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Climate Change & Environment

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Climate Change Driven by Bad Economics
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A successful climate deal depends on governments and financial institutions embracing new economic approaches to international development which are more in tune with the needs of people and planet, says a report by the Working Group on Climate Change and Development.

Link to full report: Other Worlds are Possible - Human Progress in an Age of Climate Change

30th November 2009


Call for New Economic Approaches to Support Climate Deal

November 2009 - The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

On 30 November, leading poverty and environment groups were joined by Nobel Prize winners and other international experts in calling for a new economic model to support an urgent tough, new climate deal to be negotiated in Copenhagen in December.

In a new report from The Working Group on Climate Change and Development, supported since its formation by Dr Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of the Nobel prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), leading international development economists and major international agencies call for new economic approaches more in tune with people and the planet.

The report Other Worlds are Possible - Human Progress in an Age of Climate Change; is the sixth to be published by the group alerting the world to huge threat from global warming to human progress.

With forewords from Dr Pachauri and the world leading environmental economist Prof Herman Daly, Other Worlds are Possible includes radical economic proposals from leading economists based in developing countries that are already beginning to bear the human and economic costs of climate change. Theirs are the points of view often overlooked by commentators in rich countries. Contributors include

Prof. Jayati Ghosh (India):
Prof Ghosh rejects for India the economic development model represented by rich countries like the US, and argues that without new, less materialistic role models for human development, in a carbon constrained world, poorer countries are being set up to fail.

Prof. Wangari Maathai (Kenya):
Nobel Prize winning Prof. Wangari Maathai argues that for Africa to tackle climate change and to leap-frog dirty development, significant new financial resources will be needed, along with appropriate technology transfer. But she also calls for radically new democratic approaches to decision making.

Prof. Manfred Max-Neef (Chile):
Prof. Manfred Max-Neef lays out a comprehensive new economic development model that addresses environmental limits and dismisses the idea of relying on economic growth to tackle poverty. He says the shape of future economic development is one of far greater regionalisation and localisation of markets.

David Woodward (Cambodia):
David Woodward describes the outline of what could become a global ‘green new deal.’ He offers a clear outline of a new, flexible development model is that can both eradicate poverty and address climate change and resource scarcity.

The report describes how the costs and benefits of global economic growth have been very unfairly distributed, with those on lowest incomes getting the fewest benefits and paying the highest costs. A wide range of examples of more positive approaches are given from the wide, practical experience of the agencies in the coalition. Altogether they paint a picture of more qualitative development that is not dependent on further global over-consumption by the already rich, in the hope that crumbs of poverty alleviation are perhaps passed to those at the bottom of the income pile.

Other Worlds are Possible confirms that better ways to organise our economies, communities and livelihoods already surround us, and posits that there are more choices about our collective economic future than many policy makers and regulators claim. The challenge is now clear, and many of the solutions well known. The task now is to act and embrace new thinking on how to run economies.

This report demonstrates that there is no shortage of new ideas to choose from.

However, the pressing challenge of designing a new model for human progress and development that is climate-proof and climate friendly, with shared access to natural resources, remains neglected. Conventional definitions of development have been largely set by industrialised countries to favour their own economic interests and often imposed on poorer societies, regardless of place or cultural context.

Other Worlds are Possible notes that difference between success and failure in the international climate negotiations will be whether governments and financial institutions continue to support old, failed economic approaches, with their policy frameworks and our financial resources, or whether they will move to encourage and replicate new approaches that take account of our changed economic and environmental circumstances. This timely report makes the case in compelling terms that there is not one model of economic development; there are many.

“Every government planning to attend the Copenhagen climate summit says they want to stop catastrophic global warming. Yet every government also promotes economic policies that guarantee disaster. None is steering us genuinely to live collectively within our environmental means. Without new economic development models that chart how to meet human needs within ecological boundaries, any climate deal will be set up to fail. This report shows that better, new economic models already exist. The challenge is for governments to stop clinging to old, failing economic theory that treats the Earth like a business in liquidation, and people as an inefficient factor of production.” Andrew Simms is co-author of Other Worlds Are Possible, policy director of nef, and head of its climate change programme.

“Current approaches to economic development are increasing the impacts of climate change on the world’s poor. This report demands a total rethink. It proposes sustainable alternatives that build the resilience of poor communities to face these impacts. Without these changes, the lives of millions in the world’s poorest countries will plummet into a degree of poverty from which it will not be possible to survive.” Dr Hannah Reid, a senior researcher in the climate change group at the International Institute for Environment and Development.

“’There is No Alternative' is one of the most misleading claims of the market fundmentalists. By pulling together the new narratives of some of the developing world's leading thinkers, with practical proposals and projects from a range of social movements, NGOs and thinktanks, Up in Smoke shows that there are actually dozens of alternatives, many of them already being put into practice.” Duncan Green, Head of Research, Oxfam GB.

“Climate change is magnifying the inequalities inherent in our current growth-based development model. This report shows that there are other approaches to development which are both fairer and far less dangerous to the environment on which we ultimately depend.” Dr Alison Doig, Senior Climate Change Adviser for Christian Aid.

“This report shows how poor communities around the world are taking action now to adapt to climate change and develop in a sustainable way. Poor people are not the problem but part of the solution. We should see them as leaders, showing the way towards a more sustainable world where we can all live in dignity. As Carlos Ruiz, a farmer Progressio works with in Ecuador, says: ‘We are having to learn how to cope with the new climate - we must think ahead and make sure we are prepared.’”
Tim Aldred, Advocacy Manager, Progressio.

"It is essential a new legally binding agreement on climate change is reached in Copenhagen. Droughts have devastated Kenya in recent months and hesitation will only see the situation escalate as world leaders argue from their perspective of national interest. While developing countries struggle to cope with how climate change, many people are already finding ways to adapt, including appropriate technologies such as floating gardens, micro hydro and wind power. People in developed nations could learn from this approach." Jane Eason, Practical Action.


The report is published by nef and IIED on behalf of all the supporting organisations (the Working Group on Climate Change and Development). The members of the Working Group on Climate Change and Development are:

ActionAid International; Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy; BirdLife International; Cafod; Care; Christian Aid; Columban Faith and Justice; IDS (Institute of Development Studies); IIED (International Institute for Environment and Development); Friends of the Earth; Greenpeace; Green New Deal Group; Medact; nef (new economics foundation); Operation Noah; Oxfam; Oneclimate.net; People & Planet; Practical Action; Progressio; RSPB; Tearfund; teri Europe; WWF; WaterAid; World Vision.

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