Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160 - 171)



  160. That is an optimistic view but to continue to be the pessimist, achieving some of the goals will be likely to accelerate the problems of climate change, for instance achieving the trade goals, or maybe achieving other Millennium Development Goals. Have you equally made an impact assessment of whether the achievement of some of the goals will accelerate climate change?

  (Clare Short) I think that is profoundly wrong. If you look at economies like ours with the kind of level of economic development and technological capacity we have, we have the capacity to treat our environment with more and more respect, not pollute it, reduce emissions, have forms of energy that do not create climate change. It is when you are more developed that you can afford to adapt your technologies and make the changes to protect environmental consequences. Very poor countries just do not have the capacity. The massive burden of disease in the world is human beings relying on wood for cooking and we have terrible respiratory diseases and lots of people get ill and children die because of that. They have no option, there is no electricity near them, let alone renewables. They have got to grow their economies and they need better trading opportunities to grow their economies to be able to afford to have some access to energy and then go for the China route of going for less polluting energy and so on and so forth. It is absolutely wrong to suggest that more trading opportunities for poor countries leads to more pollution, that is just false. That route lies a divided, polluted world in deep, deep trouble. Humanity is urbanising. Look at us in this urban country. I talked about where we were before the Industrial Revolution. Human beings all over this planet are choosing to go and live in squalor and poverty in some of those slums that we see. When you see those slums you have to know how hard their life must have been in the rural area to go and live there. The rural always looks beautiful, green, and there are the rivers, but people migrate to the city just to get some fraction of a chance, a few breadcrumbs of a chance, of a better life. Humanity is making these choices. It is more than 50 per cent now and we are going to 65 per cent so we have to share our technology, access to clean water, sanitation systems and so on in order that we can have responsible sustainable development and back the choices that human beings are making. I cannot stand the green agenda that says poor people cannot have better trading opportunities and that Africa cannot process its products and that poor people are not allowed to urbanise and aspire to have the things we have. That is profoundly reactionary. Some people innocently come to it, and then there is Mr Monbiot

  161. To move beyond Mr Monbiot on that, do you see a difference, Secretary of State, between the green agenda in the north and the green agenda in the south? One of the things which struck me forcibly in Ghana was that as soon as we left Accra and started heading north we saw a line of lorries each loaded to the top with tropical logs heading south to Accra, lorry after lorry after lorry after lorry. One of the projects we met, which your Department supports, was a project to grow seedlings for depleted forests. How do you bring the environmentalists in the south together with the development experts in the south together with the climate scientists in the south to get them developing an agenda which is good for poverty relief and good environmentally?
  (Clare Short) There are some differences and there are some things that are the same for the greens in the north and in the south. The responsibility to deal with the emissions that are causing global warming lies in the north and the south is the recipient of the consequences, that is clear. Developing our economies sustainably is a duty in all our countries, but the stress on rapid economic grow in order to reduce poverty and transferring access to modern technology to do it as cleanly as possible is complementary but slightly different because the starting point is different. The urgency to get growth to reduce poverty is much greater in the poorest countries. Let me say on lorries and logs, there is nothing wrong with using forests as long as you are doing it sustainably. This country used to be covered in forests. We destroyed our forests. Of course forests are being destroyed in other parts of the world. Sustainable forestry is about those people living in the forests having some control over the future of the forest and being able to get some money from responsibly using the fruits of the forest, and that will include logging and selling wood, but not so fast that the forest cannot replenish itself. We have got lots of wooden things and wood is lovely and as long as we are using our forests in a sustainable way the countries that still have forest will export logs. That is fine. The Department has been doing some work on how you bring all the expertise together. Adrian?
  (Mr Davis) Can I say that increasing public awareness of the environmental issues in the south is very important because demand from the people is one of the factors that will start to get governments aware of the need for an integrated environment, not just in climate change but integrated environmental strategies. We have been doing that in Kenya in particular. There is an environmental governance programme in Kenya which is not centred on the government but is centred on civil society to get them to demand that, for example, logging or corruption which leads to environmental degradation is taken more seriously by the government. Also, if you build that kind of bedrock, it gets away from the relatively short-term political horizon of governments to get them to take into account these longer-term environmental issues. I visited Bolivia where there is a Ministry of Sustainable Development and there is a Minister of Environment. She has been in the position for ten years and Bolivia has lots of laws and lots of regulation but they are not very well enforced. When I asked her what was the one thing that would enable her to do her job better she said, "Increasing public awareness of environmental issues and then I can put my message within the government and within the country more generally."
  (Clare Short) Hold on, the stuff about bringing people together that you are working on. A lot of the people who live in the forests or who are reliant on natural resources know very well what is going on and they probably value and care for nature and natural resources more than anyone. That is their life and has been for generation after generation. All over the world where we work in forestry there is massive corruption—in Indonesia with the military, Malaysian companies, in the Cameroons there is corruption destroying loads of forests, in Nepal it is the same. Yes, you have got to use the strength of public opinion to demand the reform that stops the corruption that allows the resources to be managed in a way that enables the poor people to have a better life. Poor people tend to respect and care about the environment but are powerless to stop the way it is all being stripped away from them. 62 per cent of humanity is now under democratic systems, more than we have ever had in human history. Often they are very dominated by elites. Poor people do not feel they can use their democratic power. They do not have the knowledge and the confidence there is lots of bribery and corruption and hand outs. So it is strengthening the voice that demands responsible management rather than teaching the poor to care about nature. They probably care about it more than any of us.

