: I think our experience is a little bit different to the one that Dr Toulmin was suggesting there. I think Governments are very interested in this agenda. We’re hearing again and again from Governments that they’re very interested in us supporting them with programmes to build resilience with the green growth, low carbon economy agenda. But I think we have to try and understand where that desire is coming from. That desire is coming from the fact that markets are opening up for them, that there is a new flow of foreign direct investment into those countries to support renewable energy projects, for example. Our assessment from a cynical perspective would say this is probably less about reducing greenhouse gases than it is about these economic opportunities. But the agenda that we have had has always been that the poorest and the lowest income countries shouldn’t be there to reduce greenhouses gases-this is not right. But they’re very interested in this agenda now, I think very much directly as a result of their seeing it as an opportunity in job creation, in growing and leap-frogging in technology. But equally, on the National Adaptation Programmes of Action, Governments are very interested to do those as well, because they’re seeing climate impacts in a way that-people are seeing this as a political issue now. People are seeing that it’s a very significant challenge to the way they’re running countries and we need to take this on.
Q9 Katy Clark: It has been mentioned that a couple of countries are very interested in this agenda. Are there other countries that really are resistant, or not so much?
Dr Toulmin: Not on the climate agenda. I think there’s been a huge awakening of consciousness, even in countries that hadn’t been part of the discussion, as a result of the Copenhagen Summit. I think that brought an awful lot of Governments on to the same page, understanding how immediate a lot of the impacts are now showing themselves to be, and what some of the opportunities are for help in addressing questions of adaptation. You’re quite right, Tom, on the green economy and low carbon stuff, I think the main resistance is amongst countries like Mali, Burkina-some of the lowest income countries, who say, "Hang on a minute, let’s get the adaptation right, rather than going down a new route". But middle-income countries, particularly emerging economies, I think see huge opportunities from that agenda. So one has to distinguish, I suppose, between these different kinds of countries.
Dr Mitchell: The Institute of Development Studies was providing support to states in India to develop climate change plans, and those climate change plans included adaptation, mitigation and environmental safeguards together. That was very much as a result of engagement in the Copenhagen process, seeing that there’s a whole range of responses to climate change that need to happen, and thinking as a bundle, "How do we put these together and make them sensible and coherent?" This is one of the few examples really at sub-national level where climate change planning is now very squarely on the agenda, and DFID-supported very clearly in the poorer states in India, where UK Aid has been providing that support. So I think there are some very good examples of where sub-nationally, even groups are coming wanting this, and UK support is providing very good sector-leading cases.
Dr Tanner: I would quickly just add one more example, from I think where DFID has support, and that’s in Uganda, where I think the Copenhagen Summit had a major influence in shifting President Museveni’s view on climate change. He was one of the stalwarts who saw climate change as the latest Western conditionality, and breaking that down, as a result that position has softened significantly, because of seeing the opportunities that it provides, whether it be through new and additional sources of finance for adaptation, or the opportunities for low carbon development that directly link to the country’s own energy priorities and needs.
Q10 Katy Clark: Finally, the focus of a lot of DFID’s aid at the moment is on the poorest countries in South-East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, partly because of the millennium development goals, but do you think that means that DFID may be neglecting other areas of the world where perhaps UK Aid could have a bigger environmental impact?
Dr Mitchell: Yes, I think this is quite a topical one, because there are some decisions to be made about programming and the UK’s commitment to climate finance-the £2.9 billion in the Comprehensive Spending Review. I think there has been some questions around to what extent the traditional UK focus countries should still be maintained as a focus for that kind of programming support, or whether we should be looking at a whole range of countries and saying, "Where do we get the most bang for our buck in terms of being able to reduce emissions or help with adaptation?" I think that’s right. I think we need to be clear on whether or not we’re taking an approach that says which countries simply are most vulnerable to the impact of climate change, if we prioritise those; or which countries UK Aid can make the best possible investment in for reducing greenhouse gases. Now, there are lots of trade-offs to this, and there needs to be some careful thought given to it, but I think there is a case to be made for looking elsewhere, at least initially, to see whether or not there could be better value for money.
Dr Toulmin: I think that it would really be useful for the Committee to consider how you encourage UK Government to have a broader environmental diplomacy that recognises and builds on the strengths, equally, of the Foreign Office. The Foreign Office did excellent work on climate change diplomacy in the run up to Copenhagen. It was through no fault of theirs that the Copenhagen process was a bit of a disaster, so combining the Foreign Office with DFID and the work that DEFRA’s been doing with the sustainable development dialogues with China, India, with Brazil and a number of other big actors, trying to get the bigger package of actions with different sorts of countries and different tools, I think would be well worth while.
Chair: Just before I bring in Zac Goldsmith, I think the Committee might be interested to know that we have been joined by a delegation from Costa Rica. I welcome them to our proceedings in Parliament, and should say as well that they walked in just at the point when you were talking, Dr Toulmin, about the importance of environmental diplomacy-an issue that is, I know, dear to the hearts of many people all around the world.
Q11 Zac Goldsmith: This is initially directed to Dr Mitchell. You mentioned the multilateral agencies earlier, and as I understand it, about 40% of UK Aid is channelled through those to the UN, the European Commission and the World Bank between them-40% is the figure that we have. You implied in your opening comments that you saw that as a problem, and I just was hoping that you could elaborate on that before I delve into some of the details.
