“We must give a voice to populations affected by climate change”

Developing countries, and Africa foremost, are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. In the name of the “Climate justice”, they are calling on the industrialized countries responsible for global warming to participate in the financing of their adaptation policies. The needs are considerable and the sums transferred through official development assistance have so far proved to be limited.

How to best distribute this frugal contribution? Christian Baatz, professor of philosophy and researcher at the University of Kiel (Germany), and political scientist Carola Klöck, researcher at the Center for International Research of Sciences Po Paris (CERI), put forward the idea of ​​favoring democratic countries. They will test this hypothesis by comparing the policies carried out in the Seychelles and the Comoros.

For several years you have observed the financing of adaptation to climate change in developing countries. In your opinion, vulnerability should not be the only criterion in deciding the distribution of financial aid. Why ?

Christian Baatz Let us be clear, the vulnerability of countries is the most important criterion because the objective of adaptation is to improve the resilience of populations to shocks linked to climate change. It is, however, very difficult to identify individuals or groups who are “particularly vulnerable” or “most vulnerable”. It depends on a multitude of factors, and any classification involves complex value judgments, which are debatable and controversial.

For example, are the inhabitants of a small island state exposed to rising sea levels more vulnerable than farmers threatened by drought? For these reasons, we believe it is important to take into account factors other than vulnerability.

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Carola Klöck We find that donors take several factors into consideration when deciding their support. Analysis of statistics on aid and funding for adaptation to climate change allows us to identify three motivations. The first takes into account the needs of beneficiaries: this is vulnerability in the context of adaptation. The second: from the merit of the beneficiaries – this is good governance and democracy. And the third: political, economic or military interests of the donors themselves.

In practice, alongside the vulnerability criterion, there is already an advantage given to trading partners, political allies or ex-colonies, as in the case of France. More democratic or better governed countries also generally receive more support, as donors feel that their projects are more likely to be implemented well, to avoid corruption and to use resources efficiently is greater.

How is democracy a guarantee of better efficiency? How does building dikes or introducing drought tolerant seeds have to do with political organization, whether we like it or not?

C. B. Of course, democracy does not guarantee a better use of climate finance. It is not immune to corruption or bad projects. But what decades of hindsight on development aid show us is that there is a correlation between the appropriate use of funds received and the degree of democracy. Our hypothesis is that this relationship also holds for climate.

The scientific literature is rather unanimous on the fact that the participation of local actors and communities, the attention given to their knowledge, are conditions for the success of adaptation policies. It means listening to those affected by climate change and democracies are most likely to do so.

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People affected by climate change have a moral right to funding for adaptation. They are in a situation for which they are not responsible. That is why it is not admissible that they be excluded from decisions. To take an example: if the project is to introduce seeds resistant to drought, it is essential to question the farmers to know their opinion and to know if they accept this strategy supposed to improve their resilience.

C. K. Unlike climate change mitigation policies, the results of which can be measured by the amount of greenhouse gas emissions not released into the atmosphere, it is more difficult to assess the impact of adaptation measures. There are no simple criteria for this. It is therefore all the more important to take into account the perceptions, priorities and preferences of local populations.

Have not some authoritarian regimes shown donors that they could be more efficient in managing aid? Rwanda, for example, is among the most assisted countries thanks to its ” good governance “...

C. K. Rwanda is an exception of an undemocratic and well governed country.

Don’t you fear that you will be blamed for wanting to inflict “A double penalty” to populations who, in addition to supporting a liberticidal regime, should be deprived of the means to cope with the upheaval of their natural environment?

C. B. The fact that citizens of autocratic regimes may suffer a “Double penalty” is an important point. For us, there is no question of excluding these regimes from climate finance when the populations really benefit from them. But precisely, as in the distribution of official development assistance, it would probably be justified to introduce criteria to ensure that the money goes to the legitimate beneficiaries.

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Europe is committed to financing the Great Green Wall project, of which a large part of the beneficiary countries are not democracies. Would you say this is a bad investment?

C. K. Donors and recipient countries – whether democratic or not – can obviously pursue the same goals. Climate change is a challenge for all of us. An investment in an autocratic country is not automatically “bad”.

C. B. Our argument is rather that the probability of inappropriate and unfavorable use of funding for local populations is higher. We should take a close look at how the European Union [UE] monitors and seeks to ensure the proper use of their funding in the Sahel zone.

Research shows that the support of the EU and European countries for authoritarian North African regimes such as Egypt has come at the expense of the population and delayed the “Arab Spring” by a decade …

Is putting forward the democratic question also a question of justice towards the young generations who will suffer the effects of climate change and whose voices are rising to demand that their governments act?

C. B. Indeed, there is still a better chance that the aspirations and demands of the younger generations will be heard and taken into account within the framework of democracies. When freedom of expression, opinion and demonstration is guaranteed, people manage to impose their priorities on the agenda. This is what we are seeing with movements such as Fridays for Future involving young people who do not yet have the right to vote.

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