Environmental Forum/The Developing World

This regular column, "The Developing World," appears in Environmental Forum, the policy journal of the Environmental Law Institute. It address international environmental concerns, developing countries, and development finance and institutions, including topics such as climate change, climate finance, and corruption, as well as particular issues in individual countries.

Court Says World Bank Can Be Sued. But More Remedies Needed

Court Says World Bank Can Be Sued. But More Remedies Needed

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation as well as other international organizations are not totally immune from lawsuits in the US. After four years, the litigation could continue substantially longer. For poor farmers and fisherfolk in India, justice delayed is justice denied.

Court Says World Bank Can Be Sued. But More Remedies Needed

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation as well as other international organizations are not totally immune from lawsuits in the US. After four years, the litigation could continue substantially longer. For poor farmers and fisherfolk in India, justice delayed is justice denied.

Tax Evasion That Harms the Global Commons: No Problem If It's Legal?

Tax Evasion That Harms the Global Commons: No Problem If It's Legal?

“Dirty money” flows totalling over $1.1 trillion a year support human trafficking, global drug mafias, terrorist networks, and arms smuggling, as well as fueling international wildlife trafficking, poaching, and deforestation. Technically legal tax evasion and capital flight through tax havens costs developing nations $200 billion annually.

Tax Evasion That Harms the Global Commons: No Problem If It's Legal?

“Dirty money” flows totalling over $1.1 trillion a year support human trafficking, global drug mafias, terrorist networks, and arms smuggling, as well as fueling international wildlife trafficking, poaching, and deforestation. Technically legal tax evasion and capital flight through tax havens costs developing nations $200 billion annually.

A Cheer for Global Environmental Governance. Then What Happens"

A Cheer for Global Environmental Governance. Then What Happens"

Robert Kuttner's recent book, “Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism,“ warns that “corporate and financial elites have substantially captured the machinery of the state,” as well as governance institutions of the international economy such as the World Bank, World Trade Organization, and the European Union.

A Cheer for Global Environmental Governance. Then What Happens"

Robert Kuttner's recent book, “Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism,“ warns that “corporate and financial elites have substantially captured the machinery of the state,” as well as governance institutions of the international economy such as the World Bank, World Trade Organization, and the European Union.

India’s National Green Tribunal and the Future of Environmental Justice

India’s National Green Tribunal and the Future of Environmental Justice

Specialized environmental courts have proliferated around the world, growing from 350 in 2009 to over 1,200 in 44 countries by 2017. India’s National Green Tribunal is an innovative court [that] is handling a huge case load and issuing landmark decisions.

India’s National Green Tribunal and the Future of Environmental Justice

Specialized environmental courts have proliferated around the world, growing from 350 in 2009 to over 1,200 in 44 countries by 2017. India’s National Green Tribunal is an innovative court [that] is handling a huge case load and issuing landmark decisions.

Of Econs and Humans — Theory, Moral Licensing, and Crowding Out

Of Econs and Humans — Theory, Moral Licensing, and Crowding Out

The award of the 2017 Nobel Prize for economics to Richard Thaler highlights the recognition that human behavior is more complex and irrational than the assumptions of conventional, still prevalent economic models.

Of Econs and Humans — Theory, Moral Licensing, and Crowding Out

The award of the 2017 Nobel Prize for economics to Richard Thaler highlights the recognition that human behavior is more complex and irrational than the assumptions of conventional, still prevalent economic models.

Are International Carbon Offsets Innately Flawed and Unreformable?

Are International Carbon Offsets Innately Flawed and Unreformable?

A look back at the Clean Development Mechanism and at future reduction efforts.....The study [on behalf of the European Commission] identifies inherently contradictory incentives in international carbon offset trading that undermine attempts at reform: “Information asymmetry between project developers and regulators” — the developers have a big advantage in...

Are International Carbon Offsets Innately Flawed and Unreformable?

A look back at the Clean Development Mechanism and at future reduction efforts.....The study [on behalf of the European Commission] identifies inherently contradictory incentives in international carbon offset trading that undermine attempts at reform: “Information asymmetry between project developers and regulators” — the developers have a big advantage in...

