Helen Clark Remarks: CEB Adaptation Event Copenhagen

Dec 14, 2009

Remarks by Helen Clark, Administrator of the

United Nations Development Programme on the occasion of the

UN Chief Executives Board Side Event

“Advancing work on adaptation to climate change: A United Nations system perspective”

Monday, 14 December 2009, Copenhagen


The climate crisis is one of the greatest ongoing challenges our world faces – and indications are that climate change is taking place faster than previously predicted.

The time for business as usual approaches has long gone. If the international community is serious about tackling the climate challenge, then we have to adopt fresh thinking and we have to innovate.

Those bearing the brunt of the effects of climate change live in developing countries which have done the least to cause the problem and have the least resources to deal with it.

In many parts of the world, families and communities have had their crops devastated by prolonged drought, or their homes destroyed by floods and storms. These types of events are likely to increase in frequency.
Developing countries are in need of considerable and immediate support - which goes above and beyond existing ODA - to meet the adaptation costs they face.

If they are not supported to adapt and build greater resilience to climate change, then the chances of achieving the Millennium Development Goals will seriously diminish.  Climate change is a huge development challenge.

It has been estimated that forty per cent of development investment from ODA and concessional lending is sensitive to climate risk. That risk needs to be taken into account in all future investments and be fully reflected in national development plans.

In the development paradigm of the 21st century, growth, poverty reduction, and tackling climate change must be seen as compatible and mutually supportive goals.

That calls for investing in low carbon routes to development and energy access, and in building resilience to the impacts of climate change which are already inevitable.

The UN development system - with its networks of country offices and knowledge - is taking action to promote climate-resilient development, and to help countries prioritize adaptation – in four main areas:

• First, we provide support for national adaptation planning and implementation.   We help integrate climate risk and adaptation concerns into national development planning, from Cambodia to Zambia and in collaboration with the World Bank and other partners. 

UN agencies also leverage large amounts of financing for technical assistance in adaptation, focusing support in particular on least developed countries and small island developing states. We also support community-based adaptation activities, such as crop diversification and conservation farming in drought-prone areas. We help strengthen early warning, risk reduction and preparedness systems for weather-related natural disasters.

• Second, we facilitate broad based partnerships for adaptation.  This is critical given both the enormity of the challenge and the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of climate change which need to be addressed.

For example with generous funding from Japan, UNDP has partnered with UNICEF, UNIDO, and the World Food Programme to strengthen the capacity of more than twenty African countries to adapt to climate change. In close collaboration with UNEP, FAO, WHO and others, UNDP is also supporting many other developing countries to implement adaptation activities with funds from the Global Environment Facility. Through an innovative partnership with the Alliance of Religions and Conservation, we are also bringing together religious leaders and faith-based organizations to produce long-term plans to address future climate risks.

• Third, we foster continued knowledge sharing and learning among stakeholders.  Adaptation efforts need to be evidence-based and build on best practice.  Several UN inter-agency knowledge networks bring together national and regional stakeholders, including governments, the scientific community, and civil society to share experiences and lessons from adaptation related decision-making.

• Fourth, we support integrated data collection and analysis. For instance, the Global Framework for Climate Services, endorsed by the Third World Climate Conference in September, is reviewing the effectiveness of existing mechanisms to ensure that climate information is reflected in national planning. This is essential to help target resources at the regional and national levels to where they are needed most to manage climate risk and protect development.

Now we need to build on, and further strengthen, our adaptation actions, in support of developing countries.

The more coherent and co-ordinated we are, the better we can support comprehensive government-led and -owned responses to climate change.  Tackling climate change adequately requires all arms of government, at all levels, working together.

The window for action on climate change is fast closing. Adapting now to the impacts of climate change is vital to help bring about lasting improvements in the lives of poor and vulnerable people around the world.


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