In with the old and with the new: Meeting mountain farmers’ technological needs

By Filippo Barbera, Professor of Economic Sociology at University of Turin and member of Forum on Inequality and Diversity

Coffee farmer in the fields of Colombia. Photo: Shutterstock

In 53 countries of the world, mountainous areas cover more than 50% of national surface, in another 46, they cover between 25% and 50%. And in many other countries they play key roles, like serving as water reserves. In agriculture, modernisation has whittled away at the scale of assets held by individual farmers or local communities, such as land, labour and local knowledge. The voices of marginal mountain farmers have not been able to find space in this process. However, by combining traditional methods with modern tools and techniques, technology that is place-based and socially embedded can help meet mountain farmers’ needs and make governance more inclusive of mountain areas.

The process of modernisation in agriculture has led to an organisational dominance of the institutional and technological environment, and governance decisions have shifted from farm to industries that produce technological inputs. Consequently, farms have had to reorganise in ways more suitable for development models based on economies of scale. At best, these models serve the needs of lowland agribusiness.  

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Without help for oil-producing countries, net zero by 2050 is a distant dream

By Ali Allawi, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister of Iraq and Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA)

Flames rising from oil refinery pipes in Basra, Iraq. Photo: Shutterstock

This blog post was originally published by the Guardian

In the Middle East and north Africa, global warming is not a distant threat, but an already painful reality. Rising temperatures are exacerbating water shortages. In Iraq, temperatures are estimated to be rising as much as seven times faster than the global average. Countries in this region are not only uniquely affected by global temperature rises: their centrality to global oil and gas markets makes their economies particularly vulnerable to the transition away from fossil fuels and towards cleaner energy sources. It’s essential the voices of Iraq and similar countries are heard at the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow this November.

To stand a chance of limiting the worst effects of climate change, the world needs to fundamentally change the way it produces and consumes energy, burning less coal, oil and natural gas. The International Energy Agency’s recent global roadmap to net zero by 2050 shows the world’s demand for oil will need to decline from more than 90m barrels a day to less than 25m by 2050. This would result in a 75% plunge in net revenues for oil-producing economies, many of which are dominated by a public sector that relies on oil exports and the revenues they produce.

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Leveraging Asia’s investment potential for a green recovery

By Jong Woo Kang, Principal Economist, Economic Research and Co-operation Department, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Rolando Avendano, Economist, Economic Research and Co-operation Department, Asian Development Bank (ADB)

Developing Asia is estimated to have fended off the scarring impact of investment decline relatively well during the pandemic compared to other developing regions such as Latin America and Africa. For example, the People’s Republic of China and India still posted a positive growth rate in FDI in 2020. Meanwhile global FDI flows collapsed in 2020, falling by 35%, their lowest level since 2005, according to the UN. The impact was felt the most in developed countries where FDI declined by 58%, while developing countries weathered the storm better, with an 8% decline. Latest estimates for the first quarter of 2021 suggest an overall 10% decline for global FDI flows and 12% for Asian FDI inflows, according to firm level data. Adding to this is the fact that the pandemic has prompted economies, in the region and globally, to implement stricter screening and regulatory measures to oversee FDI. While the arguments for these restrictive measures are compelling from the perspective of national security or public health, economic impact and implications should be taken into account. Policy makers in the region could also seize the moment as an opportunity to introduce higher social and environmental standards for investment. 

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Making Special Drawing Rights work for climate action and development

By Members of the Task Force on Climate, Development, and the International Monetary Fund1

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is proposing a Resilience and Sustainability Trust (RST), aimed at helping countries build resilience, respond to climate change and make the necessary transitions that can support both development and climate. With the proper modalities and regular replenishment, and without onerous conditionalities or increasing member country debt burdens, such a facility would strengthen the climate finance architecture and put the IMF on the climate change map.  