From Neil Gorsuch to Amartya Sen: Natural Law, Ethics, Economics

From Neil Gorsuch to Amartya Sen: Natural Law, Ethics, Economics

The paradox is that the natural law rationale, sometimes advanced domestically to justify weakening government regulation, arguably supports with greater cogency stronger environmental and social safeguards.

From Neil Gorsuch to Amartya Sen: Natural Law, Ethics, Economics

The paradox is that the natural law rationale, sometimes advanced domestically to justify weakening government regulation, arguably supports with greater cogency stronger environmental and social safeguards.

A Case Study in India Highlights Conservation and Human Needs

A Case Study in India Highlights Conservation and Human Needs

On a crowded planet, environmental protection and social equity are inextricably interrelated. Attempting to achieve either alone will ultimately fail without simultaneously pursuing the other.

A Case Study in India Highlights Conservation and Human Needs

On a crowded planet, environmental protection and social equity are inextricably interrelated. Attempting to achieve either alone will ultimately fail without simultaneously pursuing the other.

Conservation Fads, Environmental Markets, and Climate Change

Conservation Fads, Environmental Markets, and Climate Change

Environmental organizations and funders have too often promoted new fads driven by a culture of unrealistic expectations, leading to a cycle of rejection, reinvention, and repackaging without learning the lessons of failure.

Conservation Fads, Environmental Markets, and Climate Change

Environmental organizations and funders have too often promoted new fads driven by a culture of unrealistic expectations, leading to a cycle of rejection, reinvention, and repackaging without learning the lessons of failure.

The Tale of Two Cities: Medellin, Colombia, in the 1990s and Today

The Tale of Two Cities: Medellin, Colombia, in the 1990s and Today

Imagine a city with the highest murder rate on earth, where public areas are deserted, and hundreds of thousands of refugees live in shantytowns. Another city has a violence rate ten times lower and is a world capital of green innovation and sustainable transport,

The Tale of Two Cities: Medellin, Colombia, in the 1990s and Today

Imagine a city with the highest murder rate on earth, where public areas are deserted, and hundreds of thousands of refugees live in shantytowns. Another city has a violence rate ten times lower and is a world capital of green innovation and sustainable transport,

Turkey’s Ill-Considered Rush to Coal Undercuts Emissions Progress

Turkey’s Ill-Considered Rush to Coal Undercuts Emissions Progress

Turkey, the world’s 17th largest economy, plans to as much as quadruple coal-fired electric capacity, building as many as 80 new plants by 2030. It could become the world’s third-largest operator of coal plants, after China and India.

Turkey’s Ill-Considered Rush to Coal Undercuts Emissions Progress

Turkey, the world’s 17th largest economy, plans to as much as quadruple coal-fired electric capacity, building as many as 80 new plants by 2030. It could become the world’s third-largest operator of coal plants, after China and India.

Fatal Flaws in the UN Climate Fund?

Fatal Flaws in the UN Climate Fund?

The United Nations Green Climate Fund is the principal international mechanism to channel finance from richer nations to developing countries for climate change mitigation and adaptation.....Official rhetoric notwithstanding, the underlying theme seems to be moving the money.

Fatal Flaws in the UN Climate Fund?

The United Nations Green Climate Fund is the principal international mechanism to channel finance from richer nations to developing countries for climate change mitigation and adaptation.....Official rhetoric notwithstanding, the underlying theme seems to be moving the money.

A Flight From Sustainability

A Flight From Sustainability

World Bank efforts to weaken environmental and social safeguard policies are provoking international concern....The Bank will only remain relevant by refocusing on the environmental and social quality of its lending, rather than abandoning it. 

A Flight From Sustainability

World Bank efforts to weaken environmental and social safeguard policies are provoking international concern....The Bank will only remain relevant by refocusing on the environmental and social quality of its lending, rather than abandoning it. 

Megadams and Economic Folly

Megadams and Economic Folly

A recent review of the economic costs and benefits of 245 large dams by four Oxford professors....found “overwhelming evidence” that the real costs of large dam projects, are for the most part too large to yield a positive economic return....

Megadams and Economic Folly

A recent review of the economic costs and benefits of 245 large dams by four Oxford professors....found “overwhelming evidence” that the real costs of large dam projects, are for the most part too large to yield a positive economic return....

