Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 150 - 159)




  150. Secretary of State, thank you very much for coming. Colleagues have promised that they will ask brisk questions so we can try and encapsulate this in about an hour, if that is convenient to you. As you know, we have been undertaking an inquiry into climate change and sustainable development. I think we would be interested if you would like to tell us what, from DFID's perspectives, are your priorities for the Johannesburg Conference? I am not sure whether you are going, I am sure you are, but what are DFID's objectives at that meeting?
  (Clare Short) I just wanted to say I have had this long letter about your visit to Ghana and Nigeria, for which I am grateful. It was handed to me when—

  Chairman: That was a report.
  (Clare Short) A report on your visit.

  Chairman: We are not expecting an instant response.
  (Clare Short) The thing is, I have not even read it yet. They literally gave it to me. The point is there might well be information in there that having sent the letter you think I have but I have not actually read it yet. I just want you to know that I do not have that information. The second thing I would say on climate change is I do not consider myself at all an expert on climate change, there are people in the Department who follow that agenda carefully and think about the effect on developing countries. The basic point about it is the world is being polluted and the climate change is being generated by countries like ours and the likely effect on developing countries is in the increasing turbulence and instability. We are focused on that end of the discussion although, of course, the Department has experts and expertise helping developing countries look at the likely consequence for them but we are not central players in that debate because our countries, so to speak, are going to be recipients of the turbulence although, of course, later on South Africa, Brazil, China and India as they start to develop and affect the rest will be players as well as recipients. The third thing on WSSD is I think there is an enormous prize to be had out of this UN Conference. We have been trying to work as a Department to not have these one-off UN Conferences all over the place about whatever the latest fashion is but to hone an ever growing consensus in the international system. First the Millennium Development Goals, which as you know we worked to get agreement right across the system at the Millennium Summit, then Doha on trade, a commitment to looking at trade again to grow developing countries, then Monterrey, and it is not just money at Monterrey, it is how do you finance development, what kind of reform grows an economy, creates more revenues, better livelihoods and funding for public services and the proper and better use of aid. The Millennium Conference, Doha and Monterrey have gone well, and then Johannesburg. The prize, if we can get it, is the Northern Greens who tend to often adopt an anti-development perspective, because living in our privileged countries one thinks "the planet is under strain, it cannot take any more pollution or use of its natural resources, we should all stop being so materialistic, not go for growth and diminish world trade". That perspective comes out of a genuine good-hearted concern for the planet but leaves out the needs of the poorest people and countries to have economic growth and more material well-being. So you often get, and it certainly happened at Seattle and it bubbles up in different meetings that we go to, the Green agenda being anti-development and being seen as hostile by developing countries, that we polluted the planet and plundered it to get our development and now we are pulling up the ladder behind us with a set of rules that will make it very difficult for developing countries to grow. They are very conscious of that and the threat at Seattle, for example, to put environmental rules into world trade rules could lock them out of the possibilities of growing their economies through trade. The bad thing about that is, one, it is unfair to developing countries to create such rules that prevent them developing but, two, the world will divide in two. We cannot look after the planet sustainably unless we are looking at it in a way where we all stand to gain mutually and where there is something in it for everybody. Therefore, to have a real environmental sustainability agenda we have got to get the Greens to join up with the development people, to see that what we have got to have is a guarantee to development for the poor countries and poor people within a sustainable planet. That is a shift in the mind set of the environmental movement that I think we might achieve at Johannesburg. If so, then the international consensus is stronger, what we have to do is clearer, getting on with implementing the consensus is better. Of course, for developing countries that means grow your economy, better social provision and look at your own environmental resources. That is what sustainability means. Personally I think that is the prize for Johannesburg, this shift in the mind set, a guarantee of development for the poor with a commitment from all of us to work for a sustainable planet and to take it away from the conservation, do no harm, have lots and lots of checks on any development proposal because it might be harmful for the environment. Promoting development is part of making the world safe and secure and the levels of poverty we have are a threat to the future safety and sustainability of the world. I think it is edging our way. I think it is a very important prize because lots of the negatives and the NGOs and people on the street, lots of well meaning people, come with this almost anti-development mind set but think they are being kind and it does get in the way of international agreement and just driving forward development and implementing the agreements we have got.

