Guest Article #28

Meeting the Climate Challenge: Five tests for development

I believe that it is no exaggeration to say that a fair, effective and ambitious climate deal could be more vital to tackling poverty than even the Gleneagles summit of 2005.

Climate change is not some future possibility for many of the world's poorest people, it is a contemporary crisis. I've seen on my travels across the developing world the impact of climate change: from the Kenyan man who told me that the seasons he remembered as a child have simply disappeared; to the people of Bangladesh who have had their homes swept away by the rising waters; to the Ethiopian women who had been forced by drought to walk further each day to collect water until they were walking five hours a day simply to drink from a watering hole shared by people and animals alike.

These people are the least responsible for climate change, yet they are already most affected by it. And as we look to the future it is clear that climate change will increasingly hit the poor hardest. By 2035, the Himalayan glaciers, which provide water for up to 750 million people across Asia, could disappear. By 2080, an extra 400 million people could be exposed to the threat of malaria.

Climate change threatens to make poverty the future for millions of people. That is why we have not only a self interest, but also a moral responsibility to the developing world, to work to secure a fair deal on climate change. I believe such a deal should be subject to five development tests.

Our first priority must be to agree a long term goal, with credible interim targets, to contain temperatures within 2ºC above pre-industrial levels. Anything less rigorous would pose serious risks for all of us.

Second, and with a goal established, we need to allocate the task of meeting it in a way that is fair and equitable – that means developed countries taking the greatest responsibility for cutting emissions, given both our historical responsibilities and our higher emissions per head compared with even the most advanced developing countries.

Third, we need to reorder the global economy towards low-carbon development. Crucial to achieving this will be effective carbon markets that are critical to reducing global emissions and increasing the flow of finance to least-developed countries.

The fourth test should be the ability of a deal to support the development and diffusion of low-carbon technologies. For the ‘greening' of our global economy is fundamental to ensuring both the resilience and sustainability of our recovery.

Fifth and finally, we must ensure that any climate change deal includes support for developing countries to adapt to the now inevitable consequences of climate change.

We need a deal in Copenhagen that includes everyone. Of central importance in getting developing countries to the table will be agreeing a consensus around the financial support that the developed world will provide to help poor countries respond to climate change.

The British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has led the way in calling for around $100 billion per year by 2020 to help developing countries cut emissions, adapt to the effects of climate change and protect forests. It is critical that most of this finance for climate change is over and above existing development assistance commitments.

I believe that it is not only right for developed countries to provide additional assistance, it will also be a necessary element of securing a deal at Copenhagen. And given that climate change will affect all of us, it is in all our interests to help developing countries to find a low-carbon path to growth and adapt to the now inevitable impacts of climate change.