Douglas Alexander warns of ‘poor climate deal’ danger

21.1.2009   (

By Daniel Nelson

The British government will produce a White Paper this year on international
development in the current economic climate that will outline its "response to
the global challenge of securing our common future".

Announcing this in London on Monday, International Development Minister Douglas
Alexander also said that "a poor climate deal" from international negotiations
in Denmark in December "would condemn a generation of people to poverty. A good
deal could provide a path out of poverty for people in developing countries."

Alexander said his Department was putting climate change at the centre of its
work, because development – "a new kind of low carbon development" – was the only
credible response to climate change.

Asked for the definition of low carbon development, he told the meeting that
it had yet to be defined.

Similarly, on whether the Department was supporting "green" or "low carbon" growth
– with both terms currently in use – he replied: "There’s a conversation going
on in the Department."

To the accusation that his Department had been making similar statements on low
carbon development for years but continued backing billions of dollars worth of
energy-intensive investments, he cited the World Bank’s argument that ultimately
governments had sovereign responsibility for how they generated power, and added
that it was not right for one group of leaders to prescribe a development path
for all.

Pressed on the Heathrow airport expansion, he admitted that aviation would be
one of the last sectors – even within transport – to be de-carbonised.

On the December summit in Copenhagen, Alexander admitted that reliance on the
usual system of UN negotiations would produce "almost guaranteed failure".

Simon Maxwell, director of the London-based think-tank, Overseas Development
Institute (ODI), which organised the meeting, called for:

• the engagement of everyone in the development studies community on climate
change: "Most of us have not come to grips with it.   Climate change needs to be
mainstreamed: it isn’t."    Even in ODI, he added, "we have people who are living
their lives as though climate change didn’t exist.     I am sure that’s the same
for other institutions."

• collaboration between the development and climate change communities: "You
need us", he told climate change specialists

• principles: climate and development involved complex issues and discussions
needed recognition of accountability and equal rights, opportunities and outcomes.

+ Alexander’s speech

+ ODI: Climate change and the environment