  151. I am sure you are right but having read a fairly excoriating article by George Monbiot in The Guardian, for example, it seems to me if that is the case we are going to need to spend some time between now and September improving the vocabulary at home so there are not all those misunderstandings about what people are actually saying. It seems to me that it is just a misunderstanding of what certain words mean.
  (Clare Short) I would just like to say sometimes people have names that make you think of things, like Mr Fukuyama with the end of history, and Mr Monbiot also makes me think of things. He is an intransigent—I have seen an article by him, I do not read him any more, saying that the free market used to be okay when it was a baker's shop at the bottom of the road but now it is multinational capital it is hopeless. These are people indulging in all the privileges of living in a developed economy, having clean water, sanitation, electricity, telecommunications, access to the internet, walking up and down shopping streets buying the products of multinational capital and then getting themselves into a frenzy that it is destroying the earth and becoming absolutely fixated on not letting any of this get to the developing world. It is a series of errors, some of it genuinely held, some of it just people who like spreading enmity and hostility and misinformation. Some you can win, some you cannot.

Mr Battle

  152. While sharing some of your reservations about the proper integration of sustainability and poverty eradication, that was not a common agenda in the past, it was almost the environmental movement sometimes felt that the people were the problem and setting the environment against the people. I think it has moved on. Some of us visited Northern Nigeria and I was very shocked in Northern Nigeria literally to see the—big word—desertification, to see the desert blowing in where rivers were dry and people were trying to scratch a living in practically pre-biblical conditions without even Jacob's well there. I just wonder if you can get in your vision of it that integration of environment and poverty eradication as a common vocabulary at the Summit. Can the Summit do more than just be a talking shop? What kind of outcomes would you like to see from the Summit to take it further forward? What I would not like to see is everyone has got together but nothing happens as a result of it.
  (Clare Short) Let me come back to desertification in Northern Nigeria. It used to be the case, but it has improved in recent years, that Summits and UN Conferences were places for grand declarations of moral principle and concern about poverty and the rest and then everyone went home and carried on as before and there was fantastically little in concept that meant it had to be implemented. You had one on children, one on deserts, one on forests, the fashions change and everyone turns up and has another jamboree. That was how the system used to be. The International Development Targets drawn out of the series of Summits on children, women, reproductive health care and so on and then driving them through the IMF, the World Bank, the OECD into the Millennium Development Goals and then Doha getting serious about trade and Monterrey getting serious about how to manage the world economy in a way that will give the poorest people in countries a real chance of development within a sustainable framework is the bit that needs to become entrenched in the international consensus at Johannesburg. When you come to individual developing countries there are two takes on the environmental agenda. The poor of the world, the rural poor, are more dependent on environmental resources than any of the rest of us and very directly that land, that wood for their cooking, that fish that they can get, the products of the forest, so as you get the forests chopped down, and there is enormous corruption in forestry and people who own the forests. They take the animals, they take the trees, and the people who have lived for generation upon generation in the forest have more and more difficulty. Of course, we have got growth in world population and deforestation and so on, more grazing, more animals, more desertification, people who live on the food they grow themselves and as the land gets poor their children go hungry. This is spreading around the world. A part of the answer is better environmental management. What we have learned about forestry, for example, is you have to give the people who live in and around the forest and off the products of the forest—and that is never just the trees, there are all sorts of other plants, where their animals feed and so on—some control over the future of the forest and then they will nurture it and care for it. There is that famous thing, you plant trees for your grandchildren. The poor of the world have tended not to have any control over the forests they have lived in forever. You need that kind of environmental improvement and the same with fisheries. We have got a big project in West Africa for fisheries. The European fishing policy is in danger of denuding Africa of its fisheries just like we have done to our own North Sea. That needs dealing with and stopping because there are lots of little people who fish and that is how they get their protein. If the fisheries go, they go forever. Within the country you need to look for your strategy for economic development and the reduction of poverty but include sustainable management of environmental resources in a way that is pro-poor and gives the poor some say over their future and therefore some interest in nurturing that but given the scale of world population we are going to need more value added. Urbanisation is happening anyway, half of humanity is now urbanised, it is going to be 65 per cent in another 15 or 20 years. There has got to be more processing of agricultural projects, more value added, more people getting jobs, not just in the forest or by growing food because the world cannot sustain it. Some of those people in Northern Nigeria might urbanise and have better jobs processing some of their products and then you need a change in trade rules because Africa exports unprocessed products. Then, of course, all of these poor countries are going to have more and more turbulence in their environment, more and more disasters, floods, and climate change that means the crops do not grow because of what we are doing to generate global warming. That is even more of a burden on them to be able to promote their development and improve their lives. We need the international agreements that deal with some of that destructive effect, we need much more promotion of development, and in a lot of countries, because we cannot stop some of this turbulence that is coming, we need to help countries to have in place the capacity to deal with crises. There is the famous thing, you have floods in the southern United States of America and a few people lose their cars; you have them in Mozambique—it used to be Bangladesh but Bangladesh has learned—thousands of people lose their lives. Part of dealing with catastrophes is to be prepared and organised to deal with them. That is my answer to your question. This is fantastically urgent both in terms of human need and in terms of the urbanised, very unjust world where now because of the global communications we have the poor of the world see how the rest of us live and they are not going to be dispersed across rural areas, they are going to be collected together in cities more and more. The anger and rage there is going to be if there is not progress is going to make for a very bitter, nasty world. It will make where we are now, which is pretty depressing, even more depressing.

