Klemens van de Sand « Debatte

Klemens van de Sand

28. April 2010,

Dr. Klemens van de Sand worked until the end of 2007 at the BMZ, where he last served as the Deputy Director for the Asia and south-eastern Europe department. Before that, he dealt with issues such as development policy, donor coordination and human rights. From 1997 to 2003, he was Assistant President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Rome. In the nineties, he led the OECD/DAC Working Group “Participatory Development and Good Governance”. Currently, he is a board member of German Watch and on the advisory boards of several other organisations, including the Development and Peace Foundation and the Forum Civil Peace Service.

The well-written paper impresses through many valid observations and balanced judgements. Nevertheless, at least the first four chapters leave the reader somewhat at a loss as to concrete consequences for possible policy measures at international and national level. This “shortcoming”, however, appears to be largely inevitable, as it is one of the paper’s merits that the author time and again – and quite rightly – cautions against rash generalizations and emphasizes the need to differentiate according to the specificities of the problems in their respective political, economic and socio-cultural context.

Almost all statements and arguments put forward in the first three chapters can, in my view, hardly be disputed. There are only a few aspects which might deserve further consideration:

  1. “New cruel choice” between economic development and climate mitigation (p. 17,18): The win-win argument for mitigation in the form of investments in renewable energies and energy efficiency is not mentioned here nor elsewhere. It should, because it is certainly valid in developed countries, but also relevant for developing countries, especially for emerging economies., and it, therefore, at least eases the “cruel choice”.
  2. “Domestic impact of steps to reduce emissions” (p. 22, para 1): The assumption that the impact is “much greater” in weaker states than e.g. in the EU should be illustrated.
  3. “Democracies more likely to reach international agreements” (p. 24, para 2): Without knowing the research work referred to, I have some doubts. What about US, India, Australia in Kyoto and Copenhagen?
  4. Efforts to reduce CO2 emissions – effect of domestic inequalities (p. 25, Para 3): Not necessarily true e.g. for replacing fuel wood by (decentralized) solar/wind/biogas energy – which can benefit the rural poor in particular.

As to “practical” implications for international actors and governments, chapters 4-6 are, of course, the most interesting, but also more disputable.

  1. “Moral dilemma for democracy’s supporters” (p. 37, para 2,3): Climate adaptation requires not only “strengthening state capacity and improving governance”, but also active participation (“ownership”) of affected or vulnerable people (and their organisations!), which promotes democratization. Take the example of watershed development, which is an extremely important instrument both to fight poverty and to adapt to climate change, e.g. in vast parts of India, but also in a number of African and Latin-American countries. There is ample evidence that sustainable success of watershed management programs hinges on people organizing themselves and becoming self-responsible implementers, instead of leaving the task to government agencies. Here, we have a win-win situation between development, climate adaptation and democratization which should be referred to also elsewhere in the paper. The point on “cruel choice” again appears to be not really compelling. It is not an “either” (promoting democracy) “or” (supporting climate mitigation and adaptation). The challenge is rather to promote democracy in an adequate way which takes into account the overriding importance of climate related policies, for example by stimulating discussions and building the capacities of various actors to engage in an informed, equitable dialogue about policy options vis-à-vis climate change. With other words, promoting democratization must not be given up, but the way may need to be changed (more cautious, less aggressive, more inclusive…).
  2. “No mainstreaming of climate adaptation in development activities” (p. 38, para 3): There is increasing awareness of the need to take into account climate adaptation as a cross-cutting issue in development cooperation, at least in German development agencies. The “Asia Concept” of the BMZ specifically calls for mainstreaming of climate mitigation and adaptation in development cooperation.
  3. “Linking offers of support to political concessions” (p. 38, para 3): The new arrangements (“Direct Access”) envisaged for the UNFCCC related Adaptation Fund, may lead to innovative advancements with regard to accountability, transparency, people’s participation, ownership etc.. This (still emerging) Funding Mechanism should definitely receive particular attention in the paper, not least because it could offer some answers to the last question (p. 42).
  4. The author may consider to deal with the debate on ways out of the growth crisis (see e.g. C. Jaeger, G. Horn, T. Lux: “Wege aus der Wachstumskrise”, a study recently published by the European Climate Forum).

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1 Kommentar

  1. As the opening paragraph of the comments indicates, the next and important step should be to think through the concrete consequences for possible policy measures at the international and national levels. I hope that the Foundation decides to pursue this agenda with vigour.

    I agree with the importance of investing in renewable energies and energy efficiency, where China is very active – more so than many democracies who appear to have been held back by the recent financial and economic crisis.

    The statistical study by Neumayer (included in the References) found that democracies exhibit stronger international environmental commitment than non-democracies, in the sense of signing and ratifying multilateral environmental agreements, but the evidence in respect of the actual outcomes is very much weaker. This may be because the signatories do not fully deliver on their promises (which seems to be the case with then Kyoto Protocol and also the UN’s 2002 Convention on Biological Diversity, where the UN now acknowledges that the agreement has completely failed to reverse accelerating loss of biodiversity around the world). The more recent empirical study by Bättig and Bernauer (2009, also referenced in the paper) appears to confirm what Neumayer found out earlier, and has been cited by the World Bank.

    Yes, greenhouse gas reductions and reductions in social inequality can be made compatible, if the right choice of measures is adopted. The political economy of development could shed light on whether the right choices will be made, or not made, in particular states.

    Yes, I agree that active participation by the people might be a necessary condition for some approaches/measures in climate adaptation to succeed. But it might not be essential to the success of all the possible approaches/measures, where technical, managerial and professional competence could be more important to a functioning solution, or where immediate and decisive action is required. The more examples of a win-win situation between development, climate adaptation and democratization that you/we can think of, the better. Building up knowledge on this should certainly be a focus of attention for future work by organisations like the Foundation, in my opinion.

    I agree that the real challenge is to promote democracy in an adequate way which takes into account the overriding importance of climate related policies. This is absolutely crucial. Another big task for the Foundation!

    On the increasing awareness of the need to take into account climate adaptation as a cross-cutting issue, I am sure you are right. More evidence of that awareness translating into actual changes of strategy and policy towards international development cooperation by the global universe of relevant agencies would be welcome.

    The still emerging funding Mechanism certainly merits attention, but any kind of assessment just yet would be premature.

    Thank you.

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