Monthly Archives: November 2020

Cut in aid provokes accusation of ‘economic and environmental terror’.”

To access a PDF of this statement, click here.

In this post:

a) Letter as submitted on 26th November;

b) Brief defence of the ‘violent’ language employed;

c) Cuts breach of one of the UK’s major treaty commitments under the Paris Agreement;

d) Letter as published on 28th November;

e) Comment on published letter.

a) Letter as submitted on 26th November:

“Cuts in aid, whilst continuing to cause environmental suffering to the poorest, provoke accusation of ‘economic and environmental terror’.”

I’m just amazed that in all the discussion about international aid (UK aid cuts ‘unprincipled, unjustified and harmful’, say experts and MPs, The Guardian November 26), the words “climate crisis” are rarely if ever mentioned, despite the fact that rich countries are largely responsible for this! “People are suffering, people are dying… how dare you?”, asked Greta Thunberg, at the UN in Sept 2019. And she’s right – according to the International Red Cross, two million people each week in low income countries need emergency assistance because of the climate crisis. “This is intolerable”, said Francesco Rocca, President of the IFRC. Similarly, Christiana Figueres, commenting on the massive, inter-agency report in The Lancet in October 2017, concluded that, “Hundreds of millions of people are already suffering health impacts as a result of climate change”.

Furthermore, this is the time when the UK is supposed to be taking a lead on tackling the climate emergency, and support for ‘adaptation’ by developing countries to changing conditions has always been accepted as being a major component of the response incumbent on developed economies, together with ‘mitigation’ by reduction in their emissions.

But that isn’t even half of it! Unfair trade rules, tax fiddles by big corporations, and repayments of historic debts, cost poor countries far more than they get in aid, and those things don’t take into account our habit of ‘poaching’ many of their brightest and best trained people. The effects of our policies amount to nothing less than both economic and environmental terror on a global scale (see note below) – as Aminata Traori, the former Malian government minister, put it: “Hypocrisy. They are killing us while they say they are developing us, but they are lying. We are not developed, we are subjugated more and more”.

David W. Golding CBE PhD DSc DCL

Associate, Faculty of Science, Agriculture & Engineering, and Honorary Chaplain, Newcastle University;

Development Coordinator, North East CALL TO ACTION on global poverty and climate change; Founding Trustee, Jubilee Debt Campaign; Trustee, Blue Sky Trust (ACET North East); Spokesperson for Tearfund in NE England; (Self-appointed) Champion of the Climate Coalition in the NE.

b) Defence of the statement, “The effects of our policies amount to nothing less than both economic and environmental terror on a global scale”.

Violent language, but is the reality any less so?

Economic terror:

“Tax dodgers… take advantage of the lack of transparency in tax havens. Developing countries are estimated to lose to tax havens almost three times what they get from developed countries in aid. If taxes on assets hidden by tax dodgers were collected in their owners’ jurisdictions, billions of dollars could become available for financing development.” (Angel Gurrier, Secretary General of the OECD)

“In Mali, I saw babies lying in a ditch and children who couldn’t go to school because of subsidised dumping of US cotton”. (Mary Robinson, the highly respected former President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and now Chair of The Elders). Western trade policies are a “scandal… shocking” (Michael Howard, speaking as Leader of the Conservative Party); they are “appalling… hypocritical and immoral” (Editorial in The Economist).

Environmental terror:

“Zewdie Abayie’s eyes were swollen shut through malnutrition and her delicate skin was no longer able to mask the skeleton beneath. Brushing away flies from her face with a small twig, the little girl stood quietly as, in 2000, her father explained how three years of crop failure in Ethiopia had left his family facing starvation. Pitiably, she attempted a smile for the cameraman.” (Keith Ewing, Tearfund) Global warming is “probably responsible for the drop in rainfall in Ethiopia and surrounding countries since 1996” (Lord Robert May, President of the Royal Society).

‘Jessy’ has endured so much loss. Her husband died ten years ago, then one of her sons and his wife. Jessy was left to raise their two children, along with her own. Her daughter Elinati, now 27, tragically lost her baby to hunger at just a month old. “I’ve seen people dying of hunger,” she says, “we’ve gone to bury them. A man died with his children, and another woman and her child. What I fear most is hunger.” Changing weather patterns in Malawi have caused relentless floods and droughts, devastating crops and causing widespread hunger. And Coronavirus has only made their situation harder. (Adapted from Tearfund, December 2020)

c) Cuts breach of one of the UK’s major treaty commitments under the Paris Agreement:

“Rich countries must honour their obligation under the Paris agreement to provide $100bn a year to help developing countries limit their own climate pollution and adapt to the heatwaves, storms and sea level rise already under way.” (Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General, 2nd Dec ’20)

“A country that really understood the seriousness and the honour and the responsibility of hosting Cop26 next year would not be cutting its international aid right now.” (Amber Rudd, former Conservative Home Secretary and Climate Change Minister, 02.12.20)

d) Letter as published by The Guardian, 28th November, 2020:

I’m just amazed that in all the debate about international aid, the words “climate crisis” are rarely mentioned, despite the fact that rich countries are largely responsible for this.

This is the time when the UK is supposed to be taking a lead on tackling the climate emergency, and support for ‘adaptation’ by developing countries has always been accepted as being a major component of the response incumbent on developed economies, together with ‘mitigation’ by reducing their emissions.

But that isn’t even half of it! Unfair trade rules, tax fiddles by big corporations, and repayments of historic debts all cost poor countries far more than they receive in aid.

David W. Golding

Honorary Chaplain, Newcastle University

e) Comment by David Golding:

I naturally wish they’d published more of my letter, but acknowledge that the editor made a good job of abridging it, including all the main points. Perhaps my main regret is that they included my statement that rich countries are largely responsible for the climate crisis, but left out the evidence for the suffering being experienced by the world’s poor as a result, such as that provided only a year ago by the Red Cross. However, I’m most grateful to them just the same!

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