In an increasingly interdependent world we all have an interest in ensuring that developing countries are able to progress. Global development is a major priority for our future prosperity and security. But global development is also intertwined with environmental concerns.
Climate change is one of the major issues of our time. Leading scientists, represented in the deliberations of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), argue that global warming is largely man-made. Whatever the cause, it is clear that global warming could have important implications for the economies of many countries as well as issues like human migration.
The underlying facts are that the world's population is projected to rise from about 6 billion to 10 billion or more over the coming decades; that the major part of world population growth in the next few decades will take place in developing countries; that the economies of developing countries such as China, Brazil and India are growing significantly and are set to outstrip most of the existing major world economies; that these countries are less focused on the environment than Western countries because they are at a different stage of development; and that denying these countries the right to develop their economies in the way that the West has done is never going to be a political reality.
Given these facts, tinkering with taxes and emissions trading schemes in Europe is going to have little effect. We should concentrate on developing and diffusing new technologies, including encouraging their take-up by developing countries, revisit nuclear generation (which is now much safer and produces little waste) and provide positive incentives for developing countries to support cleaner technologies. The recently announced Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development which includes countries which did not support Kyoto is a welcome step in the right direction.
Each and every one of us prioritises our activities, we have to. However, it is even more important that our governments prioritise their actions and that their decisions are logical and evidence based. At the Copenhagen Consensus r thirty specialist economists joined forces with eight of the world's top financial experts - including three Nobel laureates - to decide how best to prioritise $50 billion worth of aid on global problems. They identified five measures which stood head and shoulders above the rest:
The prevention of HIV infection with a comprehensive programme costing $27 billion. The social benefits would be immense avoiding more than 28 million new cases of HIV infection by 2010 and the fiscal benefit was equally impressive outweighing the costs by 40 to 1.
Providing the micronutrients missing from more than half the world's diet, would reduce diseases caused by deficiencies of iron, zinc, iodine and vitamin A. This also delivered an exceptionally high ratio of benefits to cost.
Establishing global free trade. This could be achieved at a very low cost, with benefits of up to $2400 billion a year, half of which would accrue to developing countries.
Mosquito nets and effective medication for malaria could halve the incidence of the disease. It would cost $13 billion but create benefits of at least five times that.
Agricultural technologies to handle food production and water technologies to address the lack of clean drinking water and sanitation.
Enabling non-developed countries to make progress should be a vital concern for all of us but we need to ensure that the priorities are sound.
For real development and environmental progress
In our environmental and development goals, we should focus on what is most effective and and adopt measures consistent with sound scientific evidence. We should avoid tokenism; environmental legislation which fails to deliver measurable environmental benefit is potentially harmful and must be rejected. We favour enhanced research and technical co-operation to combat serious environmental problems.
We should ensure that overseas aid is designed to allow the recipients to become free of dependency. Attempting to treat Third World problems with increasing amounts of cash is like trying to fight fire with petrol. Never ending handouts only serve to support nepotism, expand the aid industry and extend the fatal culture of dependency.
Aside from tackling the immediate problems like HIV and malaria, what developing countries need most is a better transport infrastructure, the removal of trade barriers, the ending of subsidised food dumping and the opportunity for home grown enterprise to flourish. More progress has been achieved recently by simple schemes to encourage small family type enterprises than has been achieved by almost fifty years of non-stop handouts.
/pFor real development and environmental progress