Guardian: Holding separate talks on development co-operation and climate makes no sense; the two agendas should be integrated.
The Durban conference on climate change ended with a much better deal than most experts expected, but so much remains to be worked out that it is hard to say how much real progress has been made.
The same could be said for the Busan conference on development co-operation, which ran concurrently across the Indian Ocean.
Noticeably, there was little reference between the two events. The Busan outcome document mentions climate finance as an afterthought, clearly wanting to avoid stepping on the toes of another international process.
There is clearly a rationale for both processes. One focuses on development co-operation, the other on global climate change. But there is also a danger the two agendas will grow apart if they are not brought together. After all, it was the Indian representative’s impassioned speech on equity and the right to develop that made such an impact in Durban, according to reports.
The Busan conference recast aid in terms of “development effectiveness”. It’s not a new term, but it has returned to the limelight as a result of the overly technocratic aid effectiveness agenda, and also thanks in no small part to advocacy from BetterAid and those civil society organisations that have been banging the drum for years.
In similar vein, Tom Mitchell, head of the climate change, environment and forests programme at the Overseas Development Institute, has coined the term “climate effectiveness”.
Yet, as climate finance continues to live its bizarre parallel (but non-additional) existence to aid, isn’t it time the two agendas became fully integrated? Rather then set up a new partnership to ensure the “development effectiveness” of development finance, it would seem sensible to bring development and climate finance together, monitoring the efficacy of both. There is little practical difference in reality; one and the same national development plan needs to respond to poverty, inequality, climate change and limited resources.
The Busan conference tentatively set out plans to build a new “global partnership for development effectiveness”, the modalities of which will be worked on in the months leading up to June 2012. Whether by coincidence or design (probably the former), that is when the next major international conference takes place, and it is the perfect place to rebuild the links between the environmental and development agendas.
Called Rio+20 in homage to the Rio conference of 1992 – which was, in many ways, the mother of all international conferences – the summit is again taking place in the Brazilian city. It is the last major conference before the millennium development goals come up for renewal in 2015.
One of Rio+20′s two main objectives is to “improve international co-ordination for sustainable development”. The organisers could start by getting on the phone to the UNDP and OECD representatives charged with taking forward the Busan partnership.
More generally, Rio is an opportunity to put the concept of sustainable development back at the heart of the modern global development discourse. Sustainable development means taking into account what has been called the “triple bottom line”: the economy, the environment, and social equity and poverty.
Western politicians, leading their countries through a period of slow-to-no growth, may find it harder to focus on poverty and the environment. Southern politicians will be happier to talk about poverty and international equity, but national equity and the environment may not resonate in some core constituencies. Aware that growth is still the one concept that draws all major political strands together, Ban Ki Moon, the UN secretary general, claims that “the sustainable development agenda is the growth agenda for the 21st century”.
But the Rio+20 conference must be careful that its decision to focus on the term “green economy” does not obscure the balance implicit in the well-worn but still vital concept of sustainable development. No idea has yet garnered so much political and academic support, and separating the three core factors is as unsatisfactory theoretically and practically as it may be attractive politically. The idea of sustainable development goals, first floated by the Colombian government and seemingly gathering momentum as Rio+20 approaches, could be a way of embedding the concept into international dialogue, as well as binding together disparate processes such as Busan, Durban and the MDGs.
Countries in the north are tempted to give in to vested interests and protect the dirty economy, as Canada appears to be doing by pulling out of the Kyoto protocol. Rio could be the arena to remind them that a green economy will be better for jobs and growth, as well as the planet, if they only have the vision to look beyond the dangerous comforts of the growth model with which we have so far been stuck.
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