For years, The Netherlands had a unique position in the international world of donorship. Our former government acknowledged, as many Dutch and international environmental organisations do, that productive ecosystems are fundamental for any form of long- term development. As poverty and the environment are inextricably linked, that government mobilised extra budget for environmental issues within its development agenda. This was crucial budget, because one third of the world population - largely female - directly depends on land, water and forest for their daily survival.
Precisely this section of mankind is currently under more pressure than ever before. Climate change, and above all a growing worldwide demand for land and water to produce food and to replace fossil fuels – biofuels, shale gas, hydropower - and ever more pervasive economic development cause irreparable damage to crucial ecosystems. Now that the Minister intends to stimulate even further this very economic system, it is only logical that she should also work on strengthening local peoples’ rights to land and water. This implies that she should set clear safeguards and standards for Dutch companies investing in the areas where these people live.
But even only looking at global economic developments and following the pure self-interest of the Dutch economy, the environment is still a topic of great economic importance: according to calculations of a group of financial experts, the disappearance of ecosystems will cost the world economy between the 2.000 and 4.500 billion dollars a year. Policies on trade and aid will only be successful with solid investments in productive ecosystems.
Fortunately, Minister Ploumen has still left enough room in her statement to be able to get down to work. For example, the Green Climate Fund will contain 660 million Euro by 2017, to be used for climate projects. In the future, this Fund will only continue to increase. To make the Fund work for poverty reduction it is inevitable for the Minister to put effort in adaptation to climate change. Poor people did not cause climate change but are now suffering the most from it. Their livelihoods must be adapted to changing weather and water conditions as soon as possible. This will only happen if climate money is directly accessible to local people in developing countries organized in water association, municipalities or producers cooperatives, instead of becoming the next financial boost for international trade and industry.
Water and food security are focus points in our Minister’s policy. She will not achieve these goals without paying attention to the environment. As long as the rights of the direct users of the environment – farmers, fishermen and the urban populations in need of healthy drinking water – are not being recognized, poverty will not be reduced. The Dutch Parliament should insist that the Minister focuses on the environment in the countries she works in, simply not to undermine her own policies.
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