GLOBE COP21 Legislators Summit

Dec 4, 2015

Many thanks for inviting me to this GLOBE COP21 Legislators Summit, held at this critical time for finalising a new global climate agreement. 

This new agreement when reached, as I fervently hope it will be, is the culmination of one of four major UN processes related to development this year. The others are:

•    The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction;
•    The Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development; and
•    Agenda 2030 and the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Together these set the global sustainable development agenda for a generation and beyond. If implemented, they will ensure that we bequeath a sustainable world to future generations.

These four big agendas are interlinked – and we need coherent and co-ordinated action across them. So I am delighted that the focus of this Legislators’ Summit is on exactly that. Legislators are uniquely placed to support such action in the  roles they play on the scrutiny and passage of legislation, the scrutiny of executive policies and their implementation, and their power to approve state budgets.

At UNDP, we see climate change as one of the greatest threats to human development. It is a serious form of environmental degradation with huge impacts on biodiversity, and on water availability and quality and other ecosystem services. It threatens more severe, more frequent, and more costly natural disasters. All this impacts on people and their prospects – and it impacts the most on the poorest and most vulnerable people, communities, and countries.

The new global agenda, Agenda 2030 and the SDGs, consciously links people and planet. Financing for development must leverage funding from across all streams of finance – public, philanthropic and private, and developmental and environmental. The disaster risk reduction agenda from Sendai is well referenced in the SDGs, and climate change has its own dedicated SDG 13. Now a new global climate agreement must link into all these other agendas to produce one major push for inclusive, sustainable, and resilient development.

Let me now elaborate on these themes.

Climate change is a key development issue which demands urgent action

For UNDP, which works to support climate change action in more than 140 countries, the links between climate change and development are clear. In recent years, the challenge which increasing climate impacts pose to sustainable development has become very obvious, and the science is in our view irrefutable.

Small Island Developing States see the encroachment of sea water on their lands and ground water, and are threatened by more intense storms, as we have seen this year in Vanuatu, Bahamas, and Dominica. In drought-prone regions, like the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, food insecurity and poor harvests become more frequent.  Many cities feel the impacts in more migration from climate-stressed regions, and in public services and infrastructure under pressure. More people are living in urban locations exposed to natural hazards like flooding or seismic events.  

Climate change and the increasing incidence and scale of disasters, including small-scale yet recurrent localized events, are thus recognized as fundamental threats to human development. Over the past decade, more than eighty per cent of disaster events have been climate-related, and processes associated with climate change are lifting disaster risk to new levels. Increasing exposure and vulnerability triggered by climate change are challenging the sustainability of key socio-economic development sectors.

At the same time, problems like deforestation, forest degradation, and unsustainable energy practices are increasing greenhouse gas emissions and further exacerbating the climate change challenge.  Likewise, failure to invest in low carbon development locks countries into unsustainable, high emission, development pathways and misses the economic opportunities which low carbon, climate-resilient growth presents. 

Whilst these challenges exist, they should not overshadow the fact that there are many known climate action solutions which can be accelerated in the post-2015 period – if we capitalise on the synergies across this year’s big agendas and pursue implementation aggressively. That really would transform our world – as Agenda 2030 exhorts us to do.

An integrated approach is essential for successful implementation of all the post-2015 agendas – across climate action, disaster risk reduction, sustainable development, and financing for development. 

We must maximize the synergies between the 2015 frameworks, ensuring that action under each agreement and framework at the global, national, and subnational levels complements the other, and is not pursued in silos. That way countries can develop comprehensive and integrated approaches to climate and development, and to human and sustainable development. This is essential for ensuring that countries are able to reap co-benefits from implementing the frameworks in tandem. Indeed win-win approaches for people and planet must be designed and pursued. 

UNDP is promoting a risk-informed approach to human and sustainable development which integrates solutions for climate change adaptation and mitigation with effective disaster risk reduction through comprehensive risk management programmes. 

Last year, UNDP worked directly with 43 countries  on the climate actions to be included in their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). We worked to ensure that these commitments build on local and national development objectives, plans, and strategies, and that they are realistic, appropriate for their context, and actionable. Implementation of the INDCs will be an important driver of sustainable development, including of achieving the SDGs.

But commitments, agendas and goals amount to nothing without means of implementation. All countries – large and small – will need to be able to mobilize the financing they need to reach their ambition. Synergies must be forged between climate and broader environmental financing streams and development finance. One source of finance does not substitute for another. Official Development Assistance (ODA) remains essential for many countries, particularly for LDCs, LLDCs, SIDS, and others in special development situations. The challenge is to ensure that the different sources of finance complement and reinforce each other. 

Understanding the role for legislators in more effective governance for sustainable development and climate action

Let me reaffirm the important role of legislators in supporting integrated approaches to implementation across the big agendas agreed in 2015. 

UNDP works closely with parliaments in around seventy countries to build capacities, including for the empowerment of legislators to be active on implementation of Agenda 2030 and other global agendas.  In 2011 we began a partnership with the Climate Parliament NGO, and have seen exciting initiatives taken by legislators associated with that initiative.  For example: 

•    In India, MPs pushed with considerable success for government to create a more favorable climate for investment in renewable energy. 

•    In Senegal, the cross-party group formed with support from the project helped to build support for the new renewable energy law, and for tax changes to support renewable investments.  

•    In Tunisia, the cross-party climate group had notable successes, including initiating Article 44 of the new Constitution, which obliges the State to guarantee a sound climate and the “right to a sound and balanced environment”, and to “provide the necessary means to eliminate environmental pollution”. This was followed by the successful enactment of a basic law to encourage renewable energy, in the face of fierce opposition from the old vertically integrated state energy monopoly, STEG.

•    In Morocco, the Parliamentary Action on Renewable Energy (PARE) cross-party group originated and pursued concrete policy proposals to improve the investment regime for renewables. They pressed for a reduction in the fossil fuels subsidy, more funding for research and development, expanding the remit of the National Economic and Social Council to include environmental matters, creating a dedicated national regulatory agency for renewable electricity, and reducing the added value tax on solar energy component parts. 

Now in collaboration with the World Bank, UNDP has recently expanded the AGORA online knowledge platform on parliamentary development to include information on climate issues.  At www.agora-parl.org/climate, you will find:
•    a portal to support parliaments in tackling climate change and energy issues;
•    a toolkit to facilitate trainings on climate change and energy for MPs; and
•    an online course on climate change, which explores how parliaments can take more effective and responsive action on climate change by strengthening their engagement with civil society.

Empowering MPs to work effectively on renewable energy has been an important aspect of the convergence of UNDP programming on governance and climate change.  Another area for such attention will be disaster risk governance.  We see this as fundamental for reducing and managing disaster risks, and as a central element in locking in progress on the SDGs.

The kind of legislative work to which I have referred, like forming cross-party groups, working in partnerships, developing laws and strategies on climate change, and pursuing their application and enforcement, is work consistent with GLOBE’s approach. It’s vital to ensure that legislators across developed and developing countries can play their full part in implementation of the big and interlinked agendas of 2015.

Let me say in closing that these big agendas launched in 2015 will all succeed if we find the synergies between them and act to pursue them simultaneously. Legislators’ support for that will be critical.

UNDP Around the world