The impact of UK overseas aid on environmental protection and climate change adaptation and mitigation

Written evidence submitted by Peter Taylor, Ethos

Submission by Peter Taylor

Note: I work as a professional ecologist and policy analyst on issues ranging through renewable and conventional energy sources, landscape, community and biodiversity. I have also written a book on climate change, global warming theory and the nature of the IPCC consensus.

This submission is based on an analysis of development aid carried out in May 2010 for a private foundation.

Summary of main points

S1 In the course of my analysis of development aid I was concerned with the question of how resilient the poorest people were in developing countries in the face of climate change, rising fuel prices and shifts in development aid. I concluded that currently development aid does not reach the crux of the problem for the world’s poorest people: they need sustainable agricultural practices, clean water, good sanitation and strong community.

S2 The idea that ‘economic development’ can deliver these objectives requires reappraisal – it has not done so in the past two decades, and is unlikely to do so. Indeed, economic policy and climate mitigation strategies are likely to make these people more vulnerable rather than less. Furthermore, nobody has any real idea of how to provide ‘adaptation’ and resilience to climate change, other than ‘more of the same’ type of development under more difficult conditions.

S3 There are powerful forces at work that will make community life more difficult. Economic drivers lead to migration of males to cities and industrialisation of agriculture to provide for global markets. Traditional forms of agriculture have stood the test of cyclic climate change, whereas industrial agriculture depletes soil and water resources as well as uprooting populations and destroying local culture.

S4 There are examples of resilient systems – currently small scale schemes largely funded by foundations, trusts and NGOs, rather than governments. We have been interested in developing networks, funding portals and lateral communication channels for ecologically sustainable agriculture, water and sanitation (with conservation of biodiversity and local culture) such that finance can be channeled to grass-roots organisations. In this respect, we have been in talks with UK banks on the issues of both development policy and climate change.

S5 We recommend that the Committee look at the above issues. We also recommend a more cautious attitude to strategies of climate mitigation. There is absolutely no chance that a global strategy of emission reduction can significantly affect what the climate does in the next three or four decades – during which time there will be another billion mouths to feed in countries already suffering food deficit. Indeed another billion will be born over the next 15 years. At the same time ‘peak oil’ will have had greater impact and natural climate cycles will subject these populations to unavoidable changes. Adaptation – especially with regard to the robustness of food and water supplies is paramount.

S6 {Important Note: In my review of climate science I concluded that there was a strong likelihood that a natural cooling cycle would dominate for the next decade and possibly longer. This cycle affects food production in the key grain growing regions of the northern hemisphere and is likely to depress yields such that a major food crisis hits well before any energy crisis. Three years ago I predicted cold winters and reduced yields, compromised by high energy prices in transport and production, as well as competition from biofuels for growing land. All these have come to pass.In the last 6 months, two senior climate scientists, both members of the IPCC, have given figures for the percentage contribution of natural forces to the changes we have seen in global temperatures – at 75%. I reckoned CO2 would have contributed at most 20%. There is no real consensus within the IPCC and much less in the wider climate science community on the issue of causation.

I would be happy to argue these points before the committee and any expert advisors.

I enclose copies of the Ethos production: ‘Questions of Resilience’.

I have sent an individual copy to: Joan Walley and 15 copies to the Committee secretary for distribution to members.

In brief, in answer to the key questions that the inquiry will examine:

1.01 *       Whether UK aid avoids exacerbating environmental degradation and
worsening climate change;

The current UK aid programme scores very poorly on ‘environmental’ criteria compared to some other nations. The focus on ‘economic’ goals without criteria appropriate for the world’s poorest people is more likely to exacerbate environmental degradation (soil loss, water stress, rural depopulation) and vulnerability to climate change.

1.02*       How well the Aid programme manages the tensions between boosting
economic growth and environmental protection;

The UK scores badly compared to Sweden, Germany and Japan WHERE 50% OF AID QUALIFIES AS ENVIRONMENTAL.....UK SCORES ABOUT 5%

1.03*       The extent to which UK Aid programmes address the environmental
causes of poverty, and the extent to which environmental protection and
climate change mitigation and adaptation are prioritised in those

There is evidence that less than 5% of UK aid contributes significantly to these goals. Adaptation to climate change (which is at least partly natural and unlikely to be mitigated within the next fifty years) should be a priority, yet funding is directed by mitigation strategies which are more easily to implement and impossible to quantify in their stated objective – and many of the mitigation technologies have serious environmental impacts of their own society and biodiversity. These impacts have not been adequately quantified.