Mr Colman

  153. I understand that the Danish Government are promoting the concept of a global deal in Johannesburg. What do you believe is the global deal and are you backing it?
  (Clare Short) The Danes are talking about it and the South Africans were talking about it. Are they talking about it less?
  (Mr Davis) They are talking about a programme of action.
  (Clare Short) It sounds nice, a global deal. People who came to this not having focused on the Millennium Development Assembly, Doha and the rest came afresh as though we had not had the preceding conferences and then said "oh, can we have a big global deal for sustainability for the world?" I gather the Danes are saying free trade, international environment agreements, development of the 0.7 per cent ODA target strengthening freedom and democracy. That is fine. I do not think there is going to be a global deal. I think it is a programme of action that drives forward what we have agreed at these other conferences that is leading to implementation that brings sustainability and environmental resources into the picture and gets the mind set of the world right about how to care for them.

  154. I understand some environment groups are concerned about the agenda that Denmark are pushing in this global deal, which is very much around a free trade agenda, environmental and social concerns, and they are concerned that the vested trade concerns will override environmental and social concerns.
  (Clare Short) There you are, that is an example of the backward anti-development environmental movement. I just said about Africa. Seventy-plus per cent of its exports are unprocessed commodities coming out at tiny prices, their cocoa, their coffee, their cashews, their minerals. It is a resource rich country but—Then, of course, of the packet of cashews we buy a tiny, tiny fraction goes to the farmer who grew the cashews. They need the jobs to package it, they need the jobs to package the coffee or whatever it is and, as you know, commodity prices are falling. If there is not a change in world trade rules giving the poorest countries the chance to process, add value and export and, therefore, be able to afford the imports that give them access to modern technology, that gives them water, sanitation and so on, then those who argue this, if they were to succeed, are marginalising the poorest countries forever from the globalising world economy, from modern technology, from the chances for investment and sentencing them to every growing poverty, because it is not a stable thing. In poor countries the population is growing. In Africa the population is growing faster than the economy and on present trends Africa is going to get poorer and poorer. Those who think that giving Africa more chance to trade will somehow endanger the environment, if they were to succeed the consequence for Africa would be disaster and they are profoundly wrong.

