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MDG Review Process and Financing Tools:

Implications for the Poverty-Environment-Climate Nexus
by Andreas Rechkemmer1

Background Paper for the Conference “The Environments of the Poor”

24-26 November 2010, New Delhi, India

- Final Version -

1. The poverty-environment-climate nexus and MDG 7: An unfinished story

1. It would appear that – despite the great work of the Brundlandt Commission and its
pathbreaking report Our Common Future (1987) – multilateral environmental
agreements (MEAs) almost consistently feature a somewhat missing poverty focus and
seem to lack full integration of their primary targets, i.e. environmental concerns, with
the ultimate goal of every development cooperation framework and programme, i.e.
poverty alleviation. This is a historical trend, which does include the current global
climate change regime, notably the UNFCCC. “The UN Conventions on Climate,
Biodiversity, and Desertification all provide opportunities for sustainable development
and implementation of measures should be integrated in poverty reduction strategies.”
(UNDP et al., 2003) Such assessment by the UN Development Programme shows
that, however evidently critical, the implementation process of the three Rio
Conventions thus far has not really been merged with countries’ poverty reduction
efforts, which, among others, are to be formulated and mainstreamed in the Poverty
Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs). Solely UNCCD with its heavy deveopment focus
by default, has gained experience in trying to harmonize its nature conservation and
ecosystems resilience aspects with those of poverty alleviation.

2. Even the “epitome” of global development policy formulation at the level of the
United Nations, the Millennium Declaration (2000), and subsequently the Millennium
Development Goals (MDGs) appear somewhat weak when it comes to consequently
and intrinsically linking the poverty theme with those of global environmental change,
and climate change in particular. MDG Goal 7, the one focusing on the environment,
spells out the following targets:
o Ensure environmental sustainability:
• Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs
and reverse the loss of environmental resources.
• Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss.
• By 2015, reduce by half the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water.
• By 2020 achieve significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum

3. Firstly, MDG Goal number 7 is a great message and sets a template and standard
for each country to focus on, however it does not provide nations with concrete
examples on how they may go about achieving this goal. It does not say anything
Global Risk Forum Davos, University of Cologne and Beijing Normal University. Former Executive
Director, International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP).
about the obvious fact that poverty alleviation can be achieved by investing in
sustainable green growth. The only items within MDG goal 7 pertaining to poverty
alleviation have to do with increasing the proportion of people with access to safe
drinking water and improving the lives of slum dwellers. That ignores the links between
the impoverished and their environment. Rather than focusing on the symptoms of
poverty, it would be more resourceful to alleviate the causes of this poverty, e.g.
poverty as a function of non-sustainable utilization of natural resources. Therefore it
seems fair to conclude that MDG 7 is insufficient in its present form. At least, in terms
of the climate-environment-poverty nexus. MDG 7 is not really poverty oriented and
does not have a clear focus. For example, it contains virtually no link between poverty
and environmental change as a major cause of poverty.

4. The impoverished depend on natural resources when “monetary income or

agricultural produce is unavailable” (Shyamsundar, 2002) as they may be the only
assets that they have access to. The focus should thus be on monitoring the usage of
these resources and on poverty assessments. “Poverty monitoring is a process of
tracking the changes in poverty over time using various indicators of poverty”
( “Poverty assessment is an instrument designed to assess the extent
and causes of poverty in a given country and to propose a strategy to improve the
situation. It reviews levels and changes over time and across regions in poverty
indicators, assesses the impact of growth and public actions on poverty and inequality,
and reviews the adequacy of a country's poverty monitoring and evaluation
arrangements” (The World Bank). The income obtained can allow these individuals the
means to earn an income. Unless educated to follow sustainable practices, they may
unintentionally exploit their surroundings and have to face the, sometimes unexpected,
consequences that come along with it. If a focus within MDG 7 were placed on
alleviating poverty through green growth, the other problems may work themselves out
at least to some extend.