Dr Mitchell: Yes, my initial statement suggested that the UK Aid does flow through various multilateral channels, UN bodies, and the channels flow all the way down to national and sub-national level. I think a lot of the analysis, for example, of the World Bank has suggested that the World Bank is one of the best actors in taking climate change and environmental protection into account, and the bank are very clear that, when they are programming money related to climate change, there is a degree of transparency around that. Now, that’s not-
Q12 Zac Goldsmith: Can I just interrupt for a second? Your remarks about the World Bank, do they apply to World Bank funding across the board or to the World Bank funding which is directed specifically at environmental climate change-related projects?
Dr Mitchell: My experience is, climate change and environment-related projects. I think there have always been very significant public examples of where the World Bank has been supporting projects that we would say would not be in the same camp.
Q13 Chair: Sorry, can I just ask you then how much of what the World Bank does would you say does not have environmental issues embedded in the way in which it gives support to that investment?
Dr Mitchell: I couldn’t answer that question with any degree of clarity. I don’t know whether any other members of the panel could.
Dr Tanner: It’s a tough question. All programmes certainly have potential opportunities, even if they don’t have clear sensitivities on the risks. My view would really be that one of the difficulties is that while environmental safeguards, particularly through environmental impact assessments and strategic environmental assessments, are regulated and there are international norms and international authorities regarding what is considered best practice, as yet that doesn’t exist for low carbon considerations or for adaptation and disaster risk reduction within programming. So one of the big problems is because it’s a new area, there aren’t set guidelines, so it’s difficult for DFID to call its multilaterals and even the EC to account for due diligence, because there isn’t an agreed set level of due diligence around those issues. That’s something that-
Q14 Zac Goldsmith: Exactly, but on that point, it seems to me that by delegating that decision making in relation to a very significant chunk of British aid, we are losing all flexibility, or at least we’re losing a very large part of the influence that we could otherwise exert, and that seems to me a potential problem. I don’t know what the solution is or what we could do in terms of renegotiating our agreement via the World Bank, but it seems to me that that is an unavoidable problem.
Dr Tanner: The programming that does go through the multilateral banks does also go through an early DFID screening procedure for environment, climate and disaster risks and opportunities.
Q15 Zac Goldsmith: But only in relation to the projects which are labelled environmental, not the rest of the projects.
Dr Tanner: No, all projects that have DFID funding have to go through that procedure, and that’s the strength and the weaknesses, of course-that it happens as programming starts in DFID, and that following that up and monitoring it then is devolved to the multilateral authorities.
Q16 Zac Goldsmith: But there have nevertheless been fossil fuel-related projects which have not had the approval of the British Government-DFID-but which have nevertheless gone ahead, so the Government have marked their opposition to particular schemes, usually by abstaining or voting against, and yet the schemes are still given the funding that they are asking for. I am just throwing that in.
Dr Mitchell: There is a loss of control element, though, and I think the recent trend has been that DFID’s multilateral partners have been-certainly my experience with the World Bank is that they’ve been trying hard to meet high standards. But I think as Tom rightly points out, this is a new area and there’s not an internationally agreed norm for the types of things that I think Caroline Lucas was talking about in terms of how do you set out from the start to establish resilience in the types of projects that you’re supporting? There’s no internationally agreed standard for that, so in some ways, we’re looking for it where it happens and making a point of it and showing that it’s good practice. But you do get that degree of loss of control at the moment when you work with multilateral partners.
Q17 Zac Goldsmith: But in your experience, do the British Government make the maximum use of the influence they do have? Are they effective in influencing the decisions made at, for example, the World Bank?
Dr Mitchell: I think in my experience, there’s a delicate balance to strike in saying, "We want you as a multilateral partner to programme in this money in a way that is effective and we will, to a certain extent, take a step back from the kind of the detailed micro-management of that", compared with DFID being fairly robust in its wishes to see openness and transparency around these issues. But I think more could be done in that respect, particularly looking at where the multilateral channels are then supporting other third-party organisations as further channels and looking at where DFID’s engagement in the whole kind of supply chain of aid could come. And there’s always room for improvement there, but I think, in my experience, DFID has done a reasonable job with that.
Q18 Zac Goldsmith: Sorry, I will try not to take too much time. If you were to compare the approach of DFID acting alone with DFID’s contribution via the multilateral agencies specifically in relation to environmental projects within the context of poverty alleviation, how do the two compare? I mean, is DFID’s approach more innovative, more effective? Is it hampered, do you think, by its association with the World Bank?
Dr Mitchell: I think it’s very difficult to make that assessment. I’ve heard anecdotally that World Bank performance has been very good in aid delivery, and I think the question that is easier to address is the question around environmental safeguards and climate safeguards, rather than the effectiveness of spend through different channels. What I would say is that there are some situations where the World Bank as an actor does a better job than if UK Government were working alone. There are other situations where it’s right for the UK Government to be programming the money alone. In some cases, you know, you have to look at the kind of the relative strength of the bilateral system compared to the multilateral system and the breadth of expertise they have on different topics.
I think one of the questions I would ask is where are the choices made between programming money through the World Bank and programming money through the EC? Certainly around climate change, the choice has been to go with the World Bank, and certainly in the submission that my organisation made, I think we would want greater clarity over the choices that are made between which multilateral actors are programming the money compared to when the UK Government might be doing it alone. I don’t really feel we have enough transparency around the decisions that are made and choosing the different channels for UK Aid.
Q19 Zac Goldsmith: So if it is the case that DFID is taking a different approach now, and it certainly is trying to, and there is a rethink going on-which is one of the reasons why we have this inquiry-and if it is the case that DFID decides to invest more in environmental renewal with a view to alleviating the worst forms of poverty, would it not make sense therefore for DFID to delegate less of its funds and less of the decision making to multilateral agencies, and to focus more on increasing the budget over which it has complete control?