  Mr Robathan: I would like to add I agree that what we saw in Ghana was very definitely over-exploitation and, indeed, your Department is doing excellent work to try and assist the Forest Service in Ghana in trying to stop illegal exploitation. It was fuelled by corruption, it was accompanied by intimidation, so we were told (I have to say we did not see that) and indeed the forced displacement of people who had lived on the forest. We went to a forest reserve where there were no long-standing trees, it was all shrub, the whole thing had been cut down. I am reinforcing what you said.

Mr Colman

  162. I was thinking of the conundrum that we saw in Ghana which was that the excellent bridges and roads we were helping to build in Western Ghana which were giving access to schools and access to hospitals were also being used by the logging trucks which they had not been built to take and people were concerned as to how the bridges were going to take the very high weights that were going across them. It is important to combine the development goals of education and health alongside the trade goals and manage them together. My question was not directly about that. It is really in terms of coming back to the broader aspects of the national action plans for adaptation. We are all concerned that this is not moving ahead fast enough in terms of building policy coherence and mainstream climate change considerations in developing countries, but to what extent have these national action plans been reflected in terms of country level programmes that DFID is doing? How do you ensure that managers within each country take account of concerns about climate change. Ghana at the moment is administered from London and is going to be local shortly but India is local. How do you ensure that the country level programmes take account of the concerns about climate change?
  (Clare Short) We have moved on this. One of the international development targets that came out of the 1990s UN conferences was that every country should have a national strategy for sustainable development in place by—?
  (Mr Davis) This year.
  (Clare Short) And under implementation by 2005. We set up a unit in the Department and we are working away at it. What we started getting across the world was everyone had their national strategy for sustainable development on the shelf or in the ministry of sustainable development or environment and the main core of the economy was in the finance ministry and concentrated on the urgency to get economic development. This was to please the UN or the donors. For the Millennium Development Goals, the work we are doing now is taking the poverty reduction strategy, this revolution that has been on the back of debt relief in the way the banks work with developing countries so that the-macro-economic strategy, how you use aid, debt relief, revenues from tax and social spending are all taken together and openly in a country. They are growing urgently all over the world to get debt relief and they need to be lengthened and deepened and they need to take in sustainability. As a country thinks about where it is getting its economic growth, how far it is urbanising, what is happening to its forests, etc, etc, it needs to be integrated in its view of how it is developing itself. We are trying to move, and that is the right thing to do, and it is easy to talk about this. Countries are trying to integrate their trade strategy, and these are countries with frail administrative capacity, as you know, but this is the right way to go. On climate change, again, for developing countries, at this stage they are not contributing to climate change, they are going to be the recipients of more instability, disease and problems with their agriculture as a consequence of that. They need to take that knowledge into their planning for the future of their country and how they are going to deal with the crises and deal with the disease burden and modify their agriculture.