5. In comparison, what makes the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) published

in 2005 ( so much stronger than the MDG 7 targets? It is probably
due to the fact that the MA included concrete analyses of the world’s ecosystems. With
an assessment of the current state of the environment it is easier for policy-makers to
see where the problems lie and give more incentive for them to follow the guidelines
set forth. Scientifically oriented, it does not directly discuss the policy or political
aspects of the poverty-environment nexus, however, it highlights the social, economic
and development aspects of environmental changes to a great deal and thus provides
more straight-forward material than the MDG no. 7 itself.

2. The outcomes of the UN MDG Summit of September 2010, New York

6. The official motto of the MGD Summit in NewYork was the rather optimistic message
“We can end poverty by 2015.” Its main outcome document was called “Keeping the
promise: united to achieve the Millennium Development Goals”. It calls for increased
efforts at all levels to attain the MDGs, and includes an action agenda for achieving the
goals by 2015. Additionally, the Global Strategy on Women’s and Children’s Health,
was launched and received over US$40 billion in pledges thus far. Major themes of the
Summit included: intense interest in ensuring success at the upcoming 10th
Conference of the Parties of the UN Convention on Biodiversity in Nagoya, Japan;
mainstreaming the MDGs into national and international policy; the interconnectedness
of all MDGs; the need for improved accountability and delivery on commitments; and
the critical importance of women in achieving the MDGs.
7. Much remains to be done to achieve the Goals, for instance to half poverty or to
improve access to safe drinking water by 2015. Whether these ambitious objectives
are at all realistic can be doubted. All participating nations agreed that what has been
put in motion since the adoption of the Millennium Declaration and the MDGs in 2000 is
not sufficient, but no single country made concrete and binding pledges at the Summit.
In fact, the recent global economic and financial crisis is implicitly used to distract
donor countries from fulfilling their previous pledges of, for instance, raising the ODA to
the level of 0.7 % of their GNP. The overarching MDG, Goal 8, foresees a Global
Partnership for human development, which is ultimately geared towards financing and
implementing the MDG agenda and its targets. And yet, the major partners in
development cooperation did not cease to praise the level of their respective
commitment and the efforts they have undertaken so far and will continue to undertake
in the future, but clearly, this rhetoric is not enough.2

8. In this climate, the initiative put forward by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, to

launch a 40 billion US Dollar campaign to implement the Goals by 2015, is remarkable.
Of course, the UN does not have the money to finance such an ambitious programme,
but Ban was creative enough to address rich individuals, foundations and the private
sector – apart from the “usual suspects” in development cooperation. This is a new
approach, and given the recently launched initiative by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, it
could become a promising vehicle for the MDGs. Apart from a factual redirection of
financing mechanisms towards private sources, it is noteworthy that some of the
leading donor nations, especially the United States and Germany, announced a certain
paradigm shift in their development policy, i.e. the introduction of the subsidiary
principle and tougher criteria for “good governance” in recipient countries. Whether
such rhetoric follows the sole target of rendering development aid more effective, or
whether they camouflage a neo-conservative shift, can only be guessed at.

9. The New York Summit missed the important opportunity to think “out of the box” and
beyond the year 2015. The international community has to embark on an increased
effort to integrate the existing set of MDGs with the broader agendas of global
environmental change, climate change and human climate justice in particular, safety
and security, and effective risk reduction and disaster management (i.e. risk
governance). Global inequality and its reduction should be given more emphasis: an
explicit call for the reduction of inequality should be paired with the objective of
sustainable, economic growth. Fragile statehood, political instability and larger societal
uncertainties oftentimes pose risks to MDG success and global security and require the
attention of policy-makers. The MDG process needs to entail effective tools and
standards for risk and safety assessment and integrative risk management in a variety
of areas, including those of natural hazards and extreme events, technology,
environmental change, finance or trade.

