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Climate Justice for a Changing Planet: Climate and Development Goals: Is there need for a post-Copenhagen Framework?

- Richard Sherman

One of the key challenges for the Copenhagen Outcome is how to integrate the development context of climate change. In recent months we have seen issues such as water, agriculture and gender featuring more prominently in the negotiations. While this is welcomed, one must surely wonder why it has taken so long for these issues to feature on the climate stage. Furthermore, the current negotiating text merely references the important relationship between development and climate change, and currently lacks specific details to mobilize the development and climate communities. The challenge is not only to integrate development issues into the climate debate, which most countries are happy to elude towards, but to craft a climate and development framework that can mobilize international, regional and national action towards a set of goals and targets which are aligned with the existing global development agenda.

Jan Vandemoortele, one of the architects of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), described the MDGs as being “tremendously successful in galvanizing political leaders, civil society organizations, private sector actors, the media and donors in the pursuit of human development. The conceivers of the MDGs never expected the support to spread so wide and so deep.” He also stated that the “MDGs were not conceived as a comprehensive or near-perfect expression of the complexity of human development. Rather, they offer a version of it that can be easily understood by a general audience.” For example, between 17-19 October 2009, more than 100 million people mobilized under the slogan ‘Stand Up-Take Action’ to demand that world leaders do not use the financial crisis as an excuse for breaking the promises they made to achieve the MDGs. Herein lies the argument for a set of complementary climate and development goals. At a time when climate change is dominating the global multilateral landscape and citizens around the world are making climate change an electioneering issue, there is an urgent need for a set of goals and targets that can be easily understood and can translate the technical climate negotiations into a powerful force to mobilize international and national action.

Climate Justice for a Changing Planet

This December, NGLS will release Climate Justice for a Changing Planet: A Primer for Policy Makers and NGOs.

In an effort to further highlight the issue and to develop further understanding of the concept, NGLS has launched a weekly series of guest articles and interviews with climate justice experts and advocates.

The first installment came from Nick Dearden and Tim Jones on the notion of climate debt:

Go to the article

Much has already been written about how climate change will impact on the achievement of the MDGs, however, less has been said about how climate actions can complement the development agenda, and even less mentioned regarding the option of an indicative set of goals of targets, enumerated, specifically, to ensure that climate actions support global development. Without drawing attention away from the important task that lies ahead in Copenhagen, is it time to begin a discussion on how the intergovernmental community and stakeholders could frame a comprehensive set of indicative climate development goals and targets?

Take for example, the issue of increasing financing for research and development in low carbon technologies. In the 2005 UN World Summit Outcome Document, Member States agreed to “promote innovation, clean energy and energy efficiency and conservation; improve policy, regulatory and financing frameworks; and accelerate the deployment of cleaner technologies (UNGA WS2005. Para 55 (a)).” Furthermore, the impetus for a transition to a low-carbon society has been recognized and specific goals agreed to in a number of other multilateral fora, such as the International Labour Organization’s 2009 Global Jobs Pact, which called for “shifting to a low-carbon, environment-friendly economy that helps accelerate the jobs recovery, reduce social gaps and support development goals and realize decent work in the process (ILO Global Jobs Pact, Para 21 (3).” However, these stated objectives will remain ambiguous until we reach a point where specific action-oriented targets have been developed to firstly mobilize action for the goal, and secondly, to monitor progress towards its achievement. The 2009 MDG Gap Task Force stated that the world invests “barely US$2 per person per year in energy-related research, development and deployment activities. This needs to increase by a factor of 2 to 3 in order to enable the transition towards new and advanced technologies in energy systems.” So instead of ambiguously stated language calling for increased investments in low carbon technologies, would it not be more effective to frame issues in a manner which responds to the figures presented by the MDG Gap Task Force, such as a climate and development goal that states “to increase financing for research and development in clean and low-carbon technologies to US$6 per person per year by 2020.” Following the approach with the MDGs, this would then be complemented by a set of measurable indicators to benchmark global and national progress.

At present the most articulate set of climate and development goals have emerged from the disaster risk reduction community. The UN Secretary-General has already proposed the goal to “halve the losses of lives from disasters annually from 2015, when the term of the Hyogo Framework for Action ends.” Complementing the Secretary-General’s views, a number of targets were proposed and adopted under the Second Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction. Under the Platform, targets were proposed for undertaking national risk assessments, municipal disaster recovery plans, early warning systems, water risks, and the enforcement of building codes. In addition, the Platform identified other targets, namely that: “ a minimum of 30% of the adaptation finance available to developing countries should be applied to weather- and climate-related risk reduction projects;” and “by 2015, all major cities in disaster-prone areas should include and enforce disaster risk reduction measures in their building and land use codes.” In addition, targets have also emerged out of the 2008-2009 World Disaster Reduction Campaign on Hospital Safe from Disasters, including that: “by 2011 national assessments of the safety of existing education and health facilities should be undertaken, and that by 2015