Dr Toulmin: Well, it would if it had sufficient expertise and capacity in-house, and it would if it had the capacity to work with and build up that expertise in-country. I think, with due respect, it’s a mistake to focus entirely on the supply end of things. I think you also have to ask the question in terms of relative effectiveness: who is your interlocutor on the other side, and how, over time, have you helped build that capacity within the recipient country that’s best able to make decisions and plan and manage environmental concerns? So, for instance, DFID has been extremely good in Tanzania in terms of building up over time a body of people in a learning group on environment that makes a huge difference in terms of their ability to set the agenda and engage with these external funders, and I don’t think you can only look at the sort of supply of aid coming in; you also have to think about how you’ve created a much more effective interface with which to work.
Q20 Zac Goldsmith: One last question: in terms of poverty alleviation-which is the reason DFID exists, the basic reason-how much of the British aid budget in your view, roughly speaking, should be targeted towards tackling environmental causes of poverty and environmental renewal of marine protected areas, forests, water table issues and so on, how useful is that in terms of dealing with base poverty, and how much therefore should it be the DFID focus?
Dr Toulmin: Well, for me it’s absolutely at the heart of any kind of poverty reduction strategy, and I think people have-
Zac Goldsmith: It should be, but what is? Are you saying it should be?
Dr Toulmin: It should be, in the sense that, we can have as much economic growth as we like in the short term, but it’s going to be disastrous in terms of medium to longer term capacity to sustain that growth. So unless sustainable management of the natural resources, of urban development-of all of these things-is very much integrated from the start, then you ain’t going to get the kind of poverty reduction that has any ability to deliver into the future.
Q21 Dr Whitehead: Could I return to the World Bank? On the one hand, Dr Mitchell, you are saying good things about the World Bank in terms of its management. On the other hand, the IID written documentation, for example, recommends that we look at whether maintaining the World Bank as the main route for UK spending on climate finance is appropriate, or undermines our international low carbon objectives. I think we put something like £730 million or £800 million in the World Bank as far as climate change programmes are concerned. Is there a difference between your positions on this, or do they reflect a difference between the advisability of other things the World Bank is doing in relation to climate change programmes, and how that might then work in with climate change programmes, as opposed to how the World Bank is operating those funds?
Dr Mitchell: I don’t think there’s a difference in positions here between the submission that IID made and what we said today. I think there are some big questions that need to be asked about the channels of UK finance on climate change, and certainly there was a choice made three or four years ago to programme a significant amount of money through the World Bank, through the climate investment funds, and the UK was absolutely instrumental in setting up those mechanisms. I think at the time there were some choices made about the type of aid-whether it was loans or grants, for example-and the way the support was for the World Bank that made the choices particularly controversial, and we’ve even seen recently BBC reports about climate loans and demonstrations against climate loans. I think, though, there does need to be greater transparency and thinking regarding the choices concerning the UK programmes and the new climate change money within the Comprehensive Spending Review, and whether or not to repeat the same kind of practices that have already gone on. I mentioned in the previous question giving some greater clarity to the choices that are made between different multilateral actors for climate change finance; repeating the same and putting all the money back into the World Bank, spending all the money through the World Bank, I think would be obviously a political mistake. But we have to look carefully at the balance of that, and clearly, as Dr Toulmin said previously, if the UK Government are going to scale up their ability to programme large resources on environmental protection and climate change, they need to look carefully at the kind of capacity that they need at lots of different levels, including in-country capacity, to be able to do that effectively.
Dr Toulmin: I think, as Tom rightly says, when the decision was made to put that big chunk of money through the World Bank, it was a highly political decision, and essentially, for many people who have been part of the UNFCCC process, it was a slap in the face. It was felt to be a slap in the face to the adaptation fund that was in the process of being created, and it was an expression of a lack of confidence in that multilateral adaptation fund. For that reason-I think the argument was made at the time, "Oh well, it would be more effectively managed by the World Bank"-a really important point was missed about where the UK wanted to position itself in relation to the broader debate on the formal legal commitments that we have under the UN climate change treaty, which require us to provide support to those countries that have been adversely impacted by climate change, for which we’re partially responsible. And the idea that part of that money would be sent out in the form of loans was deemed to be really insulting.
Q22 Dr Whitehead: So, since the UNFCCC adaptation fund and the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience appear to compete quite directly, in your view, is there now a choice to be made for the future?
Dr Toulmin: Well, certainly the plan when the bank fund was originally set up was that it would have a sunset clause. That was very clearly established when they set up. I haven’t heard much about the sunset clause recently. But clearly it would be good to get some scrutiny and assessment of that, and whether for one reason or another, the sunset is being postponed for a wee while. But whatever happens, it would clearly make sense for the lessons coming out from the World Bank’s mechanism to be fed into the workings of the adaptation fund.
Dr Tanner: That is written in, and that sunset clause is up until the point when a post-Copenhagen, post-Cancun, post-Durban agreement is reached. I think there’s also an historical, ideological issue that’s important, and that is around the mainstreaming of climate change adaptation issues into planning and finance at a high level at scale. So part of the decision to work through the bank was, this is the best route to put through much, much larger quantities of finance, working through the planning systems, not projectised in a way that a lot of the UN processes had been-in part because projectised funding was very much the route that a lot of the environment ministries in developing countries are used to-but in part because of the scale of the finance being offered. This upscaling of finance we’re seeing, putting it through, working with the bank and its existing linkages, tends to have much stronger linkages with planning and finance ministries in developing countries than the UN system, so that, in part, was one of the reasons for doing it. And I think to do it at speed, as well, although the critics will point out that the spending hasn’t been as quick as they perhaps first anticipated-
Q23 Dr Whitehead: And no loans?
Dr Tanner: Sorry?