10. The Summit did not touch upon these critical questions. Obviously for political
reasons, the participating nations decided to focus on the next five years only.
However, it would be irresponsible to neglect the critical necessity for an intelligent
agenda beyond 2015 and beyond the present set of MDGs. Ultimately, policy and
practice development at all levels has to seek the resilience of the economic as well as
the social and the ecological spheres. Through an integrative approach, the very notion
of sustainable development, i.e. the balance between economy, ecology and equity,
can be brought about and thus re-invigorate the MDGs while at the same time
effectively address the multitude of risks imposed upon us.

Paras. 7 to 10 draw on (GRF Davos: Ammann and Rechkemmer, 2010a).
3. Alternative approaches and MDG reform: Beyond 2015

11. Some countries have made significant progress in meeting the MGDs and the
global poverty rate has fallen from 46% in 1990 to 27% in 2005. “Global leaders must
formulate a long-term plan of action on a global level, but also on regional, national,
and local levels through government and civic engagement.” (Vij & Dewan, 2010)
Financial and technical support needs to come from a variety of different sources (e.g.
national governments, internationals organizations, and the private and investment
sectors). Ensuring decent employment (decent wages, sustainable jobs) can ensure a
more balanced andd sustainable growth, and assist in alleviating global inequities and
local poverty. (Vij & Dewan, 2010)

12. Andy Sumner suggests to openly discuss the “Beyond 2015” issue even well
before 2013, when this topic will finally reach the agenda of negotiators at the UN:
(Sumner, 2010)
• There is a question about whether discussing post-2015 plans will distract from
reaching the 2015 goals.
• The post-2015 debate is good in that it allows reflection of what the MGDs have
helped accomplish, especially with regards to poverty reduction.
• The economic crisis has also pushed us towards rethinking the MDG progress
and indicators.
• With limited empirical evidence about what the MDGs have accomplished, so
there aren’t really any parameters set for a post-2015 framework.
• Without political momentum we will be unable to make any head-way with
regards to post-2015 goals.

13. The critical questions of how to enhance the implementation of the MDGs, and that
of what should happen after their expiration in 2015, show that poverty, famine,
diseases, lack of education, forced migration and under‐development pose clear risks
to the global society and undermine its resilience. It also became obvious that
transforming the world economy on a sustainable basis, i.e. greening business models
is crucial. Moreover, stakeholders from different sectors agreed that the financial crisis
has had a dramatic impact on the progress of the MDGs and especially concerns the
poor. In general, the MDGs (as much as the Millennium Declaration) have constituted a
positive step forward to frame and guide human development cooperation worldwide.

14. As the process of advocating, catalyzing and implementing the MDGs is moving
into its next phase – ten years from their inception in the year 2000 – new and
emerging challenges as well as aggravated factors will have to be taken into account
and shouldered so as to keep the goals on track and ensure success. Among these
challenges which pose enormous risks for international development and security, and
which are often inter-linked, are certainly:
• The persistent fragility of our global financial and economic system
• Weak performance of ecosystem services for human well-being (loss in
biodiversity, land degradation, desertification, deforestation, water scarcity)
• Eroded human and food security
• The challenges of global climate change with an increased number and scale of
natural hazards, disasters and extreme events (weather extremes like floods,
hurricanes, heat waves, sea-level rise, etc.)
• Progressive urbanisation and increasing vulnerability of societies, critical
infrastructures and services.

15. Climate change, its root causes, impacts and response options needs to be part of
the equation for the period until 2015. Climate change and the MDGs are intrinsically
linked and deeply interdependent. The very cause of anthropogenic climate change
runs counter to global sustainable development and therefore the MDGs. Climate
change is not only about the environment. It results in growing risks and vulnerabilities,
particularly in developing countries. Climate change thus severely undermines the
achievement of the MDGs. We risk derailment of the MDGs if we fail to mitigate and
adapt to climate change effectively. Effective mitigation is largely linked with green
growth. Social and economic opportunities deriving from such new trajectories can help
developing nations. At the same time, effective and sustainable adaptation policies
must be identified to assist poor and underdeveloped countries, particularly in the most
vulnerable regions. As most disasters – besides earthquakes – are of meteorological
origin, climate change adaptation is also disaster prevention. Both strategies have to
be linked and harmonized. Such policies can help attain the MDGs in a variety of ways
and should be seen as means to implement the Millennium Declaration and achieve
the MDGs as they provide proper risk governance elements. Ultimately, policy and
practice development at all levels has to seek the resilience of the social as well as the
ecological spheres.3

