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Debate: Increase UN Annex I aid for climate change adaptation

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Background and context

This article is based off of the Spring 2010 The People Speak Global Debates topic: "Annex I Countries of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) should provide significantly increased aid to developing countries for the specific purpose of climate change adaptation."
This article is meant to provide participants in this contest with arguments and resources for their written essays. Contestants should make sure to cite their sources appropriately. Plagiarism of Debatepedia or other content will result in disqualification. Also see Debatepedia's portal on the event, The Global Debates event page, and The People Speak's main page. The main questions involved in the debate include: Is adaptation a major priority, or should the focus remain on cutting emissions and efforts to stop climate change? How does adaptation aid compare to other international priorities, such as anti-poverty aid and disease prevention? Is a "wait and see" approach to adaptation better than more preemptive efforts to adapt? Do developed Annex I countries owe poor countries a debt as a result of their disproportionate role in causing climate change? Will poor countries be harmed the most by climate change, and does this obligate developed countries any more to provide adaptation aid? Is collective action required, through the UN, or can countries provide aid on a more individual and voluntary basis? Is aid likely to be used effectively and responsibly, or corruptly by poor and often undemocratic governments? Overall, should Annex I countries increase climate change adaptation aid?


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Priorities: Is adaptation a priority requiring greater focus/funding?

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Pro

  • Increased adaptation aid can meet many critical needs. Michael Oppenheimer. "Sea Walls and Crop Changes." New York Times. December 11th, 2009: "For the poorest nations, [an increase in aid] can be used to make some of the adaptations needed to deal with the effects of climate change. In Bangladesh, for instance, it could help offset the cost of sea defense and subsidize the abandonment of coastal settlements. In sub-Saharan countries, money could be used to help farmers switch to new crop varieties or establish institutions to help farmers adapt to less favorable agricultural conditions."
  • Increasing adaptation aid does not diminish mitigation It is wrong to think that increasing climate aid means reducing the focus on cutting emissions. It is possible, and responsible, to do both, and to add adaptation funding into the mix without reducing funding for emissions reductions. It is also true that cutting emissions is largely about setting regulations, which is more about political will than funding, whereas adaptation almost certainly requires state aid.


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Con

  • Emissions cuts are main focus, adaptation is secondary It is wrongheaded to deemphasize fighting and stopping climate change, and to emphasize a focus on adapting to its consequences. This is a defeatist attitude. The more focus and aid that is directed toward adaptation, the less resources exist to fight climate change, which means that climate change will likely be more severe and require more extreme and costly forms of adaptation.
  • Increasing climate aid means cutting other important funding. Bill Gates concluded in January of 2010: "I am concerned that some of this money [for climate aid] will come from reducing other categories of foreign aid, especially health. [...] If just 1 percent of the $100 billion goal came from vaccine funding, then 700,000 more children could die from preventable diseases. [...] [such reductions would further have a negative impact because] improvements in health, including voluntary family planning, lead people to have smaller families, which in turn reduces the strain on the environment."[1]
  • Aid is not yet needed for adapting to climate change. Climate aid is only necessary when the effects of climate change come to fruition in major ways. Jumping the gun and providing aid before it is needed on the ground will likely result in aid being spent in unnecessary ways, based on speculation about how climate change might occur, instead of on the ways in which it is actually occurring. A better idea would be to wait and see which countries lose the most (as some poor countries may lose very little and even gain from climate change), and to focus attention on these regions (not even necessarily a whole country) that are most harmed.
  • Geoengineering should be tried before adaptation. Geoengineering attempts to manipulate various elements of global heating or CO2 levels in the atmosphere as a means of mitigating climate change. These ideas include solar shading, iron fertilization of algae blooms, and others. Geoengineering is seen as a last resort on the mitigation front, after cutting emissions and so-forth. But, it is also considered something that could come before any attempts at adaptation. For, if climate change can be stopped through geoengineering, adaptation would be unnecessary.[2]


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Debt: Do developed states have a responsibility to increase aid?

