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0in”>My guest on this week’s Global Prosperity Wonkcast is CGD senior fellow and director of the Rethinking US Development Policy program Ben Leo, here to discuss his new CGD working paper, Is Anyone Listening? in which he examines how well US foreign assistance aligns with the priorities of people in recipient countries. Answer: not so much or, as Ben puts it more diplomatically: “the alignment is modest at best.”
0in”>“It depends on the country, it depends on the region, but there are some major African and Latin American countries where very little of US assistance focuses on what people care most about,” Ben says. Like I said, not so much.
0in”>“This project has been kicking around in my mind for quite a while,” Ben explains. It began with discussions about the appropriate post-2015 development goals to follow on the Millennium Development Goals.
0in”>“I’d be asked, ‘what do you think the next MDGs should be?’ And I’d always say, ‘it doesn’t matter what I think. Ask ordinary people what they care most about and let’s have that be the working basis for the new goals.’”
0in”>“And whenever I’d say that people would respond, ‘well, they’re going to say health and education.’”
0in”>Ben thought this might not be the case. Using public attitude survey data from Afrobarometer and Latinobarometer he analyzed what people identify as their top priorities by country and region. Surprise: overwhelmingly the top concerns of people in both Africa and Latin America are jobs and the economy, along with infrastructure in Africa and crime in Latin America. US assistance, meanwhile, goes mostly for health and education, issues that rarely score as top priorities (see chart in Ben’s blog post.
0in”>So I ask Ben: “Why doesn’t US assistance align better with what people in Africa and Latin America say they want?”
0in”>After noting that the answer is complex, Ben offers a couple of possible explanations that focus on US politics and constituencies rather than the needs in recipient countries. We go on to explore a range of related issues, including whether or not recipient citizen concerns should influence US foreign assistance allocations and even whether or not aid actually does any good. We end with Ben’s common sense recommendations about how to shift US foreign aid so that it is better aligned with the priorities of citizens in recipient countries.
0in”>To learn more, read his paper or tune into our conversation.
Dear Colleagues, Plenty of news this week, with the WHO financing dialogue (2nd event in Geneva); the release of a number of working papers by ‘The UNAIDS and Lancet Commission: Defeating AIDS — Advancing global health’; some brief coverage of events (like the European development days in Brussels and ITM’s annual colloquium in Bangalore); the December issue of the Lancet Global Health; the usual Global Fund update, even more important with the Global Fund Replenishment coming up; World Aids day is also approaching, … so HIV will again feature quite prominently in this newsletter. In Cape Town, the 2013 Emerging Voices face to face programme started, preparing for the ICASA conference. We will join them next week (which also implies that next week’s newsletter will probably be much shorter, hurray!). On 25 November, the International day of ending violence against women was celebrated.
News from Warsaw on the just-concluded 19th round of global climate talks suggests that there has been little progress towards a binding agreement on either cutting emissions or paying the rising costs of climate change. Nonetheless, even without a global agreement requiring them to cut emissions from power plants, which account for about a third of the problem, 130 countries have set renewable energy targets. Some of these targets are quite ambitious.
Ambitious renewable targets are great but sun and wind are only available in particular places and fluctuate depending on by time of day, weather, and season. As the share of renewables in a power grid increases, this intermittency problem gets worse: you may have extra power when you don’t need it and not enough power when demand is high. Overcoming intermittency usually requires additional back-up capacity—such as natural gas plants that can be fired up at short notice—raising total costs.
In this week’s Wonkcast I discuss this problem with CGD visiting senior associate Kevin Ummel and explore with him his ingenious, data-intensive solution. Kevin’s plan for making large-scale wind and solar power a reality begins with a simple insight: by taking into account spatiotemporal characteristics of wind and solar—where and when the wind blows and the sun shines—and matching this information against the where the power is needed, the location of the grid, and daily and seasonal fluctuations in demand, it is possible to build renewable power facilities in places that will minimize intermittency, thus reducing costs.
While the concept is simple, execution of such planning is hugely data intensive and devilishly complex. Kevin is well-suited for this task, having among other things overseen the development and roll out of CGD’s Carbon Monitoring for Action (CARMA) website, the world’s only comprehensive source of information on the location, ownership, and emissions of the 60,000 power plants around the world the 20,000 entities that own them.