The IMF is considering an RST initially financed through ‘re-channelled’ Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) from the recent $650 billion in SDRs approved by the IMF this summer. The 2021 SDR allocation was the largest in history, but given the structure of SDR allocations the vast majority of SDRs will flow to high-income countries that will not need them. Indeed, just over one percent of the SDR allocation will go to the poorest countries. In recognition of these asymmetries, G7 leaders recently pledged to re-channel upwards of $100 billion of their allocations for “step change” in investments, including clean energy and green growth in low-income countries.

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Intermediate cities and climate action: driving change through urban land use and governance

By Oliver Harman, Cities Economist for Cities that Work, International Growth Centre

In the first blog of this two-part series, it was argued that intermediate cities, through strong rural-urban linkages, especially in low-income settings, can provide an important social safety net in addition to their potential to alleviate poverty in the long-term. Moreover, and although largely undervalued by the international community and countries, intermediate cities can foster both short term climate adaptation and longer term climate mitigation. Namely, two areas currently under climatic strain stand to generate substantial gains through proactive policy: urban land use and municipal finances and urban governance. Through citizen driven mandates and by designing interventions that localise climate issues, stakeholders in climate action can help drive change in this area.

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Intermediate cities: a missing piece in the climate change puzzle

By Oliver Harman, Cities Economist for Cities that Work, International Growth Centre

Research and debate on climate change currently underestimate the importance of a key group of players: intermediate cities. Currently conversation and studies on climate change often centre on large and relatively wealthy capital cities. Their size in population, data availability and comparatively higher energy use per person are factors that draw attention. In comparison, low income intermediate cities (or small and medium sized cities) – those cities that play a linking role between rural and urban, and between cities of different sizes – are often left undervalued in the debate. This is despite these cities (particularly those equatorial or coastal in nature) facing disproportionate risks to climate shocks and stressors. They are vulnerable, and this vulnerability is increasing with rapid urbanisation, while they continue to face limited human and financial capacities.

Of the 100 fastest growing cities, some with populations under one million, the Climate Change Vulnerability Index shows that 84 of them, primarily in Africa, are at extreme risk. The findings from the 1,800 studied cities highlight the lack of adequate healthcare services and disaster mitigation systems, as well as vulnerable populations, as drivers of this exposure. Lower incomes in intermediate cities are another example of vulnerability with, for instance, citizens in primary city districts in Uganda having three times the GDP per capita (USD 2,440) than those in Secondary Districts (USD 719).

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Intermediate cities: a green and transformative post-COVID-19 recovery?

By Dražen Kučan, Sector Lead / Senior Urban and Energy Efficiency Specialist, Green Climate Fund

Guilty as charged: cities and urban populations are among the core drivers of anthropogenic climate change. Cities produce between 71% and 75% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions1. There needs to be a ‘paradigm shift towards low emission and climate-resilient development pathways’. A shift that can happen in developing countries by supporting and investing in high impact climate mitigation as well as resilience and adaptation initiatives.

While the paradigm shift is defined by the ‘degree to which the proposed activity can catalyse impact beyond one-off project or programme investment’, the reality is not so straightforward in the context of the urban sector. Urban areas are complex, multi-stakeholder environments that require holistic, structurally sound, sustainable solutions. They need transformative investments in energy efficient buildings; decarbonising urban energy systems; compact and resilient urban development (including investment in mass transit and non-motorised transit systems and vehicle electrification); grey to green urban infrastructure upgrading; the circular economy; and methane and emissions-free integrated waste management.     

Demand pressure on developing new urban infrastructure is high: new homes and infrastructure will have to be built at great speed for the approximately 2.5 billion new city dwellers expected by 2050. About 85% of new housing demand is projected to be in fast emerging economies (such as China) and in the majority of developing countries. Furthermore, of the 70 million new residents expected to move to pre-existing urban areas each year, the vast majority will live in intermediary cities, mostly in Africa and Asia. This adds to climate pressures, both in terms of accelerated emissions and enhanced vulnerabilities. 