Georgia, Wine, and Biodiversity

Georgia, Wine, and Biodiversity

The land of present-day Georgia and adjacent areas is the center of origin of the cultivation of numerous fruits, vegetables, and grains,...The links between Georgia’s cultural history and its agricultural legacy led UNESCO to designate Georgia’s winemaking tradition as part of the “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity."

Georgia, Wine, and Biodiversity

The land of present-day Georgia and adjacent areas is the center of origin of the cultivation of numerous fruits, vegetables, and grains,...The links between Georgia’s cultural history and its agricultural legacy led UNESCO to designate Georgia’s winemaking tradition as part of the “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity."

Aid, Poverty, and Global Biodiversity

Aid, Poverty, and Global Biodiversity

An article by four UK researchers...concludes that despite long-standing strategies that purport to achieve biodiversity protection and poverty alleviation, actual empirical evidence is often lacking about the success of such projects. Results are undermined by vague and poorly defined conceptions of both poverty and biodiversity, as well as by a chronic lac...

Aid, Poverty, and Global Biodiversity

An article by four UK researchers...concludes that despite long-standing strategies that purport to achieve biodiversity protection and poverty alleviation, actual empirical evidence is often lacking about the success of such projects. Results are undermined by vague and poorly defined conceptions of both poverty and biodiversity, as well as by a chronic lac...

Amazon, Climate Change, and China

Amazon, Climate Change, and China

Climate change mitigation faces the powerful forces of a deregulated, voracious globalized economy fed by increasing demand for energy and resources....A seminal 2012 article by Philip Fearnside of Brazil’s National Institute for Amazon Research identifies how these threats in the Amazon are linked with the growing role of China in the Brazilian economy.

Amazon, Climate Change, and China

Climate change mitigation faces the powerful forces of a deregulated, voracious globalized economy fed by increasing demand for energy and resources....A seminal 2012 article by Philip Fearnside of Brazil’s National Institute for Amazon Research identifies how these threats in the Amazon are linked with the growing role of China in the Brazilian economy.

Bank: Waiting for Real Leadership,

Bank: Waiting for Real Leadership,

World Bank President Kim praised the Bank International Finance Corporation, its private sector investment branch, as a model, despite environmental and social conflicts in IFC extractive projects around the world. As of 2019 the environmental and social conflicts associated with IFC mining and other extractive projects persist.

Bank: Waiting for Real Leadership,

World Bank President Kim praised the Bank International Finance Corporation, its private sector investment branch, as a model, despite environmental and social conflicts in IFC extractive projects around the world. As of 2019 the environmental and social conflicts associated with IFC mining and other extractive projects persist.

Web Governance: Don’t Be Evil

Web Governance: Don’t Be Evil

According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the internet has already become the dominant factor in the illegal global trade in protected species. No species is too obscure, too rare, or too remote in an electronically connected world to be a new profit center as it is driven to extinction.

Web Governance: Don’t Be Evil

According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the internet has already become the dominant factor in the illegal global trade in protected species. No species is too obscure, too rare, or too remote in an electronically connected world to be a new profit center as it is driven to extinction.

REDD+, Markets, and Corruption

REDD+, Markets, and Corruption

The allure of an market that pays developing countries and forest communities to preserve standing forests as offsets for not reducing emissions in the richer industrialized nations resulted in the program of “reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation” (REDD+) in 2010. But REDD+ ignores the real political economy of many weak states.

REDD+, Markets, and Corruption

The allure of an market that pays developing countries and forest communities to preserve standing forests as offsets for not reducing emissions in the richer industrialized nations resulted in the program of “reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation” (REDD+) in 2010. But REDD+ ignores the real political economy of many weak states.

Whose Future, Whose Wants?

Whose Future, Whose Wants?

The Rio Conference agreement, The Future We Want, pledged to “renew our commitment to sustainable development...” Meanwhile, hundreds of Brazilian Amerindians, from several threatened tribes, occupied the Belo Monte dam site in a gesture of defiance and desperation....

Whose Future, Whose Wants?

