Reconciling development and environment
Poverty and environmental degradation: these two separate issues are today increasingly correlated, each in turn possibly causing the other. The 13th issue in the “Savoirs Communs” series highlights this situation and puts forward sustainable solutions tailored to the different configurations of poverty and their impacts on the environment and the health of communities.
Anticipate the exacerbating effects of demographic pressure
Identify and understand the triggers and aggravating factors, then the levels of interdependence between poverty and environmental impact; assess and anticipate the combined consequences and risks of demographic pressure and climate change on the well-being of communities and the quality of their living environment: these are some of the major challenges for which humanity must prepare itself and find solutions, especially Africa, as this continent expects a population growth of some 2 billion people by 2050.
Owing to the current global context, whereby issues related to responsible growth, biodiversity protection, equal access to natural resources and the risks to demographic balances have taken on an unprecedented urgency, there is now an essential and pressing need to (re)think this topic as a global challenge calling for the mobilization of a wide range of stakeholders (governments, NGO, IOs, businesses, scientific communities and philanthropic foundations). The cross-fertilization of their skills, knowledge and powers can surely develop local solutions, designed to fit as closely as possible with the needs of communities and their daily difficulties.
Reconcile the global approach and local responses
What is the most effective way to support social transformations before their uncontrolled development jeopardizes any economic recovery plan in poor countries? What lasting solutions can be defined to allow the most vulnerable societies to adapt to them, while moving towards sustainable, low-carbon and resource-efficient growth models, which do not run contrary to their immediate development needs?
Given the complexity surrounding the relationship between poverty and environmental preservation, and therefore of the delicate balances that need to be defined, the latest issue in the “Savoirs communs” collection, published jointly by AFD and the Institut Veolia Environnement (IVE), outlines prospects for new solutions, in particular by highlighting the importance of local responses, as close as possible to communities, but also of cooperation among all stakeholders and the continuation of innovative economic activities, as well as existing sources of financing.
This publication is based on the research of the international conference “Reconciling poverty eradication and quality of the environment: what are the innovative solutions?” organized by both institutions on 27 and 28 June 2011.
Download the PDF document "Savoirs communs" N°13
Watch one of the last video interviews given by Wangari Maathai, ecologist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, and Amartya Kumar Sen, Nobel Prize winner in Economics, on the topic " Poverty eradication and biodiversity protection ". AFD/Institut Véolia environnement Conference (27 and 28 June 2011)
A few weeks before the Rio+20 conference opens, Catherine Garreta, AFD director for cross-cutting support, discusses the concept of sustainable development, its history and the core issues of international debate. She also explains how the AFD takes action, its guiding principles, its objectives and the types of projects it supports.
Ideas about sustainable development differ widely. It must be remembered, though, that the concept was invented by the developed countries to bring developing countries to the negotiating table on environmental issues.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the developed countries began to pay serious attention to environmental problems.
They tried to persuade poor countries not to make the same mistakes and to engage in cleaner development.
“The term ‘sustainable development’ was invented in a bid to encourage dialogue between countries of the North and South”
But the poor countries considered that their priority lay in economic and social development, and that they would tackle environmental issues once they reached a sufficient level of development.
To reconcile the environment and development, the concept of sustainable development introduced the idea that development efforts must take the needs of future generations into account, thus bringing a long-term dimension into discussions.
“To the countries of the South, the sustainable development concept is a threat in three ways”
As Rio+20 comes near, they continue to perceive the idea of sustainable development, or the “green economy” concept, as a threat to their development and a way for rich countries to drag them downwards.
They also perceive a threat from standards and technology, seen as a way for the North to bar their markets to businesses in the South.
Finally, the countries of the South are anxious to preserve their sovereignty and consider that responsibility for their environmental policies lies with them and not with the international community.
How does AFD integrate the concept of sustainable development into its action?
We take two types of action. First, we devote more human and financial resources to topics that appear essential to us in terms of sustainable development: biodiversity protection, the fight against climate change and the preservation of natural capital, soils and forests. We consider all these topics to be major topics for the economic development of the countries we support.
“Systematically minimize the risk of negative impacts from the development projects we finance”
The other action involves reducing to a minimum, in all our projects, any possible negative environmental and social impacts that they may have. For each project we finance, we systematically check that the entity or country that we finance has fully taken account of – and minimized – the negative impact their projects have on communities that may be concerned or on the environment. This approach is called environmental and social risk management.
