25 January 2010

Beware the Zero Sum Game

Bill Gates appears to be getting more active in the climate debate, and from what he is writing, this looks like a good thing. In his second annual letter from the Gates Foundation (PDF) he discusses the uncomfortable implications of fungible aid commitments:
Deficits are not the only reason that aid budgets might change. Governments will also be increasing the money they spend to help reduce global warming. The final communiqué of the Copenhagen Summit, held last December, talks about mobilizing $10 billion per year in the next three years and $100 billion per year by 2020 for developing countries, which is over three quarters of all foreign aid now given by the richest countries.

I am concerned that some of this money will come from reducing other categories of foreign aid, especially health. If just 1 percent of the $100 billion goal came from vaccine funding, then 700,000 more children could die from preventable diseases.
Should funding for developing countries under climate policies be taken from already-existing aid? If not, should funding under climate policies be subject to a test of additionality? Obviously, 700,000 dead kids per $1 billion is a big, big number. What is climate policy worth to you in such terms?