1.04*       the extent to which environmental protection and climate change
mitigation and adaptation have been mainstreamed in the Government's Aid
programmes, including how well DfID's systems take account of DEFRA's
policies on Biodiversity and  DECC's policies on climate change.

Government must prioritise adaptation rather than mitigation. By simply allocating several billion of funds already designated for aid, the danger is that only those schemes that can be readily implemented will be actioned and counted as ‘mainstreamed’ and these will almost certainly be mitigation technologies of unproven value to the poorest people (e.g. wind turbines, biofuel plantations, hydro-schemes, coastal defences). Our impression is that virtually no studies on the impact of mitigation have been made.

It should also be noted that studies of the impact of climate change on a regional level are in their infancy – rainfall is the most important factor and this depends upon unquantifiable changes in wind patterns as much as on temperature. Computer models give a spurious sense of prediction.

1.05*       Whether there are differences in the environmental impact of DfID's
bilateral work compared with UK-funded multilateral aid or with other
programmes which assist developing countries.

From our review, we would suggest that government should cooperate more with International NGOs, private foundations and trusts that seem to have a better relationship with grass-roots ecological programmes of resilience

1.06*       how the UK's contributions to the International Climate Finance Fund
will be managed, and prospective plans for managing the Biodiversity funding

There needs to be a focus upon practical grass-roots resilience for community and biodiversity – and to learn the lessons of direct project management that exist within the international aid community that is non-governmental.

1.07 The Committee invites organisations and members of the public to submit
written evidence, setting out their views on these issues. More wide ranging
responses are also welcome. And the Committee would welcome hearing about
particular aid projects/programmes which:

*       specifically aimed to tackle environmental/climate change issues,
and did so successfully;
*       specifically aimed to tackle environmental/climate change issues,
but failed to meet such objectives; and
*       harmed the environment and/or exacerbated climate change

Ethos made some recommendation in the accompanying book – please refer to sections on pages 57-65. We are of the opinion that much more needs to be done on identifying successful best-practice at grass-roots level and what is really needed at that level.

SUMMARY: Questions of Resilience

Background to this publication

In April 2010, Peter Taylor was engaged by the Lifeworks Foundation to investigate and comment upon the structure and trends of international humanitarian aid. The Foundation has an interest in several innovative eco-agricultural technologies as well as social tools for visioning within developing organisations.

Ethos is publishing an edited version of this report for wider circulation in order to stimulate discussion around the nature of resilience in a changing physical, social and economic climate. Our focus is upon global communities currently in receipt of development aid and questions that arise as to the effectiveness of that aid.

2.01 The key conclusions of the report to Lifeworks were:

Regarding the structure of aid:

· There has been significant growth in development aid, both official and private, over the last decade – in most sectors by a factor of three and in some sectors a fourfold increase ( Annex 1, tables 1-2);

· nearly all official aid goes to in-country government programmes with some cross-over aid to International NGOs;

· the private sector, though small in the UK and Europe, plays a significant role in helping in-country NGOs and community initiatives directly; private aid flows from the USA are much greater than other OECD countries (for example, about thirty times the UK figure);

· however only about 10% of this aid is directed at the most basic level of human needs: food, water and sanitation; most aid is directed at general elements of social progress and is based on the assumption that the best way to help people in poverty and ill-health is to improve the economy;

· an even smaller proportion, 2-5% is directed at sustainable agricultural practices;

· there is a wide divergence in the amount of aid that is described as ‘environmental’ with the UK performing badly in this regard at less that 5% of official aid compared to Japan, Germany and Sweden at around 50%; there are conflicting indications showing both recent growth of environmental funding and a decline – depending upon definitions;

· there is a marked tendency for ‘climate change’ issues of mitigation and adaptation to take over priorities for funding – the former likely to detract from basic livelihoods and the latter with a potential for considerable increases in aid, though currently without a clear appreciation of priorities;

· the programmes that are most advanced in terms of eco-agriculture, sanitation, small-scale energy, micro-finance and integrated development are funded by private foundations.