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Pro

  • Developed countries caused warming, must give climate aid The Rio Declaration from The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development states: "In view of the different contributions to global environmental degradation, States have common but differentiated responsibilities. The developed countries acknowledge the responsibility that they bear in the international pursuit of sustainable development in view of the pressures their societies place on the global environment and of the technologies and financial resources they command."[3]
  • Poor countries are most likely to lose from climate change. This is one of the great ironies of climate change: that while developed countries caused it, poor countries may suffer the most. This is because many of the worst effects may happen around the equator, where the impacts of drought and flooding may be most severe on water-supply and on crops and food supply. Due to this irony/unfairness, developed nations are particularly burdened to provide climate aid to helped poor nations adapt.
  • Developed must protect developing from higher costs of warming The authors of a 2006 UN report warned that rich countries - especially the wealthy Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) nations - are driving an ecological crisis that will hit the poor hardest. These are nations living near the equator and in low-lying coastal areas most vulnerable to rising seas. This global warming "irony" creates a greater obligation on the part of developed countries to respond, and protect developing countries from the costs of their blind industrialization, mass consumption, and wealth-accumulation.
  • Responsibility of BRICs does not negate responsibility of Annex I. Just because large developing countries such as Brazil, Russia, India, and China have more resources than other developing countries to combat climate change and adapt, does not mean that Annex I countries have any less of a responsibility to increase aid to developing countries for the purpose of adaptation.
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Con

  • Developed states did not know about warming; no debt Developed nations did not always know that they were causing global warming by burning fossil fuels and emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This knowledge only began to form in the 1980s and 1990s, over a century after the industrial revolution had begun. It is inappropriate, therefore, to hold developed nations morally accountable for starting the industrial revolution and causing climate change. And it is not, subsequently, appropriate to hold them responsible for aiding developing nations in their efforts to adapt to the consequences of climate changes.
  • Climate change may benefit many poor countries. Climate change is hard to predict, and it is worth noting that it may benefit some poor countries, where it might make the climate more suitable for more lucrative crop production. While it certainly may hurt many or even most other poor countries, the fact that it could benefit a number of poor countries runs against the idea that climate aid should be increased to all poor countries for the purpose of adaptation. And, it undermines the idea that all developed countries will owe all poor countries a debt over climate change.
  • "Blame game" distracts from solving global climate change The idea that some countries are more to blame than others for causing global climate change may be true, but it distracts from the more important and just cause, which is for the world to come together to solve the problem, and to adapt as successfully as possible. Bickering over debts causes poor countries to wait for hand-outs and to debate the issue, instead of causing them to take direct action on their own.
  • High emitters, not developed countries, are most obligated. It doesn't matter whether a country is developing or developed. This is not the factor that obligates a country to take up a "higher" responsibility for combating global warming and aiding in adaption. Rather, countries that emit the most - whether developed or developing - contribute more to climate change and so have a greater obligation to combat it and aid in adaptation efforts.


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Voluntary action: Is voluntary, individual climate aid insufficient?

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Pro

  • Importance of climate aid makes individual/voluntary aid untenable. Climate change is a serious threat to the world, and particularly to the world's poor. While aid can often be given on an individual-state and voluntary level, the scale of the problem requires collective and possibly even binding action on the part of Annex I countries.
  • Voluntary climate aid shirks debt owed by developed emitters. To argue for voluntary action is to shirk the responsibility developed countries have to protect poor countries from the consequences of a crises caused primarily by developed country emissions. This is not a situation of poor countries entering a crisis of their own making or due to freak natural disasters, but rather a situation of poor countries suffering due to the actions of developed countries. Developed countries, therefore, owe a debt that makes voluntary action unjust.


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Con

  • Countries should increase climate aid on a voluntary basis. No country owes any other country aid. In the case of climate change, the lack of knowledge about greenhouse gases waves any requirement. Countries can instead choose to donate aid to poor countries on a voluntary basis. Because the resolution seems to call for all UN Annex I countries to increase aid, it appears to call for a categorical responsibility or even requirement on the part of developed countries. This violates the basic principles of charitable donorship and aid: that it be voluntary.


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Resources: Are Annex I states more obligated due to greater resources?

