Tax reform

Green climate fund seeks clear role in post 2020 climate aid


PARIS, Dec 11 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - As international climate talks headed into their final hours on Friday, the head of the United Nations' Green Climate Fund said the fund's future role in delivering tens of billions of dollars in climate aid after 2020 is unclear in the draft Paris deal. At last year's climate summit in Peru, the fledgling fund - set up under the U. N. negotiations - was in the spotlight as countries lined up to make public pledges, bringing its total resources to over $10 billion. The money is to be spent on projects to help poor countries curb carbon emissions and weather the impacts of climate change. But in Paris, the latest version of the legally-binding climate agreement, released on Thursday evening, makes no direct mention of the fund's role in delivering more than $100 billion annually in climate aid, a key element of a new global deal. The draft is "silent on the trajectory" of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and other U. N. funds after 2020, when the Paris agreement would take effect, Héla Cheikhrouhou, the GCF's executive director, said in an interview at the talks."The latest agreement draft... does not give clarity," she said. "I would have preferred to see text that talks to the growth" of the U. N. funds, she added. When the GCF was set up in 2010, there were expectations it would be the main conduit for climate funding from donors to developing countries. The 2009 Copenhagen Accord, which created the fund, said "a significant portion" of the $100 billion a year rich nations promised to mobilise by 2020 should flow through the GCF.

Cheikhrouhou said she did not know why a reference to the role of the fund had been removed from the draft but she remained "cautiously optimistic" it would return to the final agreement, due on Saturday. Giza Gaspar-Martins, chair of the group of 48 least developed countries at the talks, said the current text reflected the need to recognise other smaller U. N. funds as channels for finance, particularly those focused on adaptation."(The GCF) is certainly a very important member of the ecosystem that serves climate finance, but it is not the only one," the Angolan diplomat told the Thomson Reuters Foundation."We also have to admit that in the future, we may find it necessary to establish new ones."

VALUE NOT VOLUME In November, the Green Climate Fund approved its first set of eight projects, to which it allocated $168 million. They include improving early warning systems to help Malawi respond to extreme climate events, a programme to manage climate change-induced water shortages in the Maldives, and a green bond to spur renewable energy investment in Latin America.

The fund's board has set a goal of committing up to $2.5 billion in 2016, but Cheikhrouhou said supporting quality projects was more important than the volume of spending."Pushing money out of the door is not necessarily a good thing," she said. "We need to make sure we are investing in the right opportunities and only invest once we have great proposals."Over the past few months, civil society groups and some developing countries have raised concerns the fund is heading in the wrong direction by emphasising the role of the private sector and steering towards loans rather than government grants."This is not how we had hoped the GCF would function," said Brandon Wu, a climate finance expert with international charity ActionAid. "It would not be surprising if developing countries are feeling a bit of caution about the GCF at this point."Niranjali Amerasinghe of the World Resources Institute said the Green Climate Fund needed to make sure it sticks to its mission to finance programmes that will create a "paradigm shift" in order to become the primary vehicle for global climate finance."The GCF needs to identify its niche relative to other funds," she said. But whether or not the fund's importance is specifically mentioned in the post-2020 Paris deal will have little impact on its future, some say."It is still a fund that developing countries think is the most fair and equitable way of channeling resources to those that are most vulnerable," said Heather Coleman, climate change policy manager for Oxfam America.

How money changes us, and not for the good


Whether we have money or not, one thing is certain: It is never far from our minds. Just look at the presidential election. Among the candidates are a billionaire and a self-proclaimed democratic socialist, each with their own prescriptions about how to address rampant income inequality. (Waiting in the wings is another billionaire.)Paul Piff, an assistant professor of social psychology at the University of California, Irvine, has been studying how money changes us and our relationships with each other. Most of the findings point to money bringing out negative behavior in people. "The more money you have, the more focused on yourself you become, and less-sensitive to the welfare of people around you," Piff says. He made this the topic of a TED talk in 2013 called "Does money make you mean?" (bit.ly/1uwVfKg) that has now racked up almost three million views. With income inequality such a key issue in 2016, Reuters spoke with Piff to find out how wealth alters our behavior - and what that means for society.    Q: How did you come to go about studying if money makes people behave badly?A: We rigged a Monopoly game. Hundreds of pairs of strangers came into our lab, and one of those people was randomly assigned to be the rich player. They got twice as much money, got to roll two dice instead of one and were given more cash when passing 'Go.'Even though it was so clearly rigged, within a few minutes we started to see pattern shifts in behavior. Rich players were ruder, louder, more dominant. They would celebrate their success, and talk about how much money they had.

At the end of game, we asked people about why they had won. Rich players always focused on specific things they had done, like buying certain properties. But really, it all came down to luck, of having been assigned the role of the rich player. Q: What parallels did you see between that Monopoly game and real life?A: It's random what family you are born into. Some people are born into lives of privilege, and some aren't. But despite not having earned that privilege, people tend to attribute it to things they did and how much they deserve it. Parents' wealth often correlates with a sense of entitlement.

Q: Why should we care about how money alters our thinking?A: When you feel entitled, you are more likely to do the wrong thing. In experiments we have run, we have seen that you are more likely to break ethical norms to serve your self-interest, or lie to get ahead, or cheat in games, or break laws. Q: Since you gave your TED talk, inequality has only gotten more extreme. Why do you say this is a problem for the 1 percent as well?A: Inequality is a pressing issue, and not just for the poor, but for everyone. The social fabric gets frayed, trust and cooperation are undermined, people's health gets worse. Inequality makes social outcomes worse for everybody - and that's a problem.

The real challenge is that it's a self-perpetuating dynamic, because those at the top feel they are more deserving of what they have, and become less-willing to share those resources with others. Inequality creates more distance between people. Q: So what can be done to bridge that distance?A: It's not the case that wealthy people are corrupt. That's a caricature. But wealth is a resource that comes with certain psychological tendencies. If wealth tends to drive a decrease in compassion and kindness and generosity, then we have to find ways to mitigate that. In the lab, for instance, we found that poorer people were initially more generous than richer people. But when shown a short video about poverty, richer people became just as generous. The Giving Pledge, where billionaires have promised to give away at least half of their wealth to charity, is one step in the right direction. The real problem is that wealth makes us turn inward. We have to shake ourselves up psychologically, reconnect with the needs of others, and get out of our insular worlds.