Climate change is costing us dear. Unless we rein it in, there will be more failed harvests, flooding in low-lying coastal areas, disease, mass migration and armed conflict over resources. Stopping it also comes at a price. It would mean completely switching energy generation, industrial production and transport systems to renewable energy sources – which is what the concept of climate protection means. Moderate estimates are that as of the year 2020, US$200 billion will have to be invested every year in emerging and developing countries. In addition, 50 billion would need to be invested annually in adaptation to climate change. This would include coastal protection systems for coping with rising sea levels, altering water courses or resettling communities in the countries affected, to mention but a few points.
In developing countries, the 250 billion would be in addition to the cost of continuing to develop education and health systems or infrastructure. In Copenhagen in 2009, the industrialized countries promised to bear some of the overall climate costs – 100 billion annually, or a 40% share – and this in addition to development aid, which currently amounts to 135 billion. Our countries could easily raise the 100 billion in accordance with the polluter pays principle by putting a higher price on domestic greenhouse gas emissions, something they will have to do anyway if they are to pursue their own climate protection. However, in many industrialized countries, including Switzerland, there is scant evidence of the will to take the political and legislative action needed in that regard. This is exemplified by the interview with Bruno Oberle, Switzerland's top environment protector, included in this edition.
Oberle categorically maintains that the policy decision has already been made, that Switzerland's climate contribution will be funded from the development budget. The fact that the budget has been increased to 0.5% of GNP, means that it is "new, additional" money. This contradicts international agreements. Switzerland and other Western countries have already been taking their minuscule climate contributions from the development budget. As of 2020 however, this would mean several hundred million francs per year at the expense of the development work of SDC and Seco. For Oberle that is no problem. Development aid priorities are constantly shifting. Whereas the emphasis was earlier on gender and decentralization, the focus must now be climate, he says. That also benefits the poor. But one is neither able to eat climate, nor to get enough food if climate change runs completely out of control. Ceterum censeo: Oberle's plan contradicts the law on development aid.
P.S. This is my last editorial. In keeping with the job, it is a look forward to future debates rather than a contemplative look back. On 1 August I hand over my responsibilities to a younger generation.