4. New international initiatives

16. The United Nations have embarked on two new initiatives aimed at re-invogorating
the global climate change agenda, especially with regard to its development aspects,
and at creating better synergies between the climate and MDG agendas.
• High Level Panel on Global Sustainability (Ball, 2010)
o 21 members appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
o “The focus of this group is to tackle poverty on a global scale, address
climate change, and establish guidelines for economic growth achieved
in an environmentally-sensitive way.”
o The panel must deliver a report by the end of 2011
• Panel on Climate Change Financing (
o High level advisory group elected by Ban Ki-moon that will “work to
mobilize the financing promised for climate change during the United
Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen”
o The Group will also “study the potential sources of revenue for financing
mitigation and adaptation activities in developing countries, and to make
progress on this key issue.”

17. The World Bank is currently promoting its MDG-related International Development
Association (IDA) fund for the world’s poorest as “helped to save the lives of 13 million
people since 2000”. It announced it will “redouble efforts to mobilize substantial new
investments in agriculture, education, and health to close the overall MDG gap over the
next five years.” (World Bank 2011):
o “Reaching the MDGs is not just a challenge for the poorest countries. 70
percent of the world's poor live in middle income countries
o Over the last three decades, developing and emerging economies have
made progress in overcoming poverty. In 1981, 52 percent of people in
Paras. 13 to 15 draw on (GRF Davos: Ammann and Rechkemmer, 2010b).
developing countries lived in extreme poverty; by 2005, that share had
been cut by more than half. Efforts by developing countries were paying
off right up until the crisis, with poverty falling sharply in East Asia, Latin
America, and Eastern and Central Europe.
o The triple-blow of food, fuel and financial crises since 2008 has slowed
down and even reversed progress towards the MDGs in many countries
around the world.
o The World Bank estimates that 64 million more people are living in
extreme poverty in 2010, and some 40 million more people went hungry
last year because of the crises.
o The World Bank would focus on “The Access Agenda” helping to ensure
access to basic health, quality schooling, clean water, energy, food, and
jobs – looking, not just at the numbers, but at the quality of services.
o The World Bank would increase its zero-interest investment in basic
education by an additional $750 million to focus on the countries,
particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, that are not on track to reach the
education MDGs by 2015.
o In health, the World Bank will increase the scope of its health results-
based programs by more than $600 million until 2015― focusing on 35
countries, particularly in East Asia, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa
which face challenges in achieving their MDGs due to high fertility, poor
child and maternal nutrition, and high rates of child and maternal
disease.” (World Bank 2011)