Dr Whitehead: Well, you have already mentioned the opprobrium with which loans were greeted in the Programme for Climate Resilience. Are there any pros for a loan approach, do you think, or is it all cons?
Dr Mitchell: I am not well cited on the specific evidence around this, but colleagues in my organisation tell me that there are often very good reasons for using loans and that the returns in terms of the poverty benefits of loans can be greater than grants on some occasions, due to the ability to provide better monitoring around those, and the way the money is programmed and monitored and the use of it. So the message that loans are bad and grants are good in achieving poverty benefits is not the right message, and I certainly can provide the Committee with the papers that go into the detailed evidence on that.
Dr Tanner: Just to add, the loans issue is again about going to scale on integrating adaptation into mainstream development planning and finance. That is the route to doing development programming at scale in other areas. The grant equivalent is that concessional loan, so you can translate it in economic terms. I think the difficulty has been the ethical dimension when it’s based on a climate change compensation argument from the developing country side and certainly within the UNFCCC, that’s where the real blockage has been, I think, on its effectiveness, that the development supply chain is very used to the use of concessional loans at scale.
Chair: Okay. I think we want to move on to fossil fuel.
Q24 Mr Spencer: Apparently, the World Bank spent $4.4 billion on coal last year and I just wondered to what extent you thought that UK Aid budget, whether that’s bilateral or multilateral, was encouraging the use of alternative energy sources?
Dr Toulmin: If I was encouraging the use of alternative energy sources, I think I would programme my money differently.
Q25 Mr Spencer: Very good. Would you say that one of those alternate uses of that cash, of those investments-because I think coal is here to stay; to convince the world to move away from coal is not realistic-ought to be carbon capture and storage?
Dr Mitchell: I don’t think any of us would claim to have a lot of expertise on the carbon capture and storage technology, but my understanding is that the UK making investments in this area has the potential to create UK market leadership on carbon capture and storage, but I still think it’s early days for capture and storage to be a key part of the UK Aid portfolio.
Q26 Mr Spencer: Yes. So just to go back to the original question, are you suggesting that the money we are spending is not encouraging alternative energy sources?
Chair: Even to go further-whether or not any expenditure which did not do that should be stopped, and that it could be stopped.
Dr Mitchell: Speaking very personally, I would not want the UK to be spending its aid on things that are encouraging dirty fuel use, and I think if there are routes where that’s happening, then it should be stopped. I think the UK is already providing support to renewable energy technology development, to the use of renewable energy in developing countries. That support is clear, but I think where UK support is also still providing tariffs, even indirectly, to coal and oil, then that’s kind of counterproductive to the aims around reducing greenhouse gases.
Q27 Mr Spencer: So that is the crux, isn’t it?
Dr Tanner: Indirectly, because the core DFID programming has a lot of increasing work on low carbon and renewables. Certainly, some of it is multilateral funding in the EC. Again, there is a lot of work on low carbon, but I think you picked up in the notes for the inquiry that it is through things like the support to the Export Credit Guarantee Department, and DFID sits on the board. Should it be playing a stronger role there in things in which the UK has a stake?
Q28 Mr Spencer: Dr Toulmin, you said you would spend it differently. Could you expand and tell us how you would spend it?
Dr Toulmin: Well, I think there is enormous potential for alternative energy generation both in middle-income countries and also in many low-income countries, making use of the huge amounts of sunshine that many countries in Africa have and finding ways in which feed-in tariffs and stuff like that would encourage lots of micro-level investment in these forms of energy. I know that there are initiatives now under way that DFID is leading on to do precisely that, and I would like to see more of that happening, because with energy comes so much else that can transform the local economy.
Dr Mitchell: I just want to expand on that. I think where the support for renewable energy technologies is clearly important, it is very important also to remember that the low carbon development agenda is much broader and is about supporting energy choice and supporting the way countries are using their land-for example, not cutting down forests to then replace them with biofuels that may, on the face of it, be sensible because biofuels are about not using dirty forms of energy; but equally, cutting down those forests is important because the forests are taking carbon out of the atmosphere. So there is a whole land use debate. There is also a debate about the energy efficiency of industry that the UK has a role to play in. There is obviously the part of it that is related to energy, and there is the part that is related to consumption lifestyles and people’s lifestyles in developing countries. Particular incentives around green growth, and the parts around sustainability that Dr Toulmin has mentioned, need to be a core part of that environmental dialogue that happens at Foreign Office level.
Q29 Caroline Lucas: I wanted to ask about forestry and, in particular, your views on World Bank lending for forestry. For example, do you think that World Bank lending to the forestry sector is compatible with the UK Government’s objectives in terms of forest protection and climate mitigation?
Dr Toulmin: Well, World Bank lending in the forestry sector has traditionally been very much focused on commercial forestry operations. That has been shifting but not shifting maybe as fast as we would like. That said, I think that everybody increasingly recognises that on the REDD forestry agenda we are not going to get anywhere unless we have a greater focus on governance and on trying to get established the institutions and rights associated with effective local level management and governance of forests. It is the software of the whole REDD investment that needs to happen.
I suppose one area in which I think both DFID and the World Bank need to be pushed further is turning a strong commitment in terms of the rhetoric into a set of practices that mean that forest management, forest rights and the potential resource flows coming in for REDD schemes do end up in the hands of those people on the ground whose livelihoods are most dependent on the forests. That is work in progress; I do not think we are there yet.
Q30 Caroline Lucas: That was quite a measured response given that there is a lot of concern out there that the REDD plans currently going through the World Bank could be leading to support for industrial logging, plantation establishment and so forth.
