Position Paper: Aid, Environment and Climate Change

UNU-WIDER / March 2014

Aid, environment and climate change is one of five themes addressed under the ReCom Programme of Research and Communication on Foreign Aid. Climate change arguably poses humanity’s biggest development challenge to date, and has become an urgent priority in both development research and practice. Against this background we ask the following overall question in the position paper below:

What can we learn from past successes of development co-operation in the environmental area, and from the failures experienced, and how does the world move forward to scale-up successes?

This study on ‘aid, environment and climate change’ faces a particular challenge in comparison to other ReCom themes, namely that while donor action in the environmental field is now longstanding (we have seen projects in a wide range of environmental areas), climate change is a relatively recently recognized challenge for developing countries. Sound evidence on aid impacts remains fragmentary and still emerging. We aim to bring the existing pieces of evidence together in a new and coherent manner and draw out what we believe can be said at this juncture.

Development aid, by itself, cannot ‘save the planet’ and secure much needed and much desired outcomes in furthering development, poverty reduction and environmental stewardship. Development aid and development institutions do have, as demonstrated in this position paper, the potential to become important catalytic actors in achieving developmental and global environmental objectives. However, this requires bold reforms and political action. Without the necessary complementary frameworks in place, future aid risks substantially under-performing and ending up as a large set of disparate projects. The people of the world, particularly the roughly 1.3 billion poor, who remain in the midst of more wealth than ever before in the history of humankind, deserve better, much better.