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Pro

  • Developed states have more resource to lead in global adaptation. Developed states obviously have more wealth, resources, technology, and know-how to employ in combating climate change and to lead in efforts to adapt. These more able Annex 1 countries have a responsibility to employ these resources. Developing countries also have an obligation to commit as much as they can, but because they have far fewer available resources, they are inherently less able and responsible to act.
  • Poor govts must focus on subsistence, not climate aid. Developing countries employ almost all of their resources on subsistence living, while developed countries spend much of their resources on luxury and excesses. When this is the case, developing nations cannot be expected to contribute equally to climate change adaptation. For the sake of human welfare, developed countries must commit their surplus resources to help fill the gap on climate change adaptation in poor countries.


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Con

  • Resources of developed countries do not obligate climate aid. Developed countries do not have a greater obligation to combat global warming and provide aid for adaptation as a result of them having more resources. It would be generous of them to contribute more. But, it is not a greater obligation or responsibility. The same is true of the wealthy working man who may choose (or not) to give money to those suffering from a natural disaster. It may be a good thing to give, but it is no obligation.
  • Some annex I states are in no position to increase climate aid. Greece, Latvia, Croatia, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Turkey and even countries such as Spain and Portugual that have suffered significantly from the 2009 economic crisis, are all Annex I countries, but are not in particularly good economic positions to increase climate aid to poor countries. Thus, the resolution, which asks that all Annex I countries increase their climate aid, is too ambitious and unrealistic.
  • BRICs are wealthy enough to adapt on own. Brazil, Russia, India, China (BRIC nations) are all part of the G20, as mentioned in the above section. This means they are among the twenty wealthiest nations in the world, despite the fact that they are often called "developing nations". As a result, it is wrong to assume that they do not have enough money to spare in the fight on climate change and in adapting to its effects. They have plenty of resources, through a broad tax base, to make major state investments in adapting to the effects of climate change, and without the aid of developed countries.


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UN efficacy: Can the UN effectively compel Annex I states to increase aid?

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Pro

  • UN is most legitimate forum for collective action. While the UN has its flaws, it certainly is the most legitimate organization we have for collective action. It is essential, therefore, that it be used to construct a solution to the crises of adaptation faced by poor developing countries.
  • A UN agreement would help encourage climate aid. While the resolution may not call for a UN agreement, and while it may be true that a UN agreement might not provide 100% enforceable, it is certainly true that it will help encourage Annex I to take action. In other words, if we are serious about Annex I countries increasing climate aid, a UN agreement on this front can only help, despite its potential weaknesses.
  • The resolution does not demand UN agreement. The resolution does not require a UN resolution or agreement, or even collective action (although this may be advisable). It only makes the case that Annex I countries should increase climate aid, which could include through separate, non-binding actions.


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Con

  • UN impotent to compel/enforce Annex I climate aid agreement. The UN has proven ineffective at constructing and enforcing binding treaties. It's inability to foster a binding treaty at the Climate talks in Copenhagen are a good and relevant example of this, where agreement on binding emissions targets failed. And, any agreement that is not binding between UN members tends to simply be ignored and broken by its signatories. Therefore, if the resolution is proposing a UN agreement - binding or otherwise - among Annex I countries to increase climate aid, it is important to recognize that this is unlikely to succeed because the agreement is unlikely to come to fruition and/or to be enforced properly.
  • Climate aid will bribe UN votes from poor states. Jim Giles. "Comment: Climate aid is tantamount to bribery." New Scientist. January 13, 2009: "Ilyana Kuziemko and Eric Werker, economists at Princeton and Harvard universities respectively, have shown that countries receive almost 60% more aid from the US when they hold one of the 10 two-year seats on the UN Security Council. [...] This is bribery, and it works. Alex Dreher of Göttingen University and colleagues looked at the voting record of 143 countries at the UN General Assembly: those that received US aid were more likely to follow the voting patterns of their donor. It suits the US and others to buy influence in this way, but the approach does not necessarily lead to effective aid programmes."


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Economics: What are the economic pros and cons of this motion?