Dr Mitchell: I would agree with Dr Toulmin on that one. I think the forest governance issue and the protection for communities dependent on forestry is absolutely paramount. I think that support for-
Q31 Caroline Lucas: Has the World Bank taken that sufficiently into account in the way that it is implementing REDD?
Dr Mitchell: My view would be that the World Bank does not do that and many other agencies involved in that do not do that yet. I think it is part of the plumbing of the whole system that is not sorted out well. It is early stages in many ways around REDD. There is not very clear agreement on many of the governance issues around the REDD mechanism. There was not as much progress in Cancun as we would have wanted on that. I think we are still some significant steps away from having a governance system around REDD that does benefit or serve the needs of poor people who are dependent on forests. I think the danger that we all see at the moment is that there are a variety of intermediaries within the system-those who have stronger commercial interests, who may have the opportunity to use the market in ways that can benefit them, rather than the people who are very much dependent on those forests.
Chair: I think both Mark and Zac want to come in on that point.
Q32 Mark Lazarowicz: Yes, a couple of questions. First of all, what is the common scale of REDD activity? It is fairly minimal, isn’t it, overall, in terms of what seems the potential of REDD? Is there any sign of it building up in any significant way, taking into account the qualifications that have been raised? Secondly, how far is the UK directly involved in supporting REDD projects rather than through multilateral agencies, if at all?
Dr Tanner: Not something that-
Dr Toulmin: I am not sure that we have figures. I am sure you could demand those figures from DFID.
Dr Tanner: Our work, I should say, around REDD has been trying to look sub-nationally around the development of that governance. I think that is probably a crucial area where DFID would want to engage with ensuring indigenous rights and ensuring good participatory approaches that recognise the different interest groups. Our work in Brazil is showing just how differentiated that is. So among indigenous groups you have different states who are pushing for very different ideological visions of what REDD should be.
Q33 Mark Lazarowicz: Perhaps to go back to Dr Toulmin’s point-and I should probably put it in a PQ and get my answer that way-the point I was trying to get was a wider picture. Is there any potential that REDD is going to provide the type of substantial role that people thought it was doing in some of the initial discussions about its development?
Dr Mitchell: First, the Norwegian Government have taken a very strong leadership role on this and provided direct bilateral support to a number of countries-very large sums of money.
Q34 Zac Goldsmith: May I ask you how much of that goes through the World Bank, and how much do they-
Dr Mitchell: That is direct bilateral support. I could not tell you the exact figures.
Dr Toulmin: They put some through UN REDD, some through the World Bank and some directly. Most of it has gone directly.
Dr Mitchell: Most of it is direct. There is a headline project in Indonesia. There are a number of billions of euros on the table to say, "Well, actually, can you safeguard, not cut down, forests in your country, and if you perform well then you get more of this money?" That has been a much-heralded scheme. There is a similar approach in Guyana, which is probably one of the world’s leading national low carbon development plans, where the Norwegian Government have played a key role.
From a UK Government perspective, DFID have just commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers and the IUCN to conduct a design study for UK support to REDD and to develop a UK strategy on it. So I think it is probably an area of UK Government support that is reasonably immature, and we will wait to see the results of that design study-due, I think, in the next few months-to know exactly how the plans are for supporting REDD.
Dr Toulmin: But I think it would be very good to have a look, if you have time, at what the Norwegian Government have done on this, because it not only provides a very ambitious model for trying to get REDD readiness in terms of the institutions and the testing out of pilots in a number of countries; it has also been encouraging south-south learning on REDD. The Brazilians have been spending quite a lot of time in Mozambique working with them to see how some of the lessons from the Brazilian Amazon can translate into another Lusophone nation. So, there is quite a lot that is of value there.
Q35 Zac Goldsmith: Just very briefly, I do not think anyone would argue that there is anything other than a very wide gap between the World Bank’s general approach to the forestry sector and the British Government’s approach, where the standards or at least the aspirations are quite high. Some would say not high enough, but they are certainly a lot higher than what we have seen from the World Bank. Given that that is the case and given that this is a central issue, I am just surprised that from all three of you, you seem to be recommending a very mild approach in relation to the World Bank. I would have expected you all, I think, to have called for a much more robust approach, either making heavy demands of the World Bank or even threatening withdrawal of funds so that we can spend them better, as Norway is doing. I absolutely agree with you, it is best practice at the moment. But I do not see how we can reconcile the two, or how we can follow the Norwegian example without taking a different approach with the World Bank. I think all of you seem to be backing away from saying that. I am just interested to know why.
Dr Mitchell: I think we are taking quite a pragmatic view, and that is partly because some of the other bilateral donor agencies not as big as DFID-the spends are not as big-have to make some quite hard choices about where they make their spending and what they focus on. I think what that allows them to do is to build up very significant experience and capacity in particular areas. The Norwegian Government are well known for this kind of support-a lot of people there with a lot of experience. For the UK Government to be taking a similar position and to be providing direct bilateral support, there needs to be an equal scaleup in capacity, knowledge and experience and that does not happen very quickly. The UK Government’s approach, because of larger budgets, has been to spread the interest much more widely across the whole of the climate change agenda, which has not allowed the degree of buildup of very direct experience and capacity in certain areas. From when there is pressure around numbers of civil servants in administration and things like that, it makes it easier to write large cheques to a third party than it does to programme the money very significantly through-
Q36 Zac Goldsmith: Not necessarily better? It may be that the solution is to scale things up?
Dr Mitchell: No, I am not saying that it is a better situation. I am saying that ideally, yes, I agree with you that the money should not be going to the World Bank, but I am saying for the time there are some pragmatic choices needed around programming the money. I think over time, DFID, in discussions I have had with them, are very clear that there needs to be a significant scaling up of capacity, but that does not happen quickly.
