Holding the Poor Hostage

April 11th, 2008

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Anyone who wants to see how the misplaced opposition to adaptation actually hurts poor people need look further than thie report out today from ClimateWire:

Environmental and humanitarian activist groups plan to formally ask the World Bank to back away from plans to create a $500 million trust fund aimed at helping poor nations cope with climate change.

The letter, which representatives of several organizations confirmed Thursday is being drafted and will be signed by more than 100 organizations, comes as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund launch their 2008 spring meeting, attended by finance ministers from across the world.

Among the reasons cited for opposing adaptation funds is that the World Bank is supporting the development of a giant coal plant in India:

Groups said their overarching concern, though, is the World Bank’s fossil fuel-rich energy portfolio. The bank’s approval this week of $450 million for a major coal-fired power plant in India, many said, undermines its attempts to go green.

“There’s a lot of concern about the World Bank taking over of the [adaptation program] because of their ongoing funding of fossil fuel projects,” said Steve Kretzmann, executive director of Oil Change International, a nonprofit group based in Washington that advocates for clean energy and against foreign aid to the international oil industry.

“It is not a credible institution for managing these funds, especially given its poor environmental track record,” added Karen Orenstein, extractive industries campaign coordinator with the environmental nonprofit Friends of the Earth.

“If the World Bank is truly interested in being a leader in fighting climate change, they shouldn’t start out by financing a huge mega-coal project,” she said.

So you read that right, lets take away money that could have positive benefits improving the lives of people in the developing world because of concerns about a fossil fuel project. This is a real-world example of how continuing efforts to place adaptation in opposition to mitigation have a material effect on people’s lives.

Does anyone really think that opposing energy development and adaptation will make the climate agenda more appealing to people in India? Why can’t these groups support adaptation and clean energy at the same time, rather than placing them in opposition?

7 Responses to “Holding the Poor Hostage”

  1. Paul Biggs Says:

    “Why can’t these groups support adaptation and clean energy at the same time, rather than placing them in opposition?”

    You have to ask!?

    Because the agenda they are really following has nothing to do with climate or clean energy.

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  3. lucia Says:

    The solution to this dilemma is obvious. We should give them *more* money and build a nuclear plant instead! :)

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  5. Stentor Says:

    From the part you’ve quoted (I can’t get through to the full thing), it doesn’t sound like they’re taking issue with adaptation per se. They’re taking issue with *the World Bank being the institution managing the adaptation funds.* The coal plant in India is just a poster child for the WB’s long, and well-known on the left, record of poor environmental decision-making. Maybe FOE’s actual desire is to ignore adaptation. But the argument they’re making about institutional trust/competence is one that can be accepted even by someone who accepts the importance of adaptation.

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  7. Paul Biggs Says:

    Well, until there is a viable alternative to fossil fuels – it is common sense to choose energy over energy poverty. There is nuclear, but FoE don’t like that either.

    Coal plants are much cleaner and more efficient than they used to be, and of course, CO2 is a harmless gas to which climate has a low sensitivity, unless anyone can prove otherwise.

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  9. lucia Says:

    Is the argument against the World Bank involvement? I have some sympathy for that; though I would like to read more to decide about this specific program.

    Or is the argument against the idea of building coal fired plants no matter how they may be financed.

    (This isn’t a rhetorical question. I try not to ask those. :) Roger’s climatewire link requires a subscription, as it’s only a trial subscription and expires, I’m not going through the hassel to see if they have the answer to the question I seek.)

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  11. docpine Says:

    I also tried to access and don’t have a subscription, and also couldn’t find anything in a cursory examination of the websites of the groups that were quoted. I guess it remains a mystery until more facts are public.

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  13. mt Says:

    I don’t get it.

    OK, so this fund amounts to about ten cents per person in less developed countries. So presumably only a small subset of the population can collect against it.

    Presumably to make a claim that is larger than ten cents one would have to claim material damages as a direct consequence of climate change. For instance, attributing this severe drought or that severe storm to climate change as opposed to weather.

    Presumably everyone involved at the present scale understands the category error implicit in such a claim. Is the purpose of the fund to remain unclaimed, then, thereby “disproving” anthropogenic climate change?

    My understanding of adaptation is that it happens after you know what has happened. You can’t really adapt to a hypothetical.

    I suppose there’s some sense to a sort of global disaster fund, and I have no trouble with it being adminstered by the World Bank, myself. I just don’t know what it might have to do with “adaptation”.

    I don’t know the details of the matter being discussed here, so I’m just guessing. But. It’s not hard to imagine that this is a matter of funds that would have been allocated anyway being labeled as “climate related”. We have already seen this trick in climate science. It’s easy to imagine it being used in climate policy.