Clark: EC-UNDP-UNEP Seminar on Climate Change and Development

Sep 28, 2009

Remarks by Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator
On the occasion of the closing of the EC-UNDP-UNEP Seminar on
Climate Change and Development
Monday, 28 September 2009

It is a great pleasure to be with you at the closing session of this joint training workshop between country-based senior management of the European Commission and UNDP, carried out in collaboration with UNEP.

Under the strategic partnership agreement signed by the European Commission and UNDP, climate change and its links to development were identified as a new area for co-operation between us.

I’m delighted that the agreement has led to this joint training, at the initiative of the UN/UNDP Brussels office.

The relationship between UNDP and the European Union is one which I am committed to strengthening during my tenure as Administrator, furthering the work of my predecessors in this regard.

Since my first day in office as Administrator, I have underscored the importance of collaborating with the widest possible range of stakeholders for development.

With only six years left to the 2015 target date for reaching the MDGs, and given the host of challenges we face from global recession to climate change, there is more than enough work to keep all of us involved in development exceptionally busy.

If we are well co-ordinated, our resources for development will go much further, especially at the country level.  This has particular resonance for UNDP and the European Commission.

UNDP plays an important role through its leadership and co-ordination of other agencies in the UN development system.  The European Commission deploys very substantial resources for development. Thus it makes sense for us to work together in support of programme countries.

This workshop has taken place at a critical point in the negotiations leading up to the Copenhagen climate summit in December.

Climate change is widely acknowledged as one of the defining challenges of the 21st century.  Scientists tell us that we have about ten years left in which to prevent a rise in greenhouse gas emissions which could cause catastrophic and irreversible climate transformations and impacts.

If we are serious about meeting the climate challenge, we have to adopt fresh thinking and we have to innovate.

We cannot apply old development paradigms to meet new development challenges. They won’t work.  And climate change is a development challenge.

Those who are bearing the brunt of the effects of climate change are those who can least afford to do so, and who have done the least, if anything at all, to cause the problem.  If they are not supported with adaptation and building greater relevance then the chances of achieving the MDGs and other internationally agreed development goals diminish.

That is why we cannot tackle the MDGs and climate change in separate silos.  We have to integrate climate change-related considerations into our development paradigms and strategies.

According to the 2007/2008 Human Development Report, the Arab region’s share of global carbon dioxide emissions in 2004 was around 4.7 per cent – lower than for any other region except sub-Saharan Africa.

Yet an increasingly erratic climate would significantly affect this region through increased water shortages, reduced agricultural production, and even large population transfers.

Right now, it is estimated that a person in a developing country is 79 times as likely to be affected by a climate disaster as a person in a developed country.

It is clearly urgent, therefore, that there is a global climate change agreement and that it is honored in word and deed.

The EU provides strong leadership on climate change, and that is greatly appreciated.
That leadership can be seen in the European Union’s target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, compared to 1990 levels.  I know that the EU is also willing to set a more aggressive target of a 30 per cent reduction by 2020, if other developed countries make similar commitments. 

Last Tuesday, I attended the Summit on Climate Change convened by the Secretary-General of the United Nations in New York.  It was an important event geared towards generating political commitment at the highest level for a climate deal to be reached.

A highlight was the speech by the new Prime Minister of Japan in which he formally stated the commitment of his government to reduce emissions by 25 per cent by 2020 compared with 1990 levels.

But all who are following the climate change negotiations closely know how difficult it will be to reach a new agreement in December which dots all the “i” s and crosses all the “t” s.

More commitment will need to be shown by more countries to move the negotiations forward. 

There was no forward movement at the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh on the issue.  Intense diplomacy will be needed in the few weeks remaining until the Copenhagen summit for progress to be made there. 

It is very clear to me that the climate deal will need to be a good deal for development – otherwise there won’t be a deal.

But, when the deal is reached, it will be of huge assistance to developing countries -  in supporting low carbon pathways to growth, improving energy access, and in supporting adaptation and building greater resilience to climate change and variability. 

Thus a new climate deal will lead not only to reductions in emissions and the development of less carbon-intensive production and consumption processes; it will also provide substantial finance to support inclusive and sustainable pathways forward for developing countries. 

In his recent letter to heads of state and government inviting them to the climate summit in New York, the Secretary-General identified five areas where agreement will need to be reached for the climate negotiations to succeed.

• Developed countries will need to set credible emissions reduction targets,
• Developing countries will need to commit to developing nationally appropriate mitigation actions plans,
• Developing countries will need support for adaptation,
• Adequate levels of finance will be needed, and
• The governance of the funding available for developing countries will need to be resolved.

For developing countries, funding will be critical – funding to support and implement good strategies and plans for low carbon development and for adaptation.

Business as usual development and economic growth has a heavy carbon footprint. But it will take significant new resources and technology transfer to provide alternative pathways. They are available, but the full cost cannot be met by developing countries.
The same applies to adaptation.  It will be costly, yet not to plan for it is to put development prospects at risk.

For example, by some estimates, forty per cent of development investment from ODA and concessional lending is sensitive to climate risk. This means that precious investments in development and the gains they make possible are themselves at risk.  Going forward, resilience and adaptation to climate risk must be hardwired into national development strategies, with proper attention paid to the needs of more vulnerable groups, including women and indigenous people.

Developed nations, which will also feel the impact of climate change, have the resources to fund adaptation.  But the poorest and most vulnerable countries will need significant support which goes above and beyond existing levels of official development assistance.

There is no simple choice to be made between fostering growth and development or protecting our climate and ecosystems.  Both are possible, desirable, and compatible.
But how we all live, grow, and develop in future must be consistent with keeping our ecosystems in balance.

A new climate agreement which delivers significant resources for development will help achieve that.

UNDP has a number of important roles to play in supporting developing countries in the ongoing negotiations for a new climate agreement – and beyond.

• We can work to raise awareness of the issues at stake in the negotiations, and of the threat which climate change poses to development.
• We can assist with the development of low carbon growth and adaptation strategies – and with placing them at the centre of national development strategies.
• We can support the building and development of capacity to implement these strategies – and to access carbon finance now and in the future.

The carbon finance available up until now has not been able to be accessed easily by small and least developed countries. 

The transition which needs to occur to stop temperatures rising above the level where catastrophic and irreversible climate change would occur has particular implications for this region which is such a large producer of fossil fuels.

It will be important for countries in this region to adopt a longer term strategy for growth which takes account of lower carbon growth pathways being widely followed and actively plans for economic diversification.

In our development work, both UNDP and the European Commission can support the countries in this region meet that challenge.

I believe that if the international community can rise to the challenge of tackling climate change, the opportunities for developing countries will be significant.  The funding which could flow from an agreement would, over time, exceed that available from ODA.  It will help us tackle poverty and embark on an era of more sustainable growth and development.  It will enable us to plan for an MDG-plus future.

I am excited about the possibilities which lie ahead when, not if, the new climate agreement is negotiated.

And that’s why I attach great importance to this training workshop, and hope that it can be replicated in other regions, and inspire more such joint initiatives with the European Commission.

We can achieve together what we cannot do alone.  That helps all the programme countries where we seek to make a difference for the better.

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