To demonstrate the his spatiotemporal approach, Kevin applied these techniques to South Africa, which has committed to an ambitious renewables target: wind and solar power to provide 20% of generating capacity by 2030. His paper, Planning for Large Scale Wind and Solar Power in South Africa: Identifying Cost Effective Deployment Strategies Using Spatiotemporal Modeling, shows why such planning is critical and, for those with the data and modeling skills, a handbook on how to proceed. For the less technical among us, including people like me and presumably many policymakers and government planners, his CGD brief provides an overview of the process and a concise seven-point plan on how to proceed, starting with step one:
Determine wind and solar resource levels and identify geographic areas suitable for potential project or transmission siting. The latter should consider technological, economic, environmental, and sociopolitical constraints through consultation with stakeholders.
Sounds easy, right? Kevin understands that this is easier said than done, and that it requires massive computing power. Fortunately, such power is now low-cost and widely available.
“We have lots of experience planning power systems with no renewables in them,” Kevin explains.
“I like to use the analogy of a Rubik's cube. Solving a traditional Rubik’s cube is like planning a conventional power system with fossil fuels and no renewables. Now, imagine I took that Rubik’s cube and modified 2-3 % of the squares so that they changed every few seconds, and then asked you to solve the cube so that you had solid colors on every side to achieve a maximum percentage of solid colors for a certain period of time. That's like planning a power system that has a low level of wind and solar power penetration. Now, imagine that I took the same Rubik’s cube and instead of just 2-3% of the squares changing colors, imagine 40-50% of the squares. Trying to arrange that in a way that maximizes the probability of having solid colors on all sides at any one time is like planning a high penetration wind and solar power system: very complex.
Complexity notwithstanding, Kevin thinks it entirely possible, given the large potential benefits, that countries will invest in initial spatial and temporal modeling to get an idea of which renewable energy technology makes sense, given their energy needs and geography.
“I'd like to see investors like the World Bank, governments, and energy ministries approach the power system planning problem the way a financially savvy person approaches retirement planning,” he says.
“The future is uncertain. We don't know what's going to happen with costs of technologies, but we should try to develop deployment strategies and transmission plans that leave open as many low-cost possibilities as we can, so that as we learn more we have the ability to go down those paths that make the most sense.”
I invite you to listen in on my conversation with Kevin. After the interview ended, I kept the recorder running in a post-interview chat that offered some surprising insights. With Kevin’s kind permission, we have added that as a bonus audio clip at the end of the Wonkcast.
My thanks to Sophia Bernazzani for a draft of this blog post, and to Kristina Wilson for recording and editing the Wonkcast. You can follow me on Twitter at @LMacDonaldDC and the Center for Global Development’s institutional feed at @CGDev.
Dear Colleagues, This week our colleague An Appelmans wrote the introduction to this newsletter. She will soon leave ITM, on Friday 13th apparently. After a rather drastic ‘Facebook status’ update last year, when she played the lead role in ‘One Wedding and Four Kids’, An is now looking for greener pastures. She will be missed in Antwerp, as a friend and as a very committed colleague. Below you find her ‘farewell message to global health’.
Dear Colleagues, This week the world’s eyes are on the Philippines. From what we hear, Emerging Voices from the country are very much involved in the relief efforts. We wish them and their compatriots all the best. One of the key questions, of course, is whether this will turn out to be a wake-up call to the world, for example at COP 19 in Warsaw. It probably won’t.
Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Typhoon Yolanda, made landfall in the central Philippines one week ago. It was among the strongest storms in recorded history. The United Nations estimates that more than 11 million are affected and close to 700,000 are homeless. The BBC’s Jonathan Head reports from Tacloban City and Jason Margolis explains what it’s like to get traveling to the remote islands hit hard by the storm. Filipino American Earlbhert Fabella explains why and how he’s going back to his hometown Tacloban. And lastly, reporter Amy Costello offers three tips for those who want to help.
Partners In Health Co-founder Dr. Paul Farmer shares his views on hope, a prominent theme in a new book co-written with Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez.