Mr Khabra

  155. Many people in the world consider that the World Summit on Sustainable Development is the last chance to push for ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. It is worth noting that it would leave many of the concerns of developing countries unresolved. In view of this may I ask you a question. How has climate change featured in the discussions building up to the Johannesburg Summit and what does DFID hope will be achieved on climate change at the Summit? What prominence will climate change issues have at Johannesburg?
  (Clare Short) We do not agree, and the South Africans do not agree and the international system does not agree. Kyoto, as you know, is profoundly important but also divisive. We have got the biggest economy in the world not co-operating and we have got some other big OECD economies that have not decided whether they will or not: Japan, Australia, Canada and so on. If there is any attempt to bring Kyoto to Johannesburg it will divide the Conference, the thing will be a disaster. We have got another process for Kyoto, which is delicate and precious and needs protecting and needs not to be taken to Johannesburg. It will damage Kyoto and it will destroy the Johannesburg Conference and some of the big players who have not decided what to do about Kyoto would probably not come. I understand why people think this is a conference about the environment and we have not resolved Kyoto, let us take it there, but it is extremely unwise and we must not do it. It would be a disaster. Your second question was what are DFID doing. I tried to indicate earlier that the people who are causing climate change are our kind of economies and it is us who have got to clean ourselves up. The poorest economies are going to be the recipients of even more barriers to their development out of the turbulence, the disease spread, the effect on crops and agriculture, the disasters, the flooding and so on. Part of our take is them preparing, understanding, getting some knowledge of what is likely to come to be better at handling the consequences. There is a series of big countries that will as they develop, and China continues to develop very successfully, I see despite the world economy going down they had ten per cent economic growth again this year, they will start as they go on—India, China, Brazil and South Africa—to later become countries that will need to join in the agreement to reduce emissions. China has done remarkably. It got quite worried about its own environmental damage. Its economy has been growing considerably, ten per cent a year for ten years or more.
  (Mr Davis) Twenty, since 1980.
  (Clare Short) The most successful poverty reduction that is going on in big numbers is in China. They also adopted major reforms on energy and they have reduced their emissions while they have been engaging in this kind of economic growth. There is a series of very important lessons there. For the poorest economies, on their potential contribution, even the most successful possible development you can think of for them, they are not going to be real contributors to global warming, they are going to be recipients of the effect. I do not know, Adrian or Richard, if you want to add anything on what DFID are doing. I hope I have made clear how we come into this. It is not our core issue but it has a deep consequence for the countries we are interested in, so we do take an interest. The main players are us, the polluters, the OECD countries, which we do not lean on.
  (Mr Davis) Only to confirm that the main area in which we will be working is adaptation to climate change. As we made clear at the first session when we gave evidence, the more development there is in an economy, the more resilient they become to climate change, so we will be concentrating on adaptation. I suspect there may be questions subsequently specifically on adaptation.

  156. I am going to ask you about some controversial issues. I consider that developing countries, the poor countries, have not got the same capacity to follow the Kyoto Protocol whereas the highly industrialised rich countries have had years of opportunity to develop and have been able to reduce poverty. Countries like India and many other countries are not in the same category at all. In trying to reach a global deal, can the Johannesburg Summit bridge the different perceptions of climate change between the North, where it is seen as a pollution and environmental protection problem, and the South, where it is seen as an issue of livelihoods and survival? I can give you the example of the Narmada Project in India which will bring enormous benefit to the poor people but the environmentalist lobby which have imported anti-developmentalist environmentalist lobbyists are going mad to oppose it.
  (Clare Short) Andhra Pradesh?

  157. The Narmada Project. Can the distortion in climate change negotiations caused by the dominant Northern perception of climate change as an environmental problem be overcome and a more equitable and inclusive way forward be found to help countries like India, Pakistan and some of the other countries?
  (Clare Short) Firstly, climate change is not and must not go to Johannesburg. We must not go there as a first base. Of course, the Kyoto Protocol does not require developing countries to reduce their emissions. This is the thing that the United States finds objectionable and thinks that it should, but we agree with the Kyoto Protocol that we are the mega polluters, that we move first and then, of course, this should be going on later and as some of the big developing countries develop, like China, they will join in later with some kind of agreement. I agree with your fundamental point, it would be absolutely wrong at this stage to impose requirements on reducing emissions on developing countries that are producing very few emissions and have weakness of capacity. As their economies grow they need to come in but be helped in the meantime to grow their economies with sources of energy that are not polluting. China is an example of making a lot of progress. As they have grown their economy they have improved the cleanness of the energy that they have been using. I do not know about that particular project in India that you referred to but Richard Manning does. Let me say about India that India has masses of capacity, it has enormously strong educated people but it also has a third of the poor of the world, and that capacity it has is not always applied consistently right through society to bring the reforms that would bring the benefits to everyone. That is the challenge for India. This is another example of Northern concepts of the Green agenda objecting to development. We have got this row on at the moment about Andhra Pradesh. Andhra Pradesh has got 160 million people, very, very poor people, a very powerful reform agenda trying to grow the economy, get all children educated. It is progressing, it is breaking through caste boundaries. I have been to a tribal village where there was not a single literate woman but every single little girl is in school. Those are the sorts of things being achieved in Andhra Pradesh that are deeply moving, and the sorts of things we need to achieve across the world. We, as a Department, have put 60 million in budgetary aid to back all of this reform agenda in Andhra Pradesh. There is a lot of landless poor. Thinking about the future of the economy, there are projections by the government of Andhra Pradesh about how less people will live on the land and how the land might be more productive and more value added. I think they are open to the use of GM. Suddenly we have got vicious campaigns against my Department saying we are responsible for all of this and we have got to stop Andhra Pradesh doing all of this, which is not our right, it is for the people there and their own elected government to make this decision. It is another example of a well meaning, I am sure, but distorted version of the environmental agenda having a naivety about what has to be achieved in order to promote development in poor countries. Before the Industrial Revolution 98 per cent of the population of Britain lived in poverty in rural areas and that was at the time when you got hanged for stealing a sheep, and people did because that is how hungry they were. That was why they came into the cities and lived in squalor and then we had the political struggle to use the benefits of industrialisation to lift up everybody. There is a whole mind set there that seems not to remember that history and thinks it is a great romance for everyone to live in rural poverty. Sorry.


