Lord Stern makes mischief for climate finance ministerial

For the conspiracy theorist, there’s just a hint of mischief lurking in the depths of Lord Stern’s wide-ranging climate speech at the IMF last week. It concerns his namesake, Todd Stern, US special envoy for climate change.

The Washington-based Stern has a real problem on his hands as host of a two-day “ministerial meeting on mobilizing climate finance” which starts on Wednesday. In a January speech he acknowledged that “there will be enormous pressure on donor countries to show that they are taking their 2009 pledge to a goal of mobilizing $100 billion per year by 2020 seriously.”

His problem is that the numbers don’t add up. There aren’t even any numbers to perform an addition.

Lord Stern confided in his speech that he’d had a “long discussion” with Secretary of State, John Kerry, Todd Stern’s boss, on the evening before. So we have a possible connection.

Coverage of the IMF speech has focused on Lord Stern’s technical criticism of economic and scientific modelling of climate change, balanced by his positive suggestion that 2013 presents a rare window of political opportunity for action.

There was one curious digression in his section on policy. “We must be very careful to think of development, mitigation and adaptation as bound up together. Sometimes they get separated out….. that’s a logical and a policy mistake of great magnitude,” he said.

Stern is surely aware of the scale of administrative effort within developing country ministries and international aid agencies that strains every sinew to separate out development, mitigation and adaptation. They do so in order to monitor promises of climate finance. These promises concern the additionality of climate finance and its adaptation component.

How the donor ministers meeting in Washington would love to brand this endeavour as “a policy mistake of great magnitude.” Hey, let’s just declare all foreign aid for poverty reduction to be climate finance. Let’s not worry too much that the private sector won’t touch adaptation programmes.

That does sound far-fetched but time is running out for the donors to persuade developing countries to cooperate in negotiating a new climate agreement for 2015.

There is no roadmap for the $100 billion pledge. Aid budgets are stagnant. The suggestion of taxes on aviation, shipping or financial transactions has been hijacked by exchequers who have no intention of earmarking proceeds for foreign fields. Ministers have resorted to bleating promises of public-private partnerships which have at best a limited role where it really matters.

They need only note the hole in US public finances created by the weird weather of 2012.


US climate finance meeting ‘needs to deliver plan’ from RTCC

Fostering Growth and Poverty Reduction in a World of Immense Risk – Lord Stern’s presentation, hosted by WRI and IMF (see slide 25)

⇒ more posts about climate finance