Dear Colleagues, We’ll keep the intro short this week as there is plenty of material, not the least because last week our newsletter was sent out on Thursday, before the weekly Lancet issue in other words which coincided with November 1st. This week the focus will, among other issues, be on the upcoming HRH Forum in Recife (including the special WHO Bulletin issue on HRH for UHC), the first translational medicine conference on HIV research “What will it take to achieve an AIDS-free world” in San Francisco, a two-day seminar in Barcelona on ‘Building a Global Health Social Contract for the 21st Century’ (we hope to offer you an editorial on this event next week), … There’s plenty of other news, though, for example on the first 5 thematic groups established by HS Global (see the new issue of their newsletter, which also contains news on the approval of the first strategic plan by the Board). No time for pontificating or populist slogans this week, in other words. We do however want to draw your attention to Tom Paulson’s sharp reflection on a new KFF survey on American public’s attitudes regarding global health and foreign aid.
It’s that time of year again when climate negotiators from around the world head to the jamboree known as the Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change or, in UN summit jargon, the UNFCCC COP. This year’s COP, held in Warsaw, will be the 19th annual round of global talks on averting a planetary catastrophe.
I asked CGD senior associate Michele de Nevers, formerly a senior official at the World Bank and the veteran of many previous COPs, to join me on the Wonkcast to discuss the prospects for the Warsaw COP.
“That this is the 19th annual round of climate talks says a lot,” Michele explains.
“It says that climate change continues to be tremendously important, especially for developing countries. But it also says that we haven’t gotten very far with the UN process. If it’s been going on for 19 years and we don’t have a legally binding treaty or anything close, what is this process really doing?” Michele asks.
I ask Michele if there was ever a time when people felt more hopeful about what these meetings could achieve. She recalls several times of high hopes, such as the 1997 meeting in Kyoto, Japan (COP 3), that resulted in the Kyoto Protocol, and the 2007 meeting in Bali, Indonesia (COP 13), where there was agreement on a broad framework of issues that were equally relevant to both developing and developed countries.
Michele also recalls the “huge expectations” leading up to the 2009 climate negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark (COP 15). “Expectations were so high, in fact, I think they contributed to a sense of failure that wouldn’t have existed if expectations had been more realistic,” she says.
“I don’t think there’s been a COP as important as Copenhagen since but now all eyes are turned to the COP that will take place in France in 2015. Last year in Doha, it was agreed that in 2015 countries will agree to set targets that will be implemented by 2020.”
Despite the lackluster outcomes of past meetings and the low expectations for the Warsaw COP, Michele does not doubt the importance of the COP meetings as a forum for networking and exchanging ideas.
As for actually agreeing upon and taking on steps to address the problem, Michele says that there is increasing attention to smaller groups that agree to work together on a voluntary basis. As an example she cites a new report from the Oxford Martin School, Now for the Long Term, that calls for “inclusive minilateralism” and a “multi-stakeholder coalition” that would bring together countries (a “C-20” utilizing the existing G-20), companies (a “C-30” selecting 30 companies affiliated to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development), and cities (working through the existing C40 Cities initiative). We also discuss the idea that if the US and China, a “C-2” could come to an agreement, others would fall into line.
As for CGD’s participation in the Warsaw COP, Owen Barder, CGD senior fellow and director for Europe, will be attending. At the COP, Owen will, among other things, seek input on a proposal he is developing for opening the EU Emissions Trading System to participation by developing countries—yet another option for inclusive minilateralism as an alternative to the stalled UNFCCC COPs.
My thanks to Catherine An for a draft of this blog post, and to Kristina Wilson for recording and editing the Wonkcast. You can follow Michele on Twitter at @MicheledeNevers, me at @LMacDonaldDC and the Center for Global Development’s institutional feed at @CGDev).
Violence in Iraq has risen to its highest level since 2007, as Shi’ites and Sunnis compete for power. But for Iraqis, their health problems go way beyond bombings and bullets. Many Iraqis simply do not have access to good health care. This week on the pod, we hear from Gil Burnham, of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, who co-authored a study published earlier this month assessing how many people have died in Iraq over the last 12 years. He estimates the number of overall deaths is about 50% higher than it should be. Then we talk to Sara Darwish, a young Iraqi doctor who left the insecurity of her home country for Southern California.