Bringing climate change aid into the real world?
Tom Heap - Broadcaster and journalist, including Costing the Earth on BBC Radio 4
Dr Tom Tanner - Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies
Katie Peters - Research Fellow, Climate and Environment Programme, Overseas Development Institute (ODI)
Simon Levine - Research Fellow, Humanitarian Policy Group, ODI
Laurie Goering - Journalist and Head of Climate Programme, Thomson Reuters
Climate change aid is inherently political. The Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG) and the Climate and Environment Programme (CEP) put their heads together to analyse three case studies to show what can happen when aid is given with little regard for politics. Their report serves as a warning that, particularly where countries are in conflict, climate aid (just like any other aid) may do more harm than good.
At the event to launch the HPG and CEP paper, the experts on the panel came from different backgrounds, which made for a lively discussion as they were grilled by the chair, the independent journalist Tom Heap. Katie Peters of ODI’s Climate and Environment Programme found that much of the discussion on climate change and conflict is stagnant. It has been dominated by academics trying to find statistical links between temperature change and conflict. She pointed out that in the UK we wouldn’t try to find a link between the 2011 London riots and rainfall or temperature changes.
Panellists discussed the need for climate change aid (and indeed all aid) to be less techno-centric and more politically aware. Ignoring power and politics, and just throwing money at issues without understanding the problem is a recipe for disaster in aid projects, said Simon Levine of ODI’s Humanitarian Policy Group. "You wouldn't want a doctor to treat you with a medicine simply because the money was available to pay for that treatment, without trying to work out what your health problem was first. I am not sending my kids to that doctor, but we send our planet to that doctor," he said.
Organisations tend to default to technological fixes (or as Tom Tanner from IDS described, "climate change adaptation by ribbon cutting") as they’re tangible – and, noted Laurie Goering of AlertNet, from the media perspective they’re easier to write about. Laurie also urged researchers to simplify their language because space restrictions and the need to communicate ideas to the public mean that otherwise the journalists have to simplify it for them.
The links between climate change and conflict (and the effect of climate change on world security), culture of silos in the aid world, UNFCC and the post-2015 agenda, the meaning of resilience (including a song!) and fear of risk taking in aid organisations were also hotly debated. To relive the event in all its glory, watch the recording or read what others thought about it on AlertNet’s write up.