  163. Are we leading the way in terms of ensuring that the DFID country planning, if you like, is actually ensuring that the environmental issues are in there? Are we making sure that those who are producing the DFID country plans are building this in?
  (Clare Short) We are abolishing DFID country plans. When I came in to the Department in 1997, the Department had always had them but we publish them. Then we work very hard to get this poverty reduction strategy where it works and where the country leads and gets the support of the fund for parts of its operation. We and others cluster around the country's own plans for its own development. We focus a lot on building the capacity of the country. You have got enormously weak finance ministries, central banks, education ministries, civil service not paid therefore taking petty bribes and so on, very high inflation, terrible interest rates so no business can flourish, you know you get all of those conditions. Now, taking off a country's poverty reduction strategy, we negotiate with the country how we will contribute to building up their capacity in strength. Yes, then—and Adrian should come in again—we try and strengthen a country's capacity to think about sustainability and their environmental resources alongside how they are growing their economy and how they are improving their public services, the provision of health care and so on.
  (Mr Davis) I think we said at the first session, we are working broadly at trying to integrate the environment and environmental issues into the PRSP, of which climate change is a subset and probably not actually the most urgent. We are not doing it by ourselves, as the Secretary of State said, we are doing it with a coalition of partners. All of the donors in a country are trying to group around the PRSP so we are working very closely with the World Bank, with other bilaterals. There are competing demands. There is weak capacity. Certainly it is a really important part of our agenda.
  (Clare Short) Do you want to come in, Richard?
  (Mr Manning) What we are seeing, I suppose, is a great deal of variability at country level, I think. You have probably already had the example of Uganda where there has been an extremely good exercise to integrate the environmental dimension into their planning. On the other hand, we had a briefing session for our senior staff about a month ago from our colleagues in DEFRA and the Hadley Centre about climate change so that we are sensitising our own people better. I was quite interested when my colleague who deals with Asia said that he had been to, I think, half a dozen consultative group meetings on major Asian countries over the previous 18 months and at none of which had climate change been mentioned. That included places like Bangladesh and Nepal where you think they ought seriously to think about it. It is very variable and I think there is an important piece of work to do to get these into the central parts of government. That is why we are putting the emphasis on trying to integrate this into the PRSP rather than having a study on the side. Bangladesh is an example actually where we are working scientist to scientist and institution to institution to try and broaden the awareness. But, on the basis of what my colleague said, this may yet not have percolated to the Ministry of Finance where it does need to percolate because Bangladesh quite clearly will pay a huge number of costs over the next century as a result of this and that needs to start being factored in now.

Tony Worthington

  164. Can I talk about disasters and the mitigation of the impact of disasters. It must be so difficult to cope with the short term whilst also trying to improve the long term. Can you give us examples of where in your short term response you have been able to mitigate against a future disaster or lessen the impact of it? The obvious example to me—and I am sure other colleagues—is Bangladesh which you have mentioned earlier and the way in which they coped with a disaster which killed hundreds which meant that when the same climate difficulties occurred the next time there was hardly any loss of life and they were ready to go on. Can you think of other examples like that where you prepared for the future?
  (Clare Short) People talk about whether there are increased disasters and how far it is already a result of climate change. It is difficult to know, of course, because we are getting such growth of population that people are living on more and more marginal land and so on. The climate change matters enormously but given you have the disasters right now in front of you, we have got to deal with them not just speculate. People see disasters when they hit the media and then there is always the call for international support, quite rightly, but in fact your chances of surviving flooding or mudslides are dependent on the first 24 hours when there is most loss of life. The international community never gets there in that time. What you have got to do is build up the capacity of countries to cope immediately. We have been working with the Red Cross—you know they have organisations throughout the world of locals—to bolster the knowledge and capacity within each country around the world, especially countries which are vulnerable to disaster so there is more and more capacity at home and then with appropriate ministries and so on. Following the Gujarati earthquake we did some follow on work with the Indian Government who have been quite good at disasters but we found some weaknesses in their systems so, where next, India will be able to respond more quickly. We have been working also with OCHA which is the UN agency that is meant to be capable of making the assessment and moving very rapidly and having stocks and supplies around the world which can move in very quickly. The next thing you get is when there is a disaster and it hits the headlines, bits are flying in from all over the world and they get chaos and disorganisation and you need the UN to move in very early to see what the needs are, send for the right things and get some co-ordination so the right things apply. The Red Cross is doing this enormous effort across the world to strengthen the capacity of disaster prone countries to act very quickly. We have been working very strongly with OCHA and then in countries where we are—as in Bangladesh and so on and Mozambique following the floods—to strengthen country's own systems. At the moment the world thinks of disasters in developing countries as a call on international assistance but really that is a failure.

