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PhD Defence: Mohamed Boly

Published on November 27, 2020 Updated on December 3, 2020
Le 04 December 2020 De 09:30 à 12:00

Essays on foreign aid, political cycles and environmental degradation


Pascale Combes-Motel, Professor, Université Clermont Auvergne
Théophile Azomahou, Professor, Université Clermont Auvergne
Mathilde Maurel, Research Director, CNRS, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
Phu Nguyen Van, Research Director, CNRS, Université de Strasbourg
Mariana Vijil, Senior Economist, World Bank
Jean-Louis Combes, Professor, Université Clermont Auvergne


The observed effects of climate change over the last decades highlight the urgency of mobilizing enough resources to slow it down and mitigate its effects. In the case of developing countries, some suggest that development aid has an important role to play. However, the political ambitions of decision-makers should not be in competition with environmental ones. This thesis examines the existing links between foreign aid, political cycles and environmental degradation, through three empirical chapters. Chapter 2 studies the link between foreign aid and CO2 mitigation in 112 developing countries. It shows that the effect of aid depends on the donor, with multilateral aid more likely to reduce pollution than bilateral aid for which there is no effect. Nevertheless, a bilateral aid specifically targeted toward environment contributes to decrease the level of pollution. This later impact is non-linear, a pollution-reducing effect is only observed for important amounts of environmental bilateral aid. Chapter 3 studies the factors associated with environmental bilateral aid to recipient countries over the 1990-2013 period. The objective is to assess whether the environmental bilateral aid is motivated by non-environmental factors such as donors’ economic and political interests. Three kind of variables that might influence environmental aid allocation are examined: the environmental and non-environmental needs and merits of recipient countries, and the economic and political interests of donors. Environmental needs and merits variables include vulnerability to extreme climate events and the stringency of climate policy. The results show that while vulnerability to climate change seems to be a key determinant of environmental aid, its allocation is poorly linked to recipients’ climate mitigation policies. It finds weak evidence of association between donors’ interest variables and environmental aid on average. However, an heterogeneity analysis allows to go deeper into all the relations above, and unveils that some donors are more sensitive to environmental variables, while others rather seem focused on their economic and political interests. Chapter 4 explores how elections impact climate change policy and environmental degradation, using a sample of 76 democratic countries from 1990 to 2014. The findings indicate election years are characterized by an increase in CO2 emissions, even though the effect weakens over the recent years. It also reveals that this effect is present only in established democracies, where incumbents engage in fiscal manipulation through the composition of public spending rather than its level. Higher freedom of the press and high environmental preferences from citizens reduce the size of this “political pollution cycle”.