5. Connecting climate financing with poverty financing: An opportunity?

5.1. Overview of current financing schemes

18. Climate change financing (both for mitigation or adaptation) can also alleviate
poverty. “Adaptation cost estimates vary between the World Bank’s $10-$40 billion in
2020 to the UNDP’s 2007 estimate of $86 billion per year in 2015. There is a
convergence in the recent cost estimations at around US$100 billion to $200 billion for
climate change mitigation.” (
A. The mitigation side: carbon funds (national, regional, global)
 “The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) was established
under the Kyoto Protocol and designed to assist Annex I Parties
comply with emission reduction commitments and to foster
sustainable development in developing countries. As of end-
2007, proceeds from the sale of emission credits from CDM
projects amounted to $7.4 billion.” (
 At the MDG week in New York it was decided that the carbon
markets need to be reformed.
 Microfinance institutions can also help to fill the gap left open by
banks and state-run programs. (Microfinance and Climate
Change Adaptation, Hammill et. al.)
 “Integrating diverse initiatives [on the local and regional levels]
will help to achieve a strong synergy between the goals of these
global environmental conventions and the sustainable
development process.” (UNDP et al., 2003)
B. Adaptation financing (set up in Copenhagen)
•With the Copenhagen Accord it is “difficult to assign a specific
role of the Adaptation Fund, as the CA has only provided
approximate guidelines for adaptation funding, which gives
leeway to multiple interpretations.” (
 It would like to include a “balanced allocation between adaptation
and mitigation”.
C. List of relevant funding Initiatives (
i. Adaptation Fund – Adaptation Fund Board, Kyoto Protocol
ii. Strategic Priority on Adaptation – Global Environment
iii. Special Climate Change Fund – Global Environment
iv. Least Developed Countries Fund – Global Environment
v. GEF Trust Fund – Climate Change focal area – Global
Environment Facility
vi. MDG Fund – Environment and Climate Change – UN
Development Fund
vii. UN-REDD Programme – Un Development Fund
viii. Pilot Program for Climate Resilience – The World Bank
ix. Scaling-Up Renewable Energy Program – The World
x. Strategic Climate Fund – the World Bank
xi. Forest Carbon Partnership Facility – The World Bank
xii. Forest Investment Program – The World Bank
xiii. Clean Technology Fund – The World Bank

19. Poverty eradication, on the other hand, is oftentimes financed through the means of
microcredits, savings and other financial services (e.g. credits and loans). They usually
all work together to help alleviate poverty. Financial services are even seen as a basic
human right by some authors (Wood, 2001). However, such schemes require adequate
governmental policies and laws, a certain momentum in the private sector, and aid
(private and government aid). Aid should best be sustained by the private sector, and
fuelling economic growth (Global Philanthropy Forum, 2007). “Financial sector reforms
should be directed at not only easing credit availability for the poor but also aimed at
eliminating financial repression by liberalizing interest rates. Savings should be
directed toward making credit available to the poor. Moreover, reform package should
take the issues of instability into consideration.” (Akhter & Daly, 2009)

5.2. Are there opportunities for new or restructured financing for the poverty-
environment-climate nexus?

20. In theory, carbon trading is supposed to help the poor by mandating that wealthier
nations buy the right to carbon emissions from poorer nations thus tranferring financial
flows to such countries. However, this does not change the total amount of emissions
and therefore has doubtful relevance for ambitous climate change mitigation efforts.
Also, this does not account for governmental corruption in some developing countries;
those in need may not necessarily see the money that is generated by carbon trading.
As a matter of fact, most financing within the climate change realm goes into mitigation.
However, “climate change is not the primary reason for poverty and inequality, yet
addressing these concerns is seen as a prerequisite for successful climate policy in
many developing countries. Money in adaptation is easier for poverty purposes” (Klein
et al., 2005) Indeed, there is a complex relationship between poverty, vulnerability, and
climate change. Vulnerability means that the risk of falling into poverty is higher and
that the poor may be becoming even deeper impoverished. Climate change deepens
poverty and challenges poverty reduction strategies because it is the world’s poor who
will suffer the most from climate change (by risking the resources on which their
livelihoods depend). Therefore, economic growth, as part of sustainable development,
is necessary for poverty eradication. (Laukkonen et. al., 2009)

