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Contrarians endure massive failure of imagination after UN told climate funding is ‘feasible’

November 6, 2010

A story in the Guardian reveals that economists are reasonably confident (aren’t they always?) that the $100 billion a year said to be needed by ‘third-world’ countries to combat climate change is ‘feasible’. As the Guardian tells it –

Seventeen finance ministers, leading economists and heads of state say that it is “challenging but feasible” to raise $100bn (£62bn) a year by 2020 to allow poor countries to adapt to the effects of climate change and reduce emissions. If their findings, contained in a major report handed to the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, are politically acceptable, the chances of a new global climate agreement are substantially increased.

As ever, the discussion following this story is dominated by right-wingnuts, complaining bitterly about this and that. And as usual, there are one or two very significant failures in the proffered arguments.

The first addresses the need for help. It is a curious fact that climate change deniers, in a vain attempt to appear reasonable, will assure us all that while they contest the notion that we are causing climate change, they do not contest the fact the climate is changing. (“The climate’s always changed” they insist).

Fair enough – that’s a different debate. But if we are agreed the climate is changing, and we are agreed that developing countries will, by the nature of their poor economic performance and lack of viable infrastructure, be the worst placed to deal with climate change, it must follow that these are the countries that most need help from richer denizens of the planet we all share. It is curious to note that these same armchair pundits will also argue that we have no need to help those less well off in their fight against climate change – because AGW isn’t real. With logic like that, who needs irrationality?

Of course, the other argument they trot out is about corruption. It is commonplace to find that the contrarians who post on the Guardian threads seem to suffer from an endemic lack of imagination, and an alarming ignorance of history and the part we have played in all this. While it is entirely true that corruption is widespread, it is also true that a great deal of the money flowing through dictatorial hands is provided by us, in the form of bribes, arms deals, fossil fuel exploitation and the corruption of resource markets like metals, rare earths etc.

It’s worth checking out the Guardian’s presentation of the Corruption index 2010: the most corrupt countries in the world. The map depicts worldwide corruption levels as ranked by Transparency International, and it is salutary to note that Rwanda has a higher (less corrupt) rating than Italy – whose corruption is worse than S.A, Botswana, Namibia, and within a decimal point of Georgia. Meanwhile, erstwhile ‘European’ states like Ukraine, Belarus and Kosovo have scores comparable to the average African and Asian countries.

So much of the corruption in developing countries is the result of western colonial policies, and the puppet regimes we put in place when outright colonial rule became unacceptable. It was always in the best interests of capitalism and communism to ensure that compliant (corrupt) regimes would be supported, so that the great game could be played out in a format slightly less dangerous than all out nuclear war and lop-sided trade could continue to favour the west at the gross expense of pretty much everyone else.

And if corruption is a concern, then perhaps we might consider how to address this problem rather than merely shrug and turn our backs. We did this to the same people contrarians claim to care so much about, all the while ardently admiring the consumerism and rapacious business practices (the free market!) that created many of the problems in the first place.

If there is concern that, when we acknowledge our differentiated responsibilities by giving money given to combat climate change, that money will be used inappropriately, then devise other solutions. For example,why not donate technological transfer by using funds to compensate patent holders? Or supply western-built renewable power technologies, wind turbines, solar plants, hydro schemes, desalination plants, power infrastructure, requisite materials and expertise, instead of cash?

In such a case, not only do we ensure proper use of the funds, we also use those same taxes to increase employment and manufacturing in the west (to build and export solutions), export that expertise, and by getting involved we can also institute some oversight and auditing methods to ensure our money is not buying more fighters from corrupt corporations through bribery sponsored by criminal governments like the one that covered up its complicity in BAE’s fraudulent practices. Before we make too much of corruption elsewhere, perhaps we ought to sort out our own.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jack Savage permalink
    November 7, 2010 12:31 pm

    Very reasonably argued….except it all falls down when you omit from your consideration just how successful or not the UN are going to be at administering this scheme. (See Oil for Food, Congo Rape,
    So I would go one step further. I have no argument with GB providing as much foreign aid as we can afford, but why should we do this via the UN and effectively remove any say the GB government might like to have in a)the amount of the aid and b) its utilisation by the donee? I think this process is called “cutting out the middle man” and is usually regarded as a good thing.

  2. Graham Wayne permalink*
    November 7, 2010 4:21 pm

    Hi Jack – I don’t have a problem with that idea, although I’m not cynical about the UN – it’s performance can be patchy but most of the good work (health, children) draws little attention. Anyway, fact is that the UN is, and should only be, a coordinating body – when it comes to organisation of anything, the bigger the scheme the more likely the problems administering it.

    I do also think that the administration is rather less prone to failure and inappropriate action when the cash is taken out of the equation, hence my suggestions about supplying goods and services. Mind you, I suppose some corrupt bugger could sell off a few wind turbines to the Russian mafia…although they would have to fall off the back of a monumentally big truck 🙂

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