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Simon: Economic growth and a healthier climate go hand in hand

  • Published at 07:13 pm February 15th, 2016
Simon: Economic growth and a healthier climate go hand in hand

Simon Maxwell is a development economist, who has worked internationally since 1970. He is one of the UK’s leading thinkers on international development. He has had a career spanning more than 40 years, as field worker, researcher and policy adviser.

Maxwell recently visited Bangladesh to attend an event where the Dhaka Tribune caught him for an interview on economic development and climate change. The two issues are expected to significantly impact the global economy in the coming decades.

The interview was taken by Kayes Sohel.

Dhaka Tribune: Now you are talking about climate compatible development. Is it possible to achieve?

Simon: The world has signed for a new Sustainable Development Goals which combine poverty reduction and environmental objectives, so the commitment is there. Achieving the goals will need determined leadership in every country, careful policy design and a relentless focus on implementation. The prize is great: a greener world with cleaner air, healthier rivers and thriving forests; liveable cities, with efficient infrastructure and quality housing; and simultaneously, more jobs, higher incomes, better health, less exposure to extreme weather, and a universal access to rights and justice. Many countries have made a huge progress; all have more to do. For the poorer countries, international financial assistance will be needed.

How can you balance between economic growth and climate change for the globe and particularly for Bangladesh?

In many respects, economic growth and a healthier climate go hand in hand. For example, rapid urban transit systems save time, reduce the health costs of pollution and also help protect the climate. Similarly, there are many good jobs to be found in new industries like solar power. A key lesson, though, is that an active government needs to shape overall strategy, help new industries emerge and provide support to those suffering dislocation as a result of change. Bangladesh is growing fast and has been a global leader on the need to embed climate action in national development policies.

In COP21, $100 billion grant has been kept for adaptation. But there is more fund for mitigation than adaptation. How do you look at it?

There needs to be a balance between mitigation and adaptation, and the Green Climate Fund has committed to a 50:50 split. Remember that a good part of the money required to deal with climate change will come from the private sector. This means public funds must be used strategically to help leverage private sector money. Also, the public purse will be needed in sectors which the private sector may neglect: some adaptation investments fall into this category. Finally, we should not be fixated on climate finance only: global financial flows, and aid, are much larger than climate funding, and can also contribute.

In SDGs, there is a goal of climate change, and in COP21, climate change was the centre of discussion. Is there any similarity in tackling climate change between these two?

Tackling climate change features in the SDGs, and of course both the SDGs and the climate talks are under the auspices of the UN. In principle, therefore, there should be no contradiction. At the country level, there will be difficult decisions to make about priorities. It is important that decisions should be transparent.

What should be the role of private sector in combating climate change?

The private sector was highly visible in Paris, with new initiatives on issues like renewable energy and energy efficiency. Most investment needed to tackle climate change will come from the private sector. Innovation and investment are to be welcomed. At the same time, the governments need to apply a test of social value and should frame incentives and regulations accordingly.

Bangladesh is the most vulnerable to the climate change. So, it should get more fund than others. What do you think about it?

In general, public funds should definitely be disbursed in relation to need, and that applies also to climate funds. Poorer countries should receive more than richer ones, and, in relation to climate funds, those with greater needs should receive more than those with lesser needs. Public funding, however, must be used well, which means that countries requiring to strengthen regulatory frameworks develop a strong project pipeline and guarantee high fiduciary standards. Tax payers in the richer countries are very much focused on issues like value-for-money in aid spending.

What should be the modalities of Global Climate Change Fund (GCF) ?

GCF has been invested heavily in governance. It has also some innovative options, for example in its work with the private sector. Probably, the immediate priority is to demonstrate that it can identify high quality projects, fund them and see them through to successful completion. That will provide a great platform for future replenishment.