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Pro

  • Developing states need room to develop w/o adaptation burdens. Developing nations need room to develop industries and grow, just like developed nations were allowed to do in their industrial development. The financial burden of adapting to climate change could seriously muffle these objectives. This is unfair and bad for the world, so developed states should increase their aid to enable the full blossoming of developing world economies.
  • Adaptation aid can build on economic opportunities. Adaptation to climate change is, in many ways, a burden. But, it also holds many opportunities. Developed nations should see aid for adaptation as a way to invest in new opportunities that may arise in developing economies as a result of climate change. Such opportunities could include the potential to grow new, lucrative crops in new climates, where rain may begin falling more or even less frequently (which has advantages in certain climates and fer certain crops). This can create jobs in developing countries, which is already an objective of developing countries. But, it requires aid and investments of know-how that only developed countries can commit.
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Con

  • Climate change hard to predict; aid likely to be mis-allocated. The long-term effects of climate change are very hard to predict. Some even question whether it will happen at all, or whether it will be a net-negative for humanity and for poor developing nations. It may be wrong-headed, therefore, to increase and rapidly allocate aid to poor countries on the assumption that they will be hit hard by the effects. A wait-and-see approach is probably a more effective use aid money.
  • Climate aid should only be for crises, not development. Climate aid should be directed only at responding to humanitarian crises that may result from climate change. It should not be directed at preparing sectors of an economy to adjust. The marketplace can handle these adjustments better, as governments are not likely to make consistently accurate market predictions about which sectors and which businesses are likely to benefit or lose-out from climate change.
  • Climate aid feeds corrupt, anti-democratic govts Kenneth Green. "Guilt Gelt." New York Times, Room for Debate. December 11, 2009: "history suggests this [adaptation aid] will be steered to the worst kleptocratic governments on the planet, many of which don’t like either the European Union or the United States. There’s a reason that the poorest countries are poor: they lack the institutions of classical liberal societies. [...] Tossing out guilt-gelt to developing countries is a waste of taxpayer dollars, and most likely a waste of time. What the developing countries need to do to be safe from climate change is to develop quickly into modern liberal democracies."
  • Climate change adaptation aid is driven by politics not need. Jim Giles. "Comment: Climate aid is tantamount to bribery." New Scientist. January 13, 2009: "Economists often complain that many of the billions spent on overseas aid are wasted. Part of the reason is surely that politics, not need, drives the flow of money. If rich nations are to make climate-change funding work, they will have to pay for programmes that put climate-change measures first, not their own economies and strategic interests. [...] This message does not seem to have got through to some countries. Australia's overseas aid agency, AusAID, declares that "business is good for development and … development is good for business". [...] This means, at least in some cases, using aid money to help Australian producers of green technology sell their products to the developing world. Good for the Australian economy, no doubt, but not necessarily the best way to tackle climate change."
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Past aid: Are developed countries giving insufficient climate aid?

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Pro

  • Developed nations have given too little climate aid "Rich nations failing to meet climate aid pledges." Guardian. February 20th, 2009: "Developing countries have received less than 10% of the money promised by rich countries to help them adapt to global warming, an analysis by the Guardian has found. [...] The failure is fostering deep distrust between rich and poor nations and is seriously undermining key negotiations on a global climate deal. [...] The world's richest countries have together pledged nearly $18bn (£12.5bn) in the last seven years, but despite world leaders' rhetoric that the finance is vital, less than $0.9bn has been disbursed and long delays are plaguing many funds."


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Con

  • Annex I states are already contributing enough foreign aid. Developed countries have committed between 0.2 to 0.5% of their GNP to poor countries in the form of development assistance in recent years. This included over 103 billion in aid in 2007 from OECD developed countries. This is alot of money being donated by the people of developed countries to the governments and people of poor countries. Increasing this aid in the form of greater climate aid is not a moral responsibility of developed countries and taxpayers.
  • Increasing aid during economic crisis is untenable. 2009 and 2010 saw an economic crisis greater than any since the Great Depression. This has made it very difficult for any state to contribute significant amounts of aid - climate aid or other - of any kind to poor countries. The call - on the part of the resolution - to increase climate adaptation aid must be tempered by these limitations.


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Pro/con sources

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