UNDESA Report on Poverty Reduction Highlights Risks from Climate Change

February 2010: The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) has released a report titled "Rethinking Poverty: Report on the World Social Situation 2010," which aims to contribute to rethinking poverty and its eradication.

It asserts the urgent need for a strategic shift away from the market fundamentalist thinking, policies and practices of recent decades towards more sustainable development and equity-oriented policies appropriate to national conditions and circumstances. While recognizing that the global food, energy, and financial crises are reversing the modest progress achieved thus far towards achieving the internationally agreed development goals, the report notes that climate change is posing a serious risk to poverty reduction and threatening to undo decades of development efforts.

The report recalls the finding of the Third Assessment Report of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (2001) that, although climate change is a global phenomenon, its negative impacts are more severely felt by poor countries, owing to the economic importance of climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture and fisheries in those countries, and their limited capacity to anticipate and respond to the adverse effects of climate change. The authors express the hope that “through the highlighting of the moral obligation to address poverty as a human right, the temptation to cut social spending will be resisted during the current period of economic hardship.”

The discussion in the report points to several policy areas where rethinking is required in order to generate transformations and growth that bring sustainable benefits to poor people. In particular, it advocates the development of strategies for inclusive rural development that take account of how climate change affects the rural poor and incorporate measures to counter negative effects in such a way as to both be sustainable and promote dynamic output and income growth. [The Report]