Chair: As always, we have to try and get the balance between keeping to a timetable-I know that Mark wants to come in on that point.
Q37 Mark Lazarowicz: On that point, if DFID is now under more pressure to cut staff, cut resources and is also up-scaling its spending, isn’t that going to lead to even more pressure to put funding through multilaterals rather than through bilateral programmes?
Dr Toulmin: Absolutely, yes.
Dr Mitchell: Absolutely.
Q38 Caroline Lucas: A couple of times already this afternoon the phrase "green growth" has been used and I just wanted to explore that a little bit further, particularly in the light of the speech that the Secretary of State for International Development gave back in November when he said, "We should never ask developing countries to sacrifice shortterm growth in interests of making that growth green". Now, you could write a whole PhD thesis on the assumptions underlying that statement, but I just wondered what your response to that statement would be. In a sense, is that a legitimate consideration to be having, or does it belong to another time, maybe?
Dr Toulmin: Well, I think you probably have to make a distinction, as we did, between middle-income countries for whom the choice of investment in low carbon energy transport systems is really key if we are going to start capping global emissions, and the position faced by some of the lowest income countries, who have pretty well zero carbon footprint. I think in the latter case what one needs to be doing is having a conversation that allows them to see that their own desire for economic growth and prosperity is best pursued through a more sustainable pattern of development. That is exactly what we have been seeking to do in countries like Mali to help them see that actually, instead of this being seen as an imposition, there are market opportunities and there are ways of threading into their existing poverty reduction strategies and fight against desertification. One can thread the green economy principles and opportunities for new investment into an existing structure. I think that has to be the way in which you encourage them to go because fundamentally, unless they put in place measures that will allow for longterm productive use of land, soils and vegetation, that economic growth is going to be pretty limited.
Dr Tanner: Briefly, the narrative around green growth is still relatively untested. It is still fairly new. There is no real clarity in what is being pursued, what some of the tradeoffs might be. The UK Government’s position-taking a poverty lens and saying, "Where do we have lessons, and how can we encourage pilots, actions, initiatives and innovation to road test and see what is able to sync the poverty agenda and the shortterm development needs with underpinning environmental protection and low carbon futures?"
Q39 Caroline Lucas: Do you think that should be happening, or it is happening?
Dr Tanner: I think there is a lot more opportunity, but that is starting. I think at the moment forcing it, making it sound like a conditionality-particularly to, as Dr Toulmin says, the low-income countries-is perhaps not the best route or strategy, saying, "We are going to pursue green growth now" without really trying to think what that means for a specific country, particularly the low-income countries. There is a lot more opportunity for working with them in this trying, testing and building. I think, as you probably saw from the submission, one of the things we really want to push is the idea of knowledge-sharing and knowledge management, and the ability of countries to talk to each other about what works and scale up things that are working; and what success in different countries looks like, including south-south learning.
Q40 Caroline Nokes: We have heard a couple of times this afternoon references to environmental diplomacy and also to the UK being in the top tier of donor agencies, but do you think that the UK Government have done enough or are doing enough to influence the global agenda on environmental protection and climate change, and have they got the funds to do it?
Dr Toulmin: I think it is less the funds and more the ambition and capacity to join stuff up in a coherent way. If we look at, say, the big opportunity next year around Rio plus 20-20 years on from the Earth Summit-I guess I would like to see a higher level of recognition of that as a big opportunity to review how we have done over the last 20 years, and set a new impetus behind setting some global sustainability goals that could follow on from the MDGs that are due to be retired in 2015. So it is more a question of saying there is a lot going on, but there could be significantly more if it was joined up effectively and if we had some real leadership on that global sustainability agenda. Bits of it are there. We had a meeting last week on Beyond GDP, which had a lot of interest from both the British and the French Governments on seeing how you could start to measure the things that matter even if they are not part of GDP. There is obviously a lot of work on climate change. There are bits of diplomacy going on in the Foreign Office, but somehow the whole is not yet more than the sum of the parts. I would love the UK Government to want to have that forward role on that front.
Q41 Caroline Nokes: You are effectively saying that there is not enough ambition yet?
Dr Toulmin: I do not see any ambition anywhere with any of the Governments with whom we work. We have relations with a dozen or so Governments. I was over in Norway 10 days ago. Again, Norway is thinking, "Shall we, shan’t we, shall we, shan’t we?" and I think you will find that mirrored in a lot of other countries as well. I think that a little bit of a push now might start to garner the energy we need in order to make Rio a success rather than a damp squib, which is what it is looking like at present.
Chair: That is what we hope our Committee report can help with.
Q42 Caroline Nokes: The recent UN conferences on biodiversity and climate change seem to be bringing the prospect of global agreements closer. What do you think the implication of a successful international agreement would be for the allocation of UK funds for aid?
Dr Tanner: One of the implications is that we need much tighter co-ordination across the UK Government Departments that have an interest and a role. I would be interested to know in how many countries, for example, where DFID is active is there a joint UK-HMG strategy for climate change, environment and development. In some of the key countries where there is popular interest in the UK, such as Bangladesh, India and China, I think that those joint strategies have been developed and have been very successful in opening up the dialogue across Government to at least break down the ignorance of what the competing objectives might be across different Departments-how do the DEFRA, DECC, No. 10 and DFID visions differ in terms of the priorities and objectives?-and come to a joint position in order much more effectively to negotiate diplomatically as a whole. I think we will see that coming out of-that is happening with climate change. There is some co-ordination, certainly nationally, for a biodiversity convention, but does that translate to DFID’s and the Foreign Office’s position overseas in all cases? I would certainly be interested to know whether my experience of seeing that happen and being effective is a one-off, or whether that is a standard procedure across all countries.
