At the COP27 climate talks in Egypt, poorer countries are demanding high compensation from rich countries because, they argue, rich countries bear the greatest responsibility for climate change. The media and “climate activists” paint a black and white picture of innocent poor countries (“victims”) and guilty rich countries (“perpetrators”). But it is not that simple.
Of course, in absolute terms, the United States and other developed countries emit more CO2 than developing countries in Africa. But Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index (EPI), which regularly rates countries on their environmental performance, gives poor countries the worst scores on climate change. The 2020 Yale EPI Index included a separate chapter (Chapter 11) rating countries on their climate change performance: “EPI results can help identify countries that are on track to decarbonize and those who must accelerate progress towards a sustainable future”.
The result: top climate change rankings went to countries like Denmark, the UK, Romania, France, Switzerland, Norway, Luxembourg, Sweden and Finland. “Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia show the lowest average regional performance, with countries in these regions earning 16 of the bottom 20 scores.”
The EPI’s range of indicators includes “greenhouse gas emissions intensity”, i.e. CO2 emissions per unit of GDP, the growth rate of CO2 emissions and emissions per capita.
Many developed capitalist countries have long succeeded in decoupling CO2 emissions from GDP growth – but the same cannot be said for many countries in Africa, most of which are not economically free. While environmental activists blame capitalism for climate change, Yale University’s Climate Protection Ranking reveals that countries with a high degree of economic freedom perform better than those that are not economically free.
The reason why emissions are lower in absolute terms in developing countries (especially in Africa) is simply their low economic development. These countries have failed to provide a decent standard of living for their people and their economies are not free. This explains both their poverty and their lower CO rate in absolute terms.2 emissions.
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And these countries are now asking developed countries for money to fight climate change. However, as countless development assistance programs have demonstrated, direct grants have not worked in the fight against poverty because much of the aid ends up going through the wrong channels – to the corrupt governments of these countries. The popular view that corruption is particularly prevalent in capitalist countries is wrong, as a comparison of Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) and the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom demonstrates. . The countries with the lowest levels of corruption are the same countries that have the highest levels of economic freedom. Of the 10 least corrupt countries, all, without a single exception, are in the “free” or “mostly free” categories of the index of economic freedom. Conversely, countries that rank in the bottom 10 of the Corruption Index are also economically unfree countries.
Dambisa Moyo was born in Zambia, studied at Harvard and obtained her doctorate at Oxford. In his book Aid to the dead, she points to development aid from rich countries as one of the main causes of difficulties on the continent. Over the past 50 years, Moyo wrote in 2009, more than $1 trillion in development aid has flowed from rich countries to Africa. “But has over $1 trillion in development aid over the past decades improved the situation of Africans? No. In fact, around the world, the recipients of this aid are worse off; much worse. Aid has contributed to impoverishing the poor and slowing growth… The idea that aid can and has alleviated systemic poverty is a myth. Millions of people in Africa are poorer today because of aid; misery and poverty have not ceased but have increased. Moyo cites a World Bank study which indicates that over 85% of aid has been used for purposes other than those originally intended, often diverted to unproductive projects.
It will be no different if billions of dollars are transferred from rich countries to poor countries to mitigate the impacts of climate change. In the fight against climate change, it is not development aid – and certainly not the abolition of capitalism – that will help, but more capitalism.
Rainer Zitelmann is the author of “The Power of Capitalism”
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