UNDP welcomes Davos emphasis on climate change

29 Jan 2009

As world leaders gather for the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2009 in Davos to discuss a range of pressing global issues, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) welcomes the emphasis being placed on addressing climate change at this year’s meeting. This is especially reflected in today’s “Shaping an Opportunity Out of Crisis” message on climate change issued to the participants in the Davos meeting. This text, signed by a prestigious group of global leaders on the issue, rightly emphasizes that few other challenges are as serious for the future of humanity as climate change.

While there is uncertainty as to how fast all of the climate-related processes will unfold, inertia in greenhouse gases concentrations and complex feedback mechanisms in climate systems imply they are not easy to reverse, and may even be irreversible. The science is warning us that if action is not taken immediately, the impacts of climate change could be devastating.

At the same time, it is known with certainty that climate change will have a more immediate and severe effect on many of the poorest people in the world.  Our concern for development and poverty reduction, as captured in the Millennium Development Goals, dictates that we cannot ignore this urgency and we must help those affected adapt.

It is clear that measures to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change need urgent attention. The basic direction of where the world needs to go from here is also very clear. There is a need to stabilize our climate consistent with the science, which means making deep cuts in greenhouse gases emissions over the next two or three decades, starting now. There is a need for financial, technological and institutional resources to help us reach these goals and transition to a low-carbon global economy.  And there is a need for unprecedented collaboration between a wide range of public and private and other partners to help make this happen.

The response to the current global economic crisis presents a unique opportunity to reinvigorate our response to climate change.  A significant portion of the fiscal stimulus packages to counter the crisis should be channeled to resource efficient and low carbon investments. Whereas a counter-cyclical fiscal impulse can jumpstart the process of transition towards low carbon economies, in the long-term there is a need for policies that ensure strong and predictable incentives and financing to mitigate climate change. Pricing carbon in a way that reflects the full social costs of emitting greenhouse gases as well as the benefits of opting for carbon-free technology should be a priority for long-term climate change mitigation policy.  

This calls for integrating climate change into strategies and policies aimed at promoting development.

To this end, UNDP has dramatically broadened its support for climate change in recent years. UNDP’s goal is to align human development and climate change management efforts by promoting mitigation and adaptation activities that do not slow down, but rather accelerate socio-economic progress. In response to many requests for support from countries, UNDP is helping to prepare decision-makers and legislators from developing countries for the complex and technical climate change policy challenges they are already facing, including supporting assessments of investment and financial flows for climate change in key sectors.  Among a range of other activities, UNDP also assists countries to undertake planning for climate disasters, to build early warning systems, and to supply farmers with climate resilient crops.