  Tony Worthington: That is right.
  (Clare Short) Wherever possible we build the national capacity. I repeat: there are earthquakes in Japan, there are floods and hurricanes in the United States of America but they have systems and capacity and methods of building where loss of life is virtually unimaginable or very, very rare. Whereas floods, which really should not cause any loss of life, like, was it Colombia, where was it where there were terrible mudslides and very big loss of life—

Mr Battle

  165. Venezula.
  (Clare Short)—you remember, a few years ago, houses were built in inappropriate places, there was no emergency system to pull people out very quickly. Bangladesh is the example, terribly flood prone. It used to lose a lot of life and it has just built up its systems, it cannot stop the floods. It is built on a river delta and people live on lands that move around because there is such a shortage of land. Now the whole country is fantastically good at responding to a disaster and can manage itself and protect human life and we have to build that capacity across the world as well as, of course, helping countries to take the remedial action to try and prevent the disasters. With global warming there is probably a lot which is going to come to them as a consequence of behaviour in the north in polluting the planet and they are just going to have to be better at dealing with disasters and protecting human life and thinking about where to promote development and safer places to build and so on.
  (Mr Davis) It is interesting, I was talking about environmental integration into PRSPs, the World Bank has done an analysis of this and one of the countries that has integrated the best in their full PRSP is Mozambique because they realise it is really important.

John Barrett

  166. You mentioned a lot of the work which has already been done in other countries to collect data on the impact of climate change and move things forward. Is DFID working to boost the work that has already been done in a large number of developing countries to collect the data that is required to analyse the impact and to start informing the planning process of what is needed to be done in the future so the gathering of the data will be there in some countries. In fact most of the data will be in most developed countries like Japan and the United States. What is DFID doing to collect or to increase the data that is there in developing countries?
  (Clare Short) What we try to do in everything, as our own development efforts in the United Kingdom and my own Department's efforts mature, is say, "Here we are, we are doing it and build international systems that do it. We have provided funding for the Hadley Centre to prepare a portable, regional climate change model that can be available to countries so that they can look at the likely consequences for themselves and start planning for how they will cope. We have commissioned this very major piece of research that we hope will be a resource for developing countries more broadly. We are trying to work to strengthen the appetite/knowledge of developing countries and our focus is all the time on mitigating effects and helping countries to adapt to cope. You would expect out of this discussion a stronger and stronger voice coming out of developing countries demanding that the world takes firmer action to deal with emissions.
  (Mr Davis) Collecting statistics is an important area for DFID and developing countries in a whole range of areas because of the importance attached to monitoring, etc. One of the problems with traditional environmental indicators is that they do not address the issue the Secretary of State talked about of sustainability. The number of trees are diminishing, what does that mean? One of the things that we are trying to encourage developing countries to look at is the indicators that link poverty and environment, so that instead of looking at the number of trees when you look at that, you look at the time it takes women to collect fuel wood and whether that is increasing over time, those kind of links. Again statistics on climate change are a subset of that and perhaps it is more important to link the environment and poverty together.
  (Clare Short) You know how international development is full of statistics and there are books showing how many children there are lots of those figures are very old, very unreliable and if we are to drive the Millennium Development Goals we need better statistics more regularly so you can see which countries are making progress and which are not and policies can learn from success and so on. We are trying with the World Bank the OECD and the UN system to get an improved system of statistics collecting that is not so onerous that developing countries cannot bear the burden. If you look at what the UN system recommends, most developing countries just cannot do that so you have got to both build the capacity and have a limited set of collectable. We have been working on this since Paris 21 a couple of years ago. It needs a bigger push. We are going to have an extra effort so there are more year-on-year statistics of how countries are doing so their own governments can learn and their people can learn and we can learn from where there is a success and where there is a failure. The world is behind on that.
  (Mr Manning) On climate change statistics in particular we need to remember that there is a huge international effort on this through the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change. There is a lot of use for remote sensing. There is a whole industry which is collecting this data. It is true to say that in some respects the data is better in the north than in the south but we should look particularly at the international process to really good guidance on what is happening in the world as a whole. I do feel that huge progress has been made in the last ten years or so and the latest report is a very important step forward in building the scientific consensus behind what is happening.

