The Shotgun and the Sniper

“The time for silver bullets has passed,” proclaimed Marc Stewart, “What we need is a Shotgun!” In his bright Bali shirt, Nike sneakers and Investment Banker haircut, Mr Stewart is the firm-handshaking, fist pumping, ever effusive all-American co-founder of Ecosecurities, a firm that specialises in developing and marketing carbon trading projects under the Clean Development Mechanism – CDM – of the Kyoto Protocol. With emission reductions under Kyoto less than a month away, Mr Stewart’s firm is looking to extend its market capitalisation to far beyond its existing 40 million USD. The Ecosecurity model functions in the following way – they find and help develop projects in the developing world that is eligible for credit credits under the CDM, and then sell the credits to firms in EU, and across the world, that are looking to meet their Kyoto targets by offsetting excess emissions against carbon credits. Firms like Ecosecurities pushed the carbon market to 30 billion dollars in 2006; and if Annex 1 agrees to further emission cuts (25-40 per cent below 1992 by 2020) the potential size of the market is open to the most optimistic hyperbole.

The “Shotgun Approach” suggested by Stewart was his response to the fact the Climate Change is a “reality that needs to be addressed NOW” – and that governments, international bodies and business would have to proceed on a rampage on all possible fronts simultaneously – with sort of like the blunt double-barrelled, pump action shotguns freely available back home in America. The Shotgun approach was Mr Stewart’s reason for opening up and extending carbon markets to as many sectors as possible – particularly Forestry.

If we were to examine the shotgun metaphor in some detail, we find the shotgun is best known for its tremendous stopping power at short-ranges (say 40 per cent reduction in 10 years?), and the fact that on firing, the shot divides up into pellets, making it easy to hit small targets at some distance, allowing even inexperienced marksmen to use it with a fair degree of competency. And Mr Stewart is not the only one holding the shotgun. A week into the climate change conference, there seems to be a very interesting development paradigm emerging that is vaguely reminiscent of the AIDS approach to development. Under the adaptation and mitigation arms of Climate change – it is possible to embark on any number of projects in the guise of saving the planet. While “Saving the Poor” has clearly lost some of its lustre on the funding markets, “Saving the Planet” seems to be bringing in some serious money from governments, donor bodies and private enterprise. The fact that climate shall hit everyone in end, and not just the “poor and vulnerable” (though it is routinely stressed that they shall be the worst hit) seems to have motivated some serious thinking. The first week at Bali has largely centred around the “tremendous opportunites presented by Climate Change.” Thus you have sessions on “Climate Change and Gender”, “Climate Change and Health”, “Climate Change and the Millenium Development Goals”, “Leadership and Climate Change”, and my personal favourite “Climate Change and HIV/AIDS.” Fire the Climate Change Shotgun and hit a whole collection of development indices – big ones at short ranges, small ones at longer ranges. The approach might just have some benefits – given the urgency of the problem (and yes, Climate Change is a real, serious, significant problem that has to be dealt with); groups working on thankless, under-funded projects like Malaria, disaster management, and drought relief might finally get the money they require – and all projects need to be “sexed up” to fit into donor spending agenda.

What is interesting is the shift one sees from an earlier approach to development – which could be termed the “Sniper Approach” (My metaphor, not Mr Stewart’s). The Sniper rifle, is a specialised rifle designed to maximise accuracy over long distances to hit precise targets. Thus, the Sniper Approach could be understood as a metaphor for highly decentralised specific schemes that target specific projects. These were much in vogue in the late nineties and continue to be applied in community level projects – where the approach is custom designed for the community in question and takes on board their specific needs. The Sniper approach was supposed to reduce system leakages, often using information technology and verification apparatus and was favoured by organisations like the World Bank to ensure that benefits of specific schemes were “targeted” (coincidentally a word that development agencies use a lot) at those that needed them the most. The idea was to introduce fiscal discipline in developing economies and ensure that the limited subsidies that were handed out went to the intended recipients. India’s TPDS – or Targeted Public Distribution System – could be a useful example of such a scheme. Another one could be the Micro-credit intiatives and SHGs (Self Help Groups), so loved by one and all; but i suppose the fact that SHG’s operate on small scales and ranges could call for Pistol/ Handgun Initiatives.

One week into the conference, it is hard to tell what approach to take – perhaps one could take all three on board and step out battle-hardened and armed to the teeth. Personally, I find myself sympathetic to cause of the solar powered tazer : renewable, zero-emissions and allegedly non-lethal; always a good approach to saving the world.

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