“If we do not tackle climate change, we will never be able to eradicate poverty” – Isabella Lövin, Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation
As the Sustainable Development Goals Summit that adopted the Agenda 2030 wraps up in New York, all eyes are now fixated on the upcoming Paris Climate Conference. The SDGs Summit was hugely important as it resolved to tackle poverty, inequality and climate change, which will set the tone for the UN’s development agenda from now on through to 2030. The Paris Climate Conference is anticipated to secure a deal limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius.
Indeed, climate change and development are intrinsically intertwined, with recent figures from the Overseas Development Institute revealing that nearly 720 million people around the world risk falling back into extreme poverty conditions if emissions aren’t capped by 2100. Poverty alleviation is also potentially threatened by climate change, as funds are increasingly diverted from development efforts towards climate adaptation. The projected costs of climate adaptation efforts are likely to dwarf development budgets. A study by the African Development Bank (AfDB, 2012) estimated that adaptation costs in Africa to be in the range of US $20-$30 billion per annum over the next 10-20 years.
In the short-term, delivering on these new development global goals will require a complementary climate agreement in Paris. Anything less than a strong, science-based global agreement in Paris to rapidly slash carbon emissions would deflate the buoyant spirit of this week’s development plan.
While progress made this week comes as a breath of fresh air, proposed national actions still remain insufficient to avoid the worst consequences of climate change (and therefore insufficient to deliver the agreed SDGs).
As this historic week nearly comes to an end, diverse voices are drawing on the momentum to send a clear message to leaders as they pave the way for December climate meetings in Paris: keeping temperatures from rising above 2 degrees Celsius is a moral imperative requiring swift action for the sake of humanity.
“There is no development on a dead planet,” warns May Boeve, Executive Director, 350.org. She added that the only way to achieve the SDGs will be to rapidly transition the world from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy.
“The Sustainable Development Goals will remain a list of empty promises if world leaders do not also commit to ambitious action to tackle the climate crisis. Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and tackling the climate crisis go hand in hand,” added May.
Leida Rijnhout, Director of Global Policies and Sustainability at the European Environmental Bureau expresses concerns that the goal of ‘sustained economic growth’ could undermine the other development goals. She added that it is clear that the Earth’s carrying capacity is not increasing and that some countries need to substantially decrease their resource use to achieve more equitable sharing of resources and to allow other countries to develop and meet basic needs.
“We are massively over-consuming in Europe at the expense of the climate and the development of poorer countries – a trend that is causing increasing conflicts over ever scarcer resources… there’s need to change track,” she urged.
This is echoed by Pope Francis, who has time and again warned against disproportionate use of natural resources by certain countries over long periods of time. The Pope addressed the US Congress and UN assembly in his US visit, called upon global negotiators to take the impacts of climate change on sustainable development seriously, emphasizing that “any harm done to the environment is harm to humanity.”
Pope Francis also expressed optimism on the Paris Climate Conference.
“The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the World Summit is an important sign of hope. I am similarly confident that the Paris Conference on Climatic Change will secure fundamental and effective agreements,” enthused the Pope.
Oxfam International Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima, highlighted the huge opportunity world leaders have to tackle poverty and climate change and called for a Paris Climate agreement that delivers for the poorest to be reached if “zero hunger” is to ever be achieved.
“We can indeed be the first generation to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, but we are the last generation that can avert catastrophic climate change,” warns Winnie.
With strong targets for climate action, conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources, protection of the forests and restoration of the ecosystems, now agreed as part of the 2030 Agenda, targeting climate change should be a top priority in the global effort to protect people and the planet. World leaders must complete a climate deal that is equally as fair and ambitious as the development package.
“By including climate change throughout the new deal, climate action becomes a driving force behind future development,” said Samantha Smith, leader of WWF International’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative. “Governments must now carry forward the momentum generated around the new sustainable development deal to the climate negotiations in Paris.”
Critical climate measures in the new sustainable development deal include calls for a substantial increase in renewable energy use and a rise in global energy efficiency.
PACJA Secretary General, Mithika Mwenda, adds that treating climate change as a cross-cutting issue, is vital to achieving the Agenda 2030. Mithika further urges African Governments to prioritize and mobilize resources for addressing climate change.
“African governments must demand that the Paris climate deal delivers major new public funds for adaptation and resilience in Africa, to crucially protect our most vulnerable people and future generations. They must also commit new resources from national budgets for investment to help people adapt and build resilience to climate change,” he says.
There can be no sustainable development in an unsustainable world. World leaders agreeing on binding Sustainable Development Goals prioritising people and planet is a huge step forward, but this must be accompanied by ambitious action on climate change as climate impacts can undermine any and all gains in development.
With the Paris Climate Conference being only two months away, stakeholders are calling for the same commitments as shown in adoption of the SDGs to be put in reaching a favorable climate agreement.