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Why investing in intermediary cities should be a priority for a green recovery

By Michael Lindfield, Senior Consultant, former Senior Specialist at the ADB

Although the COVID-19 pandemic will change the context for investment decisions – including for climate investment in intermediary cities in emerging markets and developing countries – little has been done to detail these consequences. In general, consequences for financing institutions and cities may include lower inflows to institutions like pension funds and insurance companies, and increased pressure to buy government bonds and lower revenue base, thus reducing cities’ and other urban institutions’ ability to service debt and/or provide availability payments to concessions. Additional consequences include potentially lower emerging market and developing economy sovereign and sub-sovereign credit ratings (increasing the cost of debt), and curbed economic growth, thus curtailing the potential for cost recovery in relation to green projects.    

These consequences are likely to impact intermediary cities more than capitals or megacities because they have lower credit ratings and less technical capacity. However, there will be opportunities if climate investment is integrated into COVID-19 recovery financing, creating the right incentives for investors. The critical alignment relates to the perceived risk/return profile of investments. If the rate of likely return will be sufficient to compensate for the risks of investing, then private, institutional and commercial entities will invest, provided minimum regulatory hurdles, such as minimum credit ratings, are met.

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Green windows of opportunity for latecomer development in renewable energies

By Xiaolan Fu, University of Oxford, Rasmus Lema, University of Aalborg and Roberta Rabellotti, University of Pavia

There is increasing recognition that policies aimed at meeting environmental targets may open new economic development paths, especially for emerging economies, given the green transformation and related techno-economic paradigm changes across institutional, market and technological domains. Looking at China, a recent article highlights the importance of institutional transformation to create “green windows of opportunity” (GWOs) for economic structural change associated with the green economy. Green windows of opportunity represent a set of favourable, temporary conditions for “latecomers” to catch-up in the long run in sectors central to the green economy. 

To investigate GWOs there needs to be a new framework for two main reasons. First, it is essential to deviate from the environmentally unfriendly development pathways undertaken in the past by advanced economies of North America and Western Europe. Emerging economies should ‘develop differently’ from the outset rather than catch-up along established pathways. Second, the green transformation, as a significant driver of current capitalist development, has features that sets it apart from earlier transformations. It is the first industrial and technological revolution with a deadline and it is steered explicitly by public policy, driven not just by economic motivations, but also by social value. 

Green windows of opportunity

This new analytical framework is summarised in Figure 1, with green windows of opportunity at its core, driven by institution and policy changes rather than technological or market change. Empirical evidence on biomass, hydro, solar photovoltaic, concentrated solar power and wind shows that institutional changes are the central drivers of green windows of opportunity. Examples from China include both cross-cutting changes such as the implementation of the 2006 Renewable Energy Law and sector-focused missions such as the Golden Sun Demonstration Program in the solar photovoltaic sector and the Rind the Wind Program. While the drivers of the emergence of these green windows are essentially institutional and policy-driven in nature, they influence and interact with technological and market transformations.

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Frontloading finance can save lives, tackle climate change and generate real impact

By Sony Kapoor, CEO of the Nordic Institute for Finance, Technology and Sustainability (NIFTYS) and Chair of Re-Define

The humanitarian, moral and economic case for development aid has been made eloquently and does not bear repeating. But the stark, ongoing highly inequitable impact of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, both of which hurt poor and developing economies the most, has turbocharged the case for more aid and now. However, present levels of aid languish at 0.32% of GDP, or $161.2 billion, less than half the promised amount of 0.7% of GDP. This commitment needs to be at least doubled, but despite the OECD call for a “massive expansion of aid” countries such as the UK are cutting, rather than increasing aid. 

Meanwhile, in the developing world, COVID-19 may push 150 million to 200 million people into extreme poverty, reversing years of hard-earned progress. Even a dynamic economy such as India has seen an increase of 75 million additional poor, with the middle class also being hollowed out. The IMF has highlighted the uneven nature of the recovery between rich economies that have vaccines and large stimulus programmes, and developing countries that are lagging behind on both, now also facing fresh outbreaks of the virus. Climate change is likely to push an additional 130 million people into extreme poverty absent urgent mitigation and resources for adaptation. As Oxfam has highlighted, developed economies have failed to meet their promise to mobilise $100 billion in climate funding with the true value likely at only a third of the reported volume. 

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