Speech

May 12, 2009

As Prepared by Rodney G. Bent, Acting CEO

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‘Energy and Global Climate Change: Leadership in the Western Hemisphere’

Thank you for inviting me here today for a very timely discussion.  The U.S. Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation is proud to partner with developing countries to help them address climate change, energy, and other environmental challenges,

We recognize that alleviating poverty requires urgent attention to climate change and responsible environmental stewardship. 

As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the chairman of MCC’s Board, has stated, “the crisis of climate change exists at the nexus of diplomacy, national security, and development.”

Our partner countries are both the most vulnerable and the least able to cope with the effects of climate change.

Accessing secure, affordable, and clean energy poses another significant challenge for poor countries.

To determine who would make our best partners, we use 17 policy indicators to assess a country’s commitment to good governance, economic freedom, investments in their citizens. 

Unique to our incentive-based approach, a Natural Resource Management Index and a Land Rights and Access Index are among the 17 indicators we use.  This allows MCC: 

  • to gauge how well a country protects its natural ecosystems;  and
  • to assess a person’s access to land and secure property rights, which provide an important incentive for managing land and natural resources responsibly.

All MCC-funded programs undergo evaluation to assure that our compacts:

  • are environmentally and socially sound,
  • designed in accordance with regulatory requirements and international agreements, and
  • will not cause significant environmental, health, or safety hazards.

Among MCC’s 18 signed compacts worldwide, we are funding a range of projects and activities designed to help partner countries improve natural resource management, strengthen institutional capacity, and pursue less carbon intensive growth strategies. These projects include:

  • reforestation initiatives in Nicaragua, which are working with 1,000 producers in their efforts to replant 7,000 hectares of exotic and native fruit and forest varieties;
  • installation of the first 450 solar panel systems as a renewable energy source in El Salvador’s Northern Zone to serve more than 2,000 poor and isolated households;
  • rehabilitation of a natural gas pipeline in Georgia, which reduced methane emissions;
  • reforestation efforts in Mozambique to replace more than 8,000 hectares of diseased coconut trees;
  • an energy sector project in Tanzania to replace polluting diesel power generation with clean, renewable hydropower;
  • community-based natural resource management in Namibia to conserve several commercially valuable indigenous plant species and to promote eco-tourism; and
  • soil conservation measures in Morocco, where we will be planting new olive, almond, and fig trees on 120,000 hectares.

Looking ahead, we anticipate increasing opportunities to help developing countries integrate climate change and energy into their poverty reduction programs, and to harmonize these efforts with those of other donors.

Many future compact partners—such as Jordan, Malawi, Philippines, and Indonesia—face cross-cutting environmental challenges, like water scarcity and deforestation, and are particularly vulnerable to climate risks such as droughts and extreme weather events.

We are actively working with these countries—as with all our partners, including those in the Western Hemisphere—to help them adapt to and mitigate these risks.

Together, we continue to grow smarter about how we approach these issues.

The environment matters to us all, but it disproportionately affects the poor whose very livelihoods depend on healthy ecosystems. For them, depleted or polluted water, soil, forests, and fisheries are a matter of survival.  

For this reason, MCC remains committed to sound environmental stewardship and to helping our partner countries address the effects of climate change. 

Which is why we are here today, and why MCC welcomes this opportunity to listen and learn from all of you.  Thank you.