  167. How does the Department prioritise its actions if, for instance, the poorest of the poor are not the most vulnerable to climate change? How is the balance between vulnerability to climate change and poverty focused? How are they linked?
  (Clare Short) We are part of the whole international development system so we are trying as a Department to both make our own interventions in countries as effective as they can be in building the country's capacity to grow its economy, reduce poverty, have better public services, improve livelihoods and do it sustainably in countries where we work, but also we are trying to strengthen the international system because we cannot work everywhere but the international system can work everywhere. We are quite big players in the UN system, in the World Bank and in the regional development banks trying to take the best development practice right across the international system and then more and more to get us and others collaborating so that we are not all running separate projects here and there and that we cluster behind countries' own reform agendas and share out the work. Instead of having nice little projects that we can put our flags over and put pictures of in our annual reports and where we put in aid and the experts and when it ends the thing crumbles, we should be building up the capacity of the countries to do it for themselves, and that includes sustainability, awareness of the consequences of climate change, which is the big shift in the mind set on development we are trying to help drive across the international system.
  (Mr Manning) Perhaps it is just worth adding to that, our first base assessment is precisely the poorest people who are likely to be the most vulnerable to climate change. Obviously you can pick the groups here and there who might be specifically vulnerable and are poor but in general it is people who have very few assets. It will be the people we met in Northern Nigeria, the people living in parts of Bangladesh vulnerable to flooding, it will not be the middle class in Bangladesh who will suffer from climate change, it will be poor people living on these shifting islands. We do not see the climate change agenda as in any way irrelevant to our poverty agenda, the two things over time are very closely linked.
  (Clare Short) It is the poor old poor who get the brunt all the time, so stick with them and give them a better chance.

Mr Robathan

  168. Secretary of State, although we might disagree about nineteenth century politics and struggles, I think that I support largely what you have been saying today about your agenda. I do see the validity of what you have been saying about the northern dominated green agenda. But, to be honest, as Richard Manning has just said, I do not think that good environmental policies and development policies are in any way mutually exclusive.
  (Clare Short) No.

  169. I hope we can move beyond the rather absurd stand of some people on the green side. Particularly what I want to pick up on is sustainable energy. I know I have heard your response to Gareth Thomas on renewable energy in the House a couple of months ago but it seems to me that one of the opportunities—if I can put it that way—at least in terms of renewables, is that developing countries do not need to make the same mistakes as we have made in the developed world. If we were to start with an energy system now, we would not start with the National Grid as we have it now. I think technology has advanced at such a rapid rate that for instance solar energy and similar energies will bring tremendous benefits to developing countries. If I can just give an example. I went to see BMW's hydrogen car today and in five years we will be able to buy a car, internal combustion engine car from BMW which runs on liquid hydrogen. Liquid hydrogen is made with sea water, the developing countries have a lot of solar power that they can crack the hydrogen with. This is an example. Another example is basic stoves; you talk about people's respiratory problems, if you have a basic stove in your hut , you reduce the amount of firewood used by half or a third and reduce respiratory problems. What I would like to ask you is what action is your Department taking, if any, to help develop sustainable and renewable energy infrastructures in developing countries?
  (Clare Short) Just briefly on your first point, I agree absolutely that there is a completely complementary agenda. The absolutely guaranteed reduction of poverty and the sustainable management of the world have to go together and it is the only safe sustainable future that we have wherever we live in the world. I am quite sharp with the northern green agenda just because, well, I am like that anyway and because I was in Seattle, I have heard it.