The Rio Conference agreement, The Future We Want, pledged to “renew our commitment to sustainable development...” Meanwhile, hundreds of Brazilian Amerindians, from several threatened tribes, occupied the Belo Monte dam site in a gesture of defiance and desperation....

Cuba’s Sustainable Agricultural Model

Cuba’s Sustainable Agricultural Model

Cuba was the only country in the world that scored high on the United Nations Development Program Human Development Index and had an ecological footprint that was sustainable.....Cuba reorganized its entire agricultural economy into what author Bill McKibben characterized as “the world’s largest working model of semi-sustainable agriculture,”

Cuba’s Sustainable Agricultural Model

Cuba was the only country in the world that scored high on the United Nations Development Program Human Development Index and had an ecological footprint that was sustainable.....Cuba reorganized its entire agricultural economy into what author Bill McKibben characterized as “the world’s largest working model of semi-sustainable agriculture,”

The Bank Failed, but Not Greenpeace

The Bank Failed, but Not Greenpeace

A report of the World Bank Independent Evaluation Group concludes that efforts of the International Finance Corporation, to green operations of two Brazilian multinational agribusiness giants failed. It notes without irony that Greenpeace and other nongovernmental groups achieved much more with campaigns and boycotts.

The Bank Failed, but Not Greenpeace

A report of the World Bank Independent Evaluation Group concludes that efforts of the International Finance Corporation, to green operations of two Brazilian multinational agribusiness giants failed. It notes without irony that Greenpeace and other nongovernmental groups achieved much more with campaigns and boycotts.

Locked into a World on Fire?

Locked into a World on Fire?

The tragedy is that there already lies a clear path to achieve two thirds of the needed CO2 emission reductions, while supporting poverty-reducing clean energy investments in developing countries, without additional funding or wrestling with legal commitments to binding caps. Much of the financing could come from redirecting existing fossil fuel subsidies.....

Locked into a World on Fire?

The tragedy is that there already lies a clear path to achieve two thirds of the needed CO2 emission reductions, while supporting poverty-reducing clean energy investments in developing countries, without additional funding or wrestling with legal commitments to binding caps. Much of the financing could come from redirecting existing fossil fuel subsidies.....

An International Regime in Crisis

An International Regime in Crisis

The Kyoto Protocol, Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is based on the premise that a ton of greenhouse gas reductions can be purchased more cheaply in a developing country than a rich country. A 2011 U.S Government Accountability Offic report identified possibly unresolvable problems inherent in the CDM and carbon offsets in general.

An International Regime in Crisis

The Kyoto Protocol, Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is based on the premise that a ton of greenhouse gas reductions can be purchased more cheaply in a developing country than a rich country. A 2011 U.S Government Accountability Offic report identified possibly unresolvable problems inherent in the CDM and carbon offsets in general.

Rights to Water and Privatization

Rights to Water and Privatization

Civil society groups and the United Nations argue that access to water is a basic human right, and subjecting access to water for the poor to market forces is ethically objectionable. For some economists and policymakers, privatization and market solutions are the only hope, given mismanagement of many public water utilities in developing nations.

Rights to Water and Privatization

Civil society groups and the United Nations argue that access to water is a basic human right, and subjecting access to water for the poor to market forces is ethically objectionable. For some economists and policymakers, privatization and market solutions are the only hope, given mismanagement of many public water utilities in developing nations.

Climate Finance and Bank Reform

Climate Finance and Bank Reform

The World Bank has become the main financial administrator of “climate investment funds as well as for 12 different "carbon funds." A growing literature has documented the lack of real additionality in many projects; i.e., whether emission credits for projects really contribute to net additional reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.....

Climate Finance and Bank Reform

The World Bank has become the main financial administrator of “climate investment funds as well as for 12 different "carbon funds." A growing literature has documented the lack of real additionality in many projects; i.e., whether emission credits for projects really contribute to net additional reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.....

The First Habitat and Species Laws

The First Habitat and Species Laws

The great Indian Emperor Ashoka (reigned 268–239 B.C.) promoted non-violence, religious tolerance, and protection of animals and habitat. Kautilya (c. 350–283 B.C.), chief minister of Ashoka’s grandfather, the Emperor Chandragupta, advocated protection of woodlands and reserves “where all animals are welcomed as guests and given full protection.”