Q43 Chair: Did you want to come in, Dr Mitchell?
Dr Mitchell: Yes. I just wanted to make a point relating to your last two questions. The first is that in these meetings the UK negotiates under an EU negotiating bloc. Let us take, for example, the position of the European Union in relation to the UNFCCC. There is a difference, I think, between where the UK’s fairly stated goal is of where it wants to see the EU position, and the negotiated position that the EU actually takes as a result of competing interests across the EU. So I think it is on the record that the UK has said that it would like to go to a 30% emissions cut in the EU by 2020, but the position cannot be taken due to the competing interests. Where the UK is negotiating in these big meetings, looking for big agreements, to some extent the UK’s hands are tied by that having to work from a joint EU position. That is not to say that there is not a route for bilateral diplomacy behind the scenes, and I think there has been a degree of ambition around that. But certainly publicly, the UK falls behind the EU position.
Q44 Sheryll Murray: Is there any indication within the European Union which member states are perhaps holding the UK back?
Dr Toulmin: Well, I think it is generally known that countries that rely heavily on coal for their energy system tend to be ones that are not that keen on an agenda that is more ambitious.
Chair: Just before Peter Aldous comes in, what you were saying just now, Dr Tanner, about this possible difference between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and DFID, I think if there were any specific examples that could show where there is competition between the two, or case studies, it would be very helpful for us to have that as part of our inquiry.
Q45 Peter Aldous: If we just look at the make-up of aid projects for a moment, some focus on climate change, others on environmental protection. Have DFID got the balance right between the two? Is there perhaps a little too much focus, with climate change dominating the agenda, or not?
Dr Tanner: I do not think it is as simple as that. I think there is a lot of recasting of essentially environmental and natural resource use work under the climate change banner. Environment as an issue is not top of the list, and climate change has become a real global spinner or it is grabbing attention. A lot of the work around natural resources underpins building resilience and adaptation, and so it is being recast. I do not think it is a question of that kind of biodistinction and the balance between the two.
Q46 Peter Aldous: So that change in focus-there is not a particular problem with that, you think? You are happy with that?
Dr Tanner: Not if it draws on the lessons from our understanding of environmental protection. I think the danger is that climate change becomes everything but environmental protection, and that we make sure that natural resource management and environmental protection issues underpin our climate change work. Is there a danger of that happening? There is always a danger as agendas change, but I think at the moment, in general, the climate change specialism, particularly within the UK Government, is being led and informed by those who have that natural resource and environment background.
Dr Mitchell: Specifically in the submission that was made from a member of my organisation, we address this point, I think highlighting that where the UK Government were supporting environmental protection projects, they tended to be reasonably small-scale projects. Where we have seen successes and advances is where we have been integrating those environmental protection projects into larger, budget support, multidonor trust fund-type projects. When it becomes a key issue for national Government across their budgetary spend, across sectors, we have seen greater success in environmental protection, rather than taking an individual project-by-project approach.
What climate change has tended to do is increase the amounts of money that are on the table, and certainly, for example, the support through the World Bank and the pilot programme on climate resilience has created these kind of larger envelopes of money that have allowed a wider discussion with sectors within recipient Governments about what environmental protection and climate resilience means. So in some senses the scaling up, the use of the climate change language, the fact that environmental protection is still there, might be seen as a positive aspect from that point, rather than relying, I think as Dr Tanner said previously, on project-by-project approaches to this. Because you cannot really ensure environmental sustainability and protection by taking a project-by-project approach; it has to be a cross-Government approach. I think some of the scale-up that we have seen with climate change has allowed that to happen in a way that we see as quite a positive move, based on evidence.
Dr Toulmin: But I think if you have that money coming in at that national level, you have to twin it, if you like, with understanding and strengthening the tenure rights in institutions at the local level that enable that money to be used wisely and effectively.
Q47 Peter Aldous: Just taking that, DFID have an increasing focus on direct and measurable impacts. Do you think that is freezing out spending on environmental protection climate change projects or not?
Dr Toulmin: I think it creates challenges for being able to demonstrate the impact of building the software. That is just a challenge that people like our organisations have, which is that we believe not only in the direct measurable benefits from any particular spend, but also we know and understand that we are not good at measuring how you build institutions, processes, trust, and effectiveness of the software of development. That is a challenge we face that we have not managed to get a very direct answer to, as yet.
Dr Tanner: You have seen from my submission, in some detail, that a lot of our work in IDS with our partners has been around knowledge management and knowledge sharing, which does not have these direct causal impact pathways. We see that there are often indirect causal chains, very complex causal chains. Yes, there is a danger, I think, that if you change the incentive structure you can move the climate environment agenda towards the parts of it-I do not think it is a question of removing it completely and it suffering and being lost; it is just that within it the incentive structure might push it towards certain aspects that have a more direct causal linkage. I think from our perspective that is something we are keen not just to challenge on but also just demonstrate. I think we have good evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness and impact of knowledge management and knowledge sharing, even where there are not direct causal chains.
Q48 Peter Aldous: Finally, when it is not possible in a particular project to support both climate change mitigation and adaptation, which do you believe should be prioritised?
Chair: The $20,000 question.
Dr Tanner: I think that is certainly not for me personally to answer. I think the answer is to invoke the principles of the Paris Declaration and think about alignment with national country demands and needs. Our experience, and certainly that informed by our work with the IID in particular, is around the low-income countries and keeping the adaptation side of the agenda alive in those countries, because that is essentially what they are demanding, and not forcing low-carbon objectives and agendas on them but at the same time being willing to listen. Because, as Dr Mitchell points out, some of the work is showing that countries themselves are making the linkages between the mitigation and adaptation agenda.
