Climate debt news
Refusing public money, ignoring public opinion
Campaign Update: send a pound
At the start of September, the World Development Movement (WDM) and the Jubilee Debt Campaign (JDC) launched our 'send a pound' action as part of our no new debt campaign. The response we have received from the Department of International Development (DfID) has been confused and disappointing. First they have refused to accept the donations, and they now seem to be refusing to take the public's opinions into account. This goes against Andrew Mitchell's expressed desire to take the opinion of the public into account in decisions around how the UK's development money is spent. It is also very surprising that the government is turning away funds at a time when devastating cuts are being imposed on UK public spending.
'Send a pound' asks people to send a pound to Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development, requesting that he deposits it with the UN Adaptation Fund along with the rest of the UK’s climate money, to enable to world’s poorest people to cope with the impacts of climate change. The UK has so far not put a single penny into this fund but is instead supporting the undemocratic World Bank, against the wishes of developing countries. Essentially, instead of accepting their historical responsibility for climate change, the UK government are using climate change as an excuse to reinforce existing inequalities by pushing for new loans through the World Bank.
The Department for International Development’s reaction to these donations from members of the public has been confused and disappointing. When the pounds started coming into DfID, they sent them on to our offices, with no explanation, and parts of text blanked out with a black marker pen. Now, they are coming back without even being opened. In response, we have spent the last few weeks trying to get an explanation from DfID as to why they are not willing to pass on the donations to the UN Adaptation Fund, and a reassurance that the messages from the public are being passed on to the minister. We were told by DfID officials that we would receive a letter from the minister, but have yet to receive one. However, a response to the campaign has now appeared on DfID‘s website (See: Funding for adaptation (Jubilee Debt Campaign and World Development Movement)
Here is our Response to Andrew Mitchell’s statement:
Firstly, we are pleased that Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development, recognises the value of the UN Adaptation Fund. Having political and institutional backing from the UK for this fund is tremendously important. However, in spite of this praise, the UK government has yet to grant a single penny to the Adaptation Fund. The UK’s lack of financial commitment will severely limit the ability of the Fund to support the kinds of grant applications being asked of it. So far, 14 countries have requested money, including five Least Developed Countries, three small island development states, six African countries and 12 low income countries. For example, Pakistan has applied for funding to make the country more able to cope with floods, both to decrease the suffering caused by flooding and cut the costs of reconstruction. The Adaptation Fund is likely to be unable to resource these kinds of projects until it is properly resourced. It is absolutely critical that the UK government starts lending its support.
We also acknowledge the government’s commitment to honour the £1.5bn commitment from Copenhagen for fast-start finance, even though this is not new money, but money that has been redirected from the aid budget. However, the critical issue being raised with the minister through this action is how the money is being dispersed. WDM and JDC have grave concerns about the UK government’s support for the World Bank’s Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience (PPCR). This is both because of the top-down, donor-led decision-making processes of the World Bank, and because much of the UK finance dispersed through this programme is being provided in the form of loans.
By creating new developing country debt through these loans, even at concessional rates, the UK is locking people into poverty and contributing to public finance being siphoned away from basic social services, such as sanitation, clean water and maternal health care. Because adaptation money simply helps communities cope with a worsening situation due to climate change, it offers no potential for countries to generate new income, so there is no way for money to be regenerated to repay the loans. Given that the UK is providing money to help poor countries deal with the devastating climate legacies of our own development, such an approach seems both economically unsound and morally unjustifiable.
Arguments that World Bank loans through the PPCR are being dispersed as loans so they can be ‘recycled’ are misplaced because it has been agreed that the fast-start finance programme that Andrew Mitchell is referring to is meant to end by December 2012. The suggestion of extending this would be a dangerous change of policy in the wrong direction, signifying the UK unilaterally making decisions separately from the UN talks, and therefore undermining the international negotiations. The UK could easily turn these loans into grants at no cost to UK taxpayers (because the money would never have come back to the UK, just to the World Bank), and of greatest benefit to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.
The Conservative Party’s position before the election was that finance for adaptation should be given as grants wherever possible, while the Liberal Democrats have rightly said that loans are inappropriate for climate adaptation and that they supported the UN Adaptation Fund. But these positions have yet to be clearly expressed or supported by decisions taken by the Minister. We ask the government to stop pushing finance through the World Bank against the wishes of developing counties, and critically, not to build up more illegitimate debt.
With regards to this action, we ask that the UK government listens to the concerns of the electorate on this issue. We are highly concerned that DfID has suggested (separately from this statement) that they will pass on the pound coins that have been donated by members of the public for the UN Adaptation Fund to a local charity, if they continue to be sent in. We are pleased DfID acknowledges it can pass this money on to a third party, but it should be donating it to the UN Adaptation Fund as the people who have donated the money have requested. Anything else would be highly unaccountable.
We will continue to call on Andrew Mitchell and the Department for International Development to listen to the UK public’s growing support for the campaign calling for No New Debt, and to stop pushing for the World Bank to be involved in climate finance against the wishes of developing countries, to whom the UK owes a massive climate debt.
What you can do
Kirsty is senior campaigns officer at WDM. She campaigns to keep the World Bank out of climate finance and against loans for climate change.