We have added to this risk management the idea of paying attention to the impact that our projects have on climate change. Last year we systematized carbon footprint measurement for all our projects.
What is AFD’s climate strategy?
For the period 2012-2016, AFD has set the target for half of its financing to have a positive impact on climate change, either by mitigating or minimizing greenhouse gas emissions, or by helping the countries where we operate to adapt to climate change.
This is an overall objective. We apply it differently depending on the major world regions: in Asia and Latin America, this objective accounts for 70% of our financing (70% of our projects are required to have a positive impact on the fight against climate change), whereas in Africa, it falls to 30% on average because the priority objective for these countries is economic development, especially since their level of greenhouse gas emissions is currently extremely low.
Indeed, Asian and Latin American countries have a much higher level of development and a much higher level of greenhouse gas emissions.
What do France and AFD expect from Rio+20?
As a development agency, we hope that developed and developing countries will manage to agree on quantifiable objectives for preserving biodiversity, soils, forests, the use of renewable energies, as well as for tackling and adapting to climate change. This is just like the Millennium Development Goals in 2000 for specific areas such as malnutrition or infant and maternal health.
“A United Nations organization for development”
Another issue, which is very important for France with the upcoming Rio+20, is to rationalize action and establish a United Nations environment organization.
“Governments must reflect developments in civil society”
Finally, what matters in this Rio process is the weight of non-governmental stakeholders – notably NGOs, civil society, local authorities and companies. We realize that the other stakeholders are ahead of governments. The main political opposition groups across countries are much less present in the dialogue between these other stakeholders. Civil society sometimes goes faster than governments and in Rio governments will also need to reflect civil society movements and development.
Following on from the Year of the Forests and on the eve of Rio + 20, we take a look at how the second largest forest area in the world has been sustainably managed for the past twenty years. This sustainable management and its main tool, the Forest Development Plan, are so ground-breaking in the region that AFD decided to support the companies involved. Guillaume Ernst, from AFD, and Christophe du Castel, from the French GEF, tell us more in a video interview.
"No sustainable development without companies”
AFD’s operation aims to promote a sustainable forest management that both provides a source of income for the poorest communities and guarantees the long-term preservation of forest ecosystems.
What makes AFD’s decision to provide this support even more important for the development of these countries is the fact that some of them have a forest cover of over 80%. It is for this purpose that it has been providing financial and technical support to the forest policy reform in Congo Basin countries for some twenty years now.
At the same time as this reform, it is necessary to support forest operators in order to ensure that there is a sustainable and certified management of these forest areas.
A revolutionary tool
The tool that is used is the Forest Development Plan. It obliges and allows companies to change the way in which they exploit forests and to move towards a more sustainable management method. This plan comprises inventories, estimations and forecasts for logging over several decades and its ground-breaking aspect makes it worthwhile for Agence Française de Développement to work closely with the companies.
Do companies play the game?
But who are these companies that exploit the Congo Basin forest? Do they play the game? Why is it in their interest to implement the Forest Development Plan?
Guillaume Ernst, a forest officer at AFD, gives us all the answers in this interview.
Duration : 10 min 15
Off to the heart of the Gabon forest
In the video below, we follow Thierry Liabastre, who acts as our guide and tells us about sustainable forest exploitation on a day-to-day basis. The AFD project manager reminds us that “environmental preservation must feed humans by bringing them economic development”. AFD is the main donor to be working with companies on this issue. This does not, however, prevent it from working in partnership with NGOs.
Duration : 3 min 50
"We must not harvest more than forests produce"
In this last interview, Christophe du Castel, forest officer for the French Global Environment Facility (French GEF), tells us about the dangers that threaten forests. Pressure from agriculture and logging (timber and fuelwood) are the major dangers. How can these two needs, which are vital for humans, be met while preserving forest areas?
France’s operations focus on three areas:
- Support for governance. States and local authorities are often helpless when faced with the uncontrolled exploitation of their forests: implementation of a regulatory framework, control and monitoring, regulation of markets and the wood industry
- Activities to protect biodiversity areas that are particularly rich or under threat
- Support for sustainable forest management, mainly in the Congo Basin. This management could be summed up as: We must not harvest more than forests produce.
Duration : 6 min 30
The two French cooperation actors working for forest preservation are: the French Global Environment Facility (French GEF), which focuses more on the environmental and social aspects, and Agence Française de Développement (AFD), which supports States and companies in sustainable forest management.