Helen Clark: Speech at ‘Underlining the link between Climate and Development and Identifying Practical Solutions for Both’

Sep 29, 2015

It is a great pleasure to join you today to open this important event on the fundamentals links between climate and development and identifying practical solutions for both.

UNDP is pleased to be a co-organizer of this event with the Governments of Liberia, Norway, and the Centre for Global Development.

We all know what a huge year this is for sustainable development. With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) last week, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development two months ago, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction in March, world leaders have set ambitious, transformational goals for development.

Attention is now turning toward the Paris Climate Change Conference, where a global agreement on climate change is to be reached in December. Without doubt, success in all the major global agreements reached this year will depend on how well we mitigate and adapt to climate change.

At UNDP, in our work around the world, we have seen the devastating impact that climate change can have on people and communities, in particular the poorest and most vulnerable.

For those people who live in Small Island Developing States (SIDS), this is seen in the slow encroachment of sea water into agricultural lands and the threat of intense storms, as we recently witnessed in Vanuatu. For agricultural communities in drought-prone regions of Africa, this is seen in food-insecurity and increased vulnerability to shock; and for cities globally, this is seen in mass migration, strained social services and the constant threat of natural hazards.

At the same time, deforestation and unsustainable energy practices are increasing greenhouse gas emissions and further exacerbating these challenges.

At UNDP we say: “if it isn’t risk-informed, it isn’t sustainable development”. Any development that is undertaken without sufficient consideration of the possible long-term risks is not sustainable. That applies equally to the impacts of climate change and to the risks associated with unmitigated greenhouse gas emissions.

Without efforts to avoid crossing the critical threshold of a 2°C of temperature rise above pre-industrial levels, we risk ever stronger storms, higher sea level rise, further mass migration and widespread disruption to economic and social development.

Clearly, more needs to be done; but thankfully momentum is building.

The common thread emerging from these global agreements is that we can no longer tolerate ‘business as usual’. We need to adapt to the changes in our world and we need to revisit how we plan, finance and implement development goals.

Our session today asks the question of how we can tackle climate change while also fostering sustainable development. I would like to make four recommendations which I hope will be addressed in more detail during the discussion.

First, integrate climate concerns into all development policy and planning instruments. The Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which are at the heart of the 2015 climate agreement should be embedded in national development plans and actions.

UNDP is working closely with national partners as they prepare and finalize their INDCs. In doing so, we are working to ensure that these commitments build on local and national development objectives, and that they are realistic, contextually appropriate and actionable.

Second, we need bring strong focus on both mitigating and adapting to climate change. Climate change impacts are already being felt around the world. To preserve development gains, we must ensure that adaptation is a priority alongside mitigation. This matters enormously to developing countries on frontlines of climate change.

UNDP continues to work on both climate change adaptation and mitigation. In the Sahel, for example, we are working with local farmers to diversify crops to drought-resistant varieties and to strengthen water conservation; meanwhile in Uruguay we have worked with the Government to expand investments in renewable energy, helping to set off a wind energy boom in that country.

Third, we must reduce deforestation and forest degradation to enhance absorption of carbon dioxide and protect the natural environment which many people rely on for their livelihoods. The successful implementation of measures to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation through efforts like REDD+ will not only contribute to global climate change mitigation, but also provide a range of other benefits for development—by creating jobs, protecting against disasters, conserving biodiversity and ensuring water and soil regulation. This is a win for both development and climate change action.

Finally, we need to ensure access to adequate, stable, and sustainable financing for climate and development efforts. We all know that this year’s agreements will remain mere words on paper unless they are implemented. Ensuring that finance is available to support developing countries in the post-Paris ‘era of implementation’ is essential.
The eradication of poverty requires that we restore and maintain the integrity of our ecosystems, keep global temperatures in check and support people and communities as they become more resilient.

We cannot address these global challenges in silos. I hope that the discussions today will contribute to connecting the dots and tackling these integrated challenges in an equally integrated manner.

The processes and agreements this year have given us the roadmap and the tools. It is now our responsibility to turn them into action on the ground toward achieving a low-emission and climate-resilient future which is inclusive and sustainable for all. UNDP is fully committed to play its part and we look forward to working with our partners to that end. 

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