The First Habitat and Species Laws

The great Indian Emperor Ashoka (reigned 268–239 B.C.) promoted non-violence, religious tolerance, and protection of animals and habitat. Kautilya (c. 350–283 B.C.), chief minister of Ashoka’s grandfather, the Emperor Chandragupta, advocated protection of woodlands and reserves “where all animals are welcomed as guests and given full protection.”

Coal Plants and Barefoot College

Coal Plants and Barefoot College

The Barefoot College has trained hundreds of poor villagers as grassroots solar power installation workers and engineers. Founder Bunker Roy writes that “any goal that is driven from the top by international donors and governments not accountable to the communities and without financial transparency is doomed to fail."

Coal Plants and Barefoot College

The Barefoot College has trained hundreds of poor villagers as grassroots solar power installation workers and engineers. Founder Bunker Roy writes that “any goal that is driven from the top by international donors and governments not accountable to the communities and without financial transparency is doomed to fail."

Carbon Capture: A Dead End?

Carbon Capture: A Dead End?

Carbon capture and storgage would greatly increase the capital and operating costs of new plants. The cost of CCS is such that rapidly maturing technologies such as wind and solar thermal are highly competitive. They should be the overwhelming priority for new energy investments, alongside scaled up energy efficiency.

Carbon Capture: A Dead End?

Carbon capture and storgage would greatly increase the capital and operating costs of new plants. The cost of CCS is such that rapidly maturing technologies such as wind and solar thermal are highly competitive. They should be the overwhelming priority for new energy investments, alongside scaled up energy efficiency.

The Coming Coal Catastrophe

The Coming Coal Catastrophe

Ninety-seven percent of the increase in energy-related CO2 emissions through 2030 will occur in developing nations. Without major changes in international energy investment, the industrialized world could reduce its CO2 emissions to zero by 2030, but the planet would still overshoot irreversibly past the point of no return for dangerous global warming.

The Coming Coal Catastrophe

Ninety-seven percent of the increase in energy-related CO2 emissions through 2030 will occur in developing nations. Without major changes in international energy investment, the industrialized world could reduce its CO2 emissions to zero by 2030, but the planet would still overshoot irreversibly past the point of no return for dangerous global warming.

A Test Case for Export Finance

A Test Case for Export Finance

The $1.64 billion Ilisu Dam in Turkey will forcibly displace upwards of 65,000 ethnic Kurds. The export credit agencies (ECAs) of Austria, Germany, and Switzerland have approved nearly $600 million in loan guarantees for Ilisu....an egregious breach of the spirit if not the letter of the OECD “Common Approaches on Environment” for ECAs.

A Test Case for Export Finance

The $1.64 billion Ilisu Dam in Turkey will forcibly displace upwards of 65,000 ethnic Kurds. The export credit agencies (ECAs) of Austria, Germany, and Switzerland have approved nearly $600 million in loan guarantees for Ilisu....an egregious breach of the spirit if not the letter of the OECD “Common Approaches on Environment” for ECAs.

Crisis of Governance and Right to Info

Crisis of Governance and Right to Info

The scope of the Indian RTI (Right to Information) law exceeds that of similar laws in most industrial countries, applying to states, municipalities and other local bodies, as well as to the central government. It includes the right to information from the judiciary and parliament — the U.S. Freedom of Information Act applies only to the exective branch.

Crisis of Governance and Right to Info

The scope of the Indian RTI (Right to Information) law exceeds that of similar laws in most industrial countries, applying to states, municipalities and other local bodies, as well as to the central government. It includes the right to information from the judiciary and parliament — the U.S. Freedom of Information Act applies only to the exective branch.

An Incoherent Climate Policy

An Incoherent Climate Policy

The world’s richest nations are preparing to deliver as much as $12 billion in extra funds to the World Bank to fight global warming. At the same time, the bank is accelerating lending for fossil fuels and giant coal-fired power plants around the world.

An Incoherent Climate Policy

The world’s richest nations are preparing to deliver as much as $12 billion in extra funds to the World Bank to fight global warming. At the same time, the bank is accelerating lending for fossil fuels and giant coal-fired power plants around the world.