2.02 Regarding potential global programmes of best practice:

· there has been a significant shift toward evaluating the ‘effectiveness’ of aid and a rise in awareness relating to the importance of in-country knowledge and partnerships;

· several private foundations in the UK already have programmes in operation which illustrate some best practices with networks of management and analysis, some in collaboration with other foundations or International NGOs (for example in sustainable agriculture and forestry). The key projects are mostly in Africa and India, but there are also some in South America and South-East Asia;

· In the UK there are networks of funding foundations that meet regularly on a peer-to-peer basis and discuss priorities and collaboration; there are also professional networks within the realm of eco-sustainable development with regular workshops and conferences – these appear to be better developed in the USA.

2.03 Unknown Factors:

· The current global economic and financial crisis is far from over and this has major implications for aid streams and the promised funding both for the Millennium Goals and for Climate Change programmes;

· Short-term commitments for climate change funding have already usurped funds from the main development aid streams in the UK; and a great deal of this funding is aimed at ‘mitigation’ of the perceived threat, rather than adaptation – there is ample evidence that where vulnerable communities are concerned, adaptation should be a priority;

· However, the future for long-term climate change funding is extremely uncertain both because of the large size of the commitment and recent uncertainty in the basic science of climate prediction – this uncertainty is unlikely to be resolved before December 2010, in the COP16 meeting in Cancun, Mexico.

2.04 Recommendations:

· Ethos recommended Lifeworks pursue ideas of micro-cluster development techniques and technologies for soil treatment and eco-sanitation, combined with its interest in small-scale energy supply, water, health and education – with the aim of developing a package that could be tested in a variety of situations; new and innovative technologies need to be tested in many different ecological and social settings – particularly revolutionary soil treatment systems using microbial balancing technology (MBT). Such integrated development packages appear to be unusual – at least with respect to the issues of sanitation, soil, nutrition, energy and small-scale businesses.

· An integrated package would have access to a wide spectrum of funding streams both within the private sector but also potentially from government: it would register on issues relating to health and education, water and sanitation and capacity building in the social-capital sector;

· Such an aid- project could be initiated as ‘trial and evaluation’ with several pilots in varying conditions in Africa, Asia and South America – perhaps over a three year period. (Ethos notes that Lifeworks intends to raise finance from a commercial roll-out of MBT technologies in a global fund which would enable poorer communities to build their own facilities and run their own trials).

· At a village and local school level the projects could include modern internet communications, ‘twinning’ with UK schools, developing the concept of ‘mirror communities’ and a global outreach, particularly of shared experience;

· Innovative funding ‘aggregators’ have developed ‘portals’ to giving as exemplified by Global Giving and these represent an advanced form of communications and access to public donors – these technologies could be made more specific and used to create a focus for eco-sustainable agricultural projects.

Questions of resilience:

· In our research on the Lifeworks project we have been struck by how little aid is directed at the populations most vulnerable to climate change, economic instability and rising costs of oil;

· The development strategies currently in place are widely acknowledged as failing these most vulnerable populations;

· Future development strategies appear firstly, not to have taken on board the implications of ever rising costs of transport and the instabilities of the global economy; and secondly, not to be addressing the expected population rises in these vulnerable communities, with attendant stresses on water, food supply and biodiversity;

· The continual promises to raise the profile of climate-change adaptation have yet to produce a coherent strategy beyond the same development model that has so far failed these most vulnerable people;

· We recommend that a new approach is developed within the development aid community that focuses upon resilience – this would entail developing a no-regrets strategy with regard to the directions of climate change, enhancing robustness to change at a systems level;

· Such an approach would gather practical examples of best practice in various countries under differing ecological and social regimes and identify their needs – whether of further development aid, or protection from the development process;

· We recommend that a network of best practice is developed and maximum use made of modern media and communications to empower lateral community-to-community connections in developing countries as well as with mirror communities in developed countries;

· We also recommend that a joint approach is sought with the global financial community to bring more ecologically sound investment to the world’s poorest peoples, making use of the lessons of micro-credit, global giving portals, and ecologically sound banking.

15 December 2010