A good op-ed from Bjorn Lomborg entitled “This child doesn’t need a solar panel.” And, I’d add, this child doesn’t want a solar panel. This should be obvious, one would think, but to the world’s elite, those pushing the “fashionable” and the “stylish” agenda, it isn’t. Believe it or not, folks, not a single kid is saved from starvation, dysentery or malaria, or gets an education from a solar panel. Solar panels are not these children’s first priority. They are not the parents’ first priority. They in fact keep poor kids and poor families poor. Why? We live in a world of limited resources. Resources expended a low value solar panel project cannot be spent on a high value malaria project. Opportunity cost, that’s in the first lecture of Econ 101. Lomborg paid attention in class. I wish those promoting fashionable, stylish development had done the same. The world would be a lot healthier and happier.
In the run-up to the 2015 U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11, rich countries and development organizations are scrambling to join the fashionable ranks of “climate aid” donors. This effectively means telling the world’s worst-off people, suffering from tuberculosis, malaria or malnutrition, that what they really need isn’t medicine, mosquito nets or micronutrients, but a solar panel. It is terrible news.
On Oct. 9, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim pledged a one-third increase in the bank’s direct climate-related financing, bringing the bank’s annual total to an estimated $29 billion by 2020. In September, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to match President Obama’s promised $3 billion in aid to the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund. Meanwhile, the U.K is diverting $8.9 billion from its overseas aid budget to climate-related aid over the next five years, and France is promising $5.6 billion annually by 2020, up from $3.4 billion today. The African Development Bank is planning to triple its climate-related investments to more than $5 billion a year by 2020, representing 40% of its total portfolio.
This is deeply troubling because aid is being diverted to climate-related matters at the expense of improved public health, education and economic development. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has analyzed about 70% of total global development aid and found that about one in four of those dollars goes to climate-related aid.
In a world in which malnourishment continues to claim at least 1.4 million children’s lives each year, 1.2 billion people live in extreme poverty, and 2.6 billion lack clean drinking water and sanitation, this growing emphasis on climate aid is immoral.
Addressing global warming effectively will require long-term innovation that will make green energy affordable for everyone. Rich countries are in a rush to appear green and generous, and recipient countries are jostling to make sure they receive the funds. But the truth is that climate aid isn’t where rich countries can help the most, and it isn’t what the world’s poorest want or need.