  Mr Robathan: I agree.
  (Clare Short) I know there are lots of really well meaning but misled people and I think the challenge needs to be made. As I said at the beginning, the shift is I believe taking place. I think one of the prizes for Johannesburg is to bring this together and to get the predominant mindset of the world to see that it is complementary, and I hope that is what we are going to achieve in Johannesburg. Now, of course, I completely agree that developing countries should take on the technology that might have been developed and not go through all the stages of pollution and so on that we have been through but sometimes again people get romantic and say "Oh, yes, they will not have electricity and substations and generation like us, let us go straight to solar, they have a lot of sun in developing countries" but renewables are more expensive. We have systems in this country to encourage the use of renewables that have to be subsidised because as yet they are still more expensive: wind and solar and so on. What I was saying in answer to the Parliamentary Question was let us not burden developing countries with having to develop the new technology, let us give them support to have the best possible that is available but we can afford to take forward solar. It is not true that every OECD country is not sunny which someone was trying to argue with me the other day. So, of course, renewables are crucial and they are crucial to the future of humanity. It is a sort of romance, they mean completely well, "Oh, let us not have any of that in developing countries, let us go for state of the art renewables" but they are more expensive. The poorest of the world cannot afford to carry the burden of developing those technologies to the point where they become cheaper. I am sure that will happen with solar. It is our duty to humanity to carry forward the research and the development of the technology in our countries so that it can be spread across the world. We should not see the developing countries as a tabula rasa where we want to do everything and therefore look for the best possible renewables because they are too dear as yet. We have got a paper about to come out on energy. Six per cent of rural Africans do not have any access to electricity at all. It is starting from where we really are and how you can improve the lives of people by sharing technology. Do you know when that paper is coming out?
  (Mr Manning) In the next few days.
  (Clare Short) I think it will be a good piece of work. There is not an ultimate clash in this but there are lots of people who say, "Let's forget all about that and start with solar," but it just so happens that solar is more expensive. And we do stoves!

  170. There is only a paper's width between us, perhaps on emphasis. When we were in Vietnam last year we saw micro-hydro plants operating on tiny streams that were not much more than ditches and that brought people who had no access to electricity light at night. I am encouraging you more down that road because I think the difference that can make is enormous for the very poorest.
  (Clare Short) Thank you but you know what a high quality Department I have with all these fabulous people who have devoted their lives to these matters. All over the world where those technologies are appropriate we are promoting them and helping to develop them, but these people who spend a lifetime trying to help get better energy sources for poor people also say, "Be cautious, do not think there is an easy, simple technological fix her," and we will share the paper with you[5].


  171. Secretary of State, thank you very much. We are grateful to you and your officials and I think we have learned quite a lot this afternoon. Thank you for that. I think the Environmental Select Committee or someone described you as a "one-woman campaign". I do not think you are a one-woman campaign, in fact, I am sure you are not. Hopefully over the next few months some of us here and elsewhere can start to explain the importance of some of these development issues.
  (Clare Short) That was Jonathan Porritt. He is a person I have not met but for whom I had some respect. I am deliberately saying sharply to the Environment Committee please, adjust your mind-set, take into account the poor of the world and where they live. There is no sustainable future without them having a better future. That means in Seattle and various other meetings I have been in a clashing position but I think it is a growing position. I know I am not on my own. It is where we have got to get the world to. If the outcome of Johannesburg is that systematic poverty reduction and sustainable development are seen to go together we will have moved the mind-set of everyone.

  Chairman: I do not want to re-open discussion but in a sense it is a debate that we have to have here during summer. If it dominates Johannesburg it is going to be very frustrating so it is something that needs to be done beforehand. Thank you very much. We look forward to seeing you next Thursday when there is a debate on the floor of the House on international development.

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