  158. We are going to move on from Johannesburg to specific questions about climate change but, before we do, this rather excellent report that our colleagues on the Environmental Audit Committee did on sustainable development[1] refers to some work that DFID has done with the World Bank, EU and UN on linking poverty reduction and environmental management. They referred to a consultation draft in January. I just wondered whether that has come to a final document yet and, if so, whether it would be possible to share it with us some time?

  (Clare Short) Yes, indeed. That project was about this very discussion, can we get the environmental agenda really to be about sustainability and be development friendly. We joined together with those organisations to try and hone a forward looking agenda that takes account of the needs and interests of developing countries. We did a consultation phase, the consultation is now complete and it is—

  (Mr Davis) Not yet. We sent you the first draft. We sent 15 copies, it is the blue document . We sent that to you as part of the papers that we promised to send you after the first session.

  Chairman: Yes, I remember.
  (Mr Davis) There has been an electronic discussion group. We are revising it and setting out an action plan summary for the Bali Preparatory Committee and then the final report will be available about a month before Johannesburg [2]. Incidentally, because that has been so successful we are doing a joint paper on climate change and poverty now.

  Chairman: I think we would be very interested to see a copy of the final draft.[3]

  (Mr Davis) Sure.

  (Clare Short) We are trying to parallel the preparatory process with a more intelligent discussion of how you can bring sustainability, environment and development for the poor together.

   Chairman: I suspect we all concur with that, it would be useful to see the work that has been done.

Hugh Bayley

  159. What assessment has your Department made of the impact of climate change on the achievability of the Millennium Development Goals? For instance, we have received evidence saying that climate change will lead to a greater geographical distribution of malaria, and depletion of water resources. One goal is to stabilise and reduce the incidence of malaria, and another is to ensure that there is an increase in the number of people who have access to safe water supplies, so climate change will make those Development Goals harder to achieve. How much harder?
  (Clare Short) Indeed so. I will bring Adrian in. A piece of very serious work has been commissioned to answer that question. Have they had that too?
  (Mr Davis) No.
  (Clare Short) I will leave that with you and we can send you some more copies[4]. There is also some work we are doing now to help countries to look at what the knowledge is that we have now. We have got to remember that the projections of climate change from now assume the world does nothing to deal with it. As you know, lots of Pacific and Caribbean islands and countries would disappear, a third, a half of Bangladesh's territory would disappear yet it is highly crowded and it is going to double in population because although population growth is declining it is a very young country. The long-term projection is horrendous but what we have got to do with that projection is learn that we must not go there. That is why we need Kyoto and we need to change the behaviour of the world and reduce the prospects of that very grave climate change but some effect is inevitable already and that will bring damage, increased turbulence, more floods, more disease and it will add to the burdens and problems of meeting the Millennium Development Goals. We have to face it and do better, and we can do better if the world would just concentrate and apply everything we know more effectively throughout the international system.

1   Environmental Audit Committee, Third Report of Session 2001-02, UK Preparations for The World Summit on Sustainable Development. (HC 616). Back

2   This will be published in a final form in late July. A copy of the summary has been placed in the Library. Back

3   Not printed. Copy place in the Library Back

4   See Back

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