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UNDP Administrator Calls for Addressing Climate Change for Development

UNDP8 November 2012: UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark discussed the potential of climate change to stall and reverse development in a lecture titled “Why Tackling Climate Change Matters for Development,” delivered at Stanford University in California, US. 

Clark also examined slow multilateral progress to address climate change and made suggestions on how to tackle climate and development in an integrated fashion, including at the upcoming 18th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 18) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to be held in Doha, Qatar. Clark outlined five ways climate change affects development progress, including efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): effects on agriculture and food production; increased water stress and water insecurity; rising sea levels and more frequent climate disasters; massive changes to ecological systems; and human health impacts.

She identified increasing ocean acidity and species extinction as examples of the types of ecological system changes likely to occur as a result of climate change. Clark cited several examples of ways poor people and countries bear the brunt of such climate change impacts, such as food insecurity crises in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel. She futher underscored that developing countries have less capacity to plan and respond to crises, and warned that without increased, coordinated global action to tackle climate change it will be "increasingly hard to reduce poverty in all its dimensions."

Clark discussed the disconnect between the scale of climate challenges and the slow multilateral progress to address it. She identified three reasons for slow progress: a tendency to think short-term rather than long-term; a lack of appreciation for how climate change undermines equity and justice; and a perception that the “global climate talks are going nowhere.” While noting that governments are reluctant to shift resources towards climate and development solutions because of perceived costs, Clark said that the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) demonstrated consensus on addressing climate change among citizen, civil society, private sector, and sub-national actors. Clark said recent agreement to develop a global regime, adopted by developed and developing countries alike, represents “an important breakthrough.” She also highlighted national and local climate action, including emissions trading schemes in China, California and the EU.

Clark recommended addressing climate and development in an integrated fashion. She said negotiators at the 18th session of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC in Doha need to agree on a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol from 1 January 2013 to ensure a “seamless transition from one Kyoto commitment period to another.” She also recommended progress on: defining the process for regular international reviews on climate actions taken and planned; strengthening climate finance, including by operationalizing the Green Climate Fund (GCF); increasing collaboration on appropriate technologies and adaptation and mitigation knowledge, including by operationalizing the Climate Technology Centre and Network; and addressing drivers and underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation.

Clark concluded that current climate negotiations have not delivered at the speed or scale required. She called on governments to focus on implementation “to build a sufficiently ambitious, fair, and legally binding climate change regime.” [Helen Clark's Speech] [UNDP Press Release]