World Bank envoy speaks to journalists on Climate Change

12/02/10 Kelly Benjamin
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The World Bank's special envoy for climate change, Dr. Andrew Steer, spoke to a group of environmental journalists today outside the United Nation's climate talks in Cancun. He said that developing nations can't afford to wait for the UN to figure out how to deal with climate change.

"There are two worlds out there. There is the world of negotiation, which necessarily is tough and slow and, at times, frustrating. And there is a world of action out there. And the world of action is basically both developed, but actually, especially developing countries are saying, 'look, we need desperately, to have a global deal on climate but we can't afford to wait for it. So we are getting on with it now.' "

Steer said that the amount of developing countries that are experiencing the effects of climate change and requesting assistance in dealing with it has increased dramatically.

"What we've found at the World Bank is that the countries we work with who in the old days would say, 'look, help us on A,B,C,D,E but climate change weren't necessarily in that A,B,C,D, or E,' are now saying, 'look, there are three or four things that you can work with us on, we want one of those things, and a very, very important one to be climate change.' Twenty years ago, none of them would have picked climate change. Ten years ago, ten per cent of them would have included climate change. For the last two years, eighty per cent of all of what we call the country strategies, which identify the three or things we'll work on in the individual countries, eighty per cent of them include climate change."

However, many are critical about the role the World Bank is playing in funding assistance on climate change. Meena Menon is an environmental reporter for The Hindu, a daily newspaper in Mumbai India.

"These are loans. They may be zero interest but, nevertheless they are loans. And he may also say that we have changed our thinking, it's not charity. But essentially it's not aid but assistance but, that's not really true. If you really want to help the third world you have to put the money along with technology transfer. You cannot just give money and you cannot give money as loans, you have to give money that's based on the concept that the polluter is paying. It's a question of historical emissions that we're dealing with, not current emissions, not current obligations, these are historical obligations. Like John '...' in the New York Times said, these are anthropogenic emissions which are causing climate change, so from that point of view, I think what the developing countries are saying is very correct, that the funding must be unconditional, unattatched and linked to certain specific technology transfer adaptation and litigation issues."

Mary Ann Eyram Acolatse is a television reporter in Ghana. She asked Dr. Steer why developing nations must ask for loans from the World Bank to deal with a problem that was created by industrialized nations.

"Why do we not receive grants to deal with a mess? And why do we have to secure loans to deal with the emissions by developing economies because the reason why we are in this mess is because of the pollution or the emissions of the developed economies. And if they are giving out some financial arrangements, or making financial arrangements, why must they be largely in loans? Whether they are zero per cent or not, the issue is on payback. So we get to clear their mess through loans. It doesn't make sense to me, so I just wanted to find out why is that?"


"I mean, look, a low income country, a sort of upper low income country like Ghana, could mainly receive grants, and so it should. One of the reasons why, and by the way it's not the World Bank that makes the decisions about whether it's loans or not, it's those who choose to put the money in. And one of the reasons that they believe that middle income countries should get zero interest rate loans is so there will be more available for the low income countries in the form of grants so I think that would be the way of thinking about it but, I think we all should work as hard as we can to raise whatever resources, preferably grant resources, to do the kind of things you say."

But Alexander Kelly, an American reporter with Investigate West questions the World Bank's involvement entirely...

"I want to know why our leaders who are in charge of addressing climate change are putting faith in the free market when it's proven so disastrous to humanity in it's history?"

for wmnf news, this is Kelly Benjamin

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