Chair: Can I say just for the purposes of the questions I think we are now about to go into extra time, so we will vary our questions accordingly. I know some of the Committee members have to go.
Q49 Peter Aldous: I just wondered if Dr Mitchell wanted to pick up something.
Dr Mitchell: Yes, just very quickly, I think that there should not necessarily be a choice between adaptation and mitigation here. I think in many cases there can be mitigation projects with adaptation and poverty benefits. There can be adaptation projects with mitigation and poverty benefits. I think we should also make sure that we are joining up the dots with these, and that where there are opportunities to link the two and cobenefits and triple-wins and all this language, we find ways to support that. I think, as Dr Tanner said, we have to be very careful that this is about a nationally led process and that we are not imposing particular constraints around those kind of choices.
Q50 Sheryll Murray: Just to turn to CDC and Export Credit Guarantee Department, what type of environmental impact do you think they have and do you think that any lack of environmental action on their part could be a product of the remit given to them?
Dr Toulmin: To be honest, I have no particular knowledge on that. I know that there is a group of NGOs and researchers that have been following the Export Credit Guarantee Scheme and I can find you the details of the contacts for that.
Chair: That would be very helpful.
Sheryll Murray: Just when you do, if you could give us any suggestions on a part of their mandate, if anything, that needs to be changed, that would be very helpful.
Q51 Simon Wright: The world population is projected to exceed 9 billion by 2050, and over the same period we can expect consumption to increase in many of those countries-developing economies-and resource consumption to be on the up in the BRIC economies. To what extent is population growth the real challenge of the environmental agenda in the decades ahead?
Dr Toulmin: Well, for us it is not the real challenge. I think for us if you have patterns of consumption in rich countries that are 20 times or more those of populations in poor countries, we need a much more balanced approach than saying it is population growth among the poor that is the real environmental problem. I think that is very unbalanced. So I ideally would seek to ensure a focus on the things that should be happening anyway around women’s rights, women’s education, women’s health, women’s economic empowerment, which are good for women and good for society in themselves but also may have benefits in terms of greater control over fertility; those things should be happening anyway. But if we focus on population growth in poor countries as the chief environmental variable, it is like focusing on REDD as the way to get us out of the climate change problem. It is kind of finding the mote in somebody else’s eye when you do not see the great log in your own.
Dr Mitchell: Just to say that there would be no difference in my position. I think supporting girls’ education has multiple benefits, one of which is around fertility, but the focus should be very much on supporting them for their poverty reduction benefits but also to look at consumption practices in the developed countries, which is where the real problem lies here.
Dr Tanner: I would just add that sustainable consumption practices in the industrialised countries directly affect sustainable production practices in a lot of the middle-income and low-income countries that feed into the supply chain. I think there is a great role to play on behalf of the British public and the British Government within the UK that can have those beneficial impacts, obviously, rather than foreseeing this problem as a population growth elsewhere and rising rates of consumption elsewhere.
Q52 Neil Carmichael: I am just wondering if there was a message in the fact that the richer the country is, the lower the population growth usually happens to be. Therefore, to apply that logic to our attitude to dealing with world poverty, we should get some way towards reducing population growth.
Dr Toulmin: Indeed. I think having a more equal pattern of distribution of income both within and between countries would be a good way of giving the security that having a large family provides for those people who do not have that security.
Q53 Neil Carmichael: So, working that forward, if you took, say, the Indian economy, which is growing at about 10% at the moment, that would be a case in point. What would you expect to see in terms of its population level, say, by 2050?
Dr Tanner: I would say it very much depends on the income distribution issue rather than just the growth question. We always focus on growth rates and population rates, but actually income distribution in India is extremely skewed. The benefits of that growth are obviously being accrued by a very small section of the population, where no doubt fertility rates are declining.
Q54 Neil Carmichael: So DFID have really got to focus in those ways in the next 40 years?
Dr Toulmin: Well, I think it is for all of us to think about how we work away from the tyranny of the average and think about the skew that we have in an awful lot of variables.
Neil Carmichael: Yes, absolutely.
Q55 Chair: On that note, we did promise ourselves a certain amount of time but I think we have exceeded it. This was our first session in this current inquiry, and we are very grateful to you for giving up your time and coming along. I think there are quite a few issues we need to take up and I am very happy to give you the last word, Dr Toulmin.
Dr Toulmin: Could I just ask a question about process?
Chair: Yes, by all means.
Dr Toulmin: Because I think nothing brings things to life so much as being able to go and stamp around in one or two places. I just wondered if you were having that in your programme-to go and spend a little bit of time in some of the countries where DFID investment has been very substantial, like India, like Ethiopia, like a number of other countries. I would urge you to do so if that was going to be a feasible part of-
Q56 Chair: I think we are always mindful of how we can get a report that is evidence-based, but obviously we are always mindful as well of making sure that we are not being in any way profligate with the resources available to us. I think that the point you make is an important one-that our report when it is published needs to be well-informed. If you have particular suggestions as to places where we would really get the sense of work on the ground in order to inform the work we do, we would be very happy to receive specific proposals as well, but obviously there are no guarantees that we could go ahead and follow that up.
Dr Toulmin: I am sure we would have examples of people, organisations, places that might be good for you to see.
Chair: Yes. I think one of the issues as well that concerns us is the amount of expertise available, so we need to get access to all that expertise, and by visiting we may well do that. Thank you again for your time. If there are further issues you wish to raise, we look forward to receiving them from you.
|©Parliamentary copyright||Prepared 18th March 2011|