What exactly is “Climate Aid”?

Alan Beattie has a great piece on this murky concept in the FT. Here is Alan’s exposition recast in the form of Q and A: Q: Should “climate aid” be additional to existing aid?

A: Of course, except how do you define “existing aid”? Should the yet-to-be-fulfilled climate aid pledges be added to the yet-to-be-fulfilled pledges for general aid made in Gleneagles in 2005? Or should they just be added to the actual current disbursements of aid, so you could substitute less generous climate pledges for more generous Gleneagles pledges?

Q: How to guarantee that “climate aid” is spent on climate?

A: Aid veterans have long known this horrible jargon “fungibility.” What this means is that the recipients of climate aid may cut back their own spending on climate-related areas to be replaced by “climate aid”, and increase their own spending on something else. So the real effect of “climate aid” is really to increase something else. As the World Bank’s first chief economist said way back in 1953: “you might think you are financing a power plant and you are really financing a brothel.”

Q: By the way, what IS Climate Aid anyway?

A: Let’s answer this with another question: if you have a project for solar pumps to irrigate farms to grow crops for export, is this (a) climate aid, (b) agriculture aid, or (c) aid for trade? Does the answer depend on which type of aid is currently most popular?