• 21. If financial measures are taken to mitigate poverty

under the current circumstances, this mitigation is likely
to be unsustainable as long as it is not in harmony with
the need to address climate change impacts,
environmental degradation and effective risk governance
simultaneously. There is ample need to think ahead to
the world that will exist as a result of climate change.
Hence combining climate change adaptation and
mitigation measures with anti-poverty actionat the local
level is key. (Laukkonen et. al., 2009) Although more
money is currently spent in mitigation, poverty eradication
financing can best be combined with adaptation funds. In
order to strengthen adaptation, there is a need to: (UNDP
et al., 2003)
o “Improved governance, including an active civil society and open,
transparent, and accountable policy and decision making processes,
which can have a critical bearing on the way in which policies and
institutions respond to the impact of climatic factors on the poor.
o Mainstreaming climate issues into all national, sub-national, and sectoral
planning processes … or … strategies for sustainable development.
o Encouraging a ministry with a broad mandate, such as planning or
finance, to be fully involved in mainstreaming adaptation, especially in
countries where major climate impacts are expected.
o Combining approaches at the government and institutional level with
bottom-up ap- proaches rooted in regional, national, and local
o Empowerment of communities so that they can participate in
assessments and feed in their knowledge to provide useful climate-
poverty information. They will also need full access to climate relevant
information systems.
o Vulnerability assessments that fully address the different shades and
causes of poverty.
o Access to good quality information about the impacts of climate change.
This is key for effective poverty reduction strategies. Early warning
systems and information distribution systems help to anticipate and
prevent disasters.
o Integration of impacts into macroeconomic projections. The rate and
pattern of economic growth is a critical element of poverty eradication,
and climatic factors can have a powerful bearing on both. The national
budget process should be the key process to identify climate change
risks and to incorporate risk management so as to provide sufficient
flexibility in the face of uncertainty.
o Increasing the resilience of livelihoods and infrastructure as a key
component of an effective poverty reduction strategy. Similarly, effective
adaptation strategies should build upon, and sustain, existing livelihoods
and thus take into account existing knowledge and coping strategies of
the poor.”

22. The leading-edge of the forthcoming debate about innovative financing schemes to
address the poverty-environment-climate nexus simultaneously could consist in a mix
of public finance from both climate and non-climate sources with private investments.
Within the public climate domain, the following tools could be used and merged: phase-
out of fossil fuels subsidies, Emission Trading Schemes (ETS) auction proceeds, AAU
auction proceeds, and pro-poor dedication of carbon taxes on transport and energy.
Such tools could be combined with a renewed version of Felix’ “Tobin tax” proposal on
major financial transactions, e.g.:
1.”The tax would be applied at a uniform ad valorem rate by, at the least, all the
key currency countries.
2. It would be administered and collected by each government on all
payments by residents within its jurisdiction that involved a spot
currency exchange, including, as in the case of Eurocurrency
transactions, exchanges that do not involve the home currency.
3. The proceeds from the tax would be paid into a central fund controlled by
the IMF or the World Bank.
4. Subject perhaps to prior IMF consent, countries could form currency areas
within which the tax would not apply. That is, small countries that
formally tied their currency to a key currency would not be required to
levy the tax on intra-area currency exchanges.” (Felix, 1995)
The above mixed approach could further be combined with IMF Special Drawing
Rights to leverage additional funds. “A contribution of $120 billion in SDRs into the fund
proposed by IMF could be leveraged for the issuance of $40 billion in green bonds
each year for a period of 30 years – over $1 trillion in total financing.” (IMF, 2010)

23. Finally, another interesting initiative is the “Debt for clean energy swap” approach.
“Proposals have been made for a debt for clean energy swap, whereby
sovereign creditors would agree to forego outstanding liabilities of debtor governments
under the condition that the funds are used domestically by the debtor governments to
reduce emissions by an agreed amount. Under this approach, debtor countries would
then be able to use local currencies to finance recurrent costs of operations related to
emission reduction within the country, instead of using it to purchase foreign currency
to repay outstanding debt. This approach would base resource allocation on the level
of indebtedness of a country, rather than mitigation capacity or adaptation need and
would result in financing flows based on the maturity profile of the debt that has been
forgiven. It is very difficult to estimate the likely finance flows from this approach as it
would depend on the location of debt and the willingness or ability of creditor countries
to provide financing in this way. Key questions include whether this would be done on a
bilateral or multilateral basis and the mechanism to ensure mitigation is achieved.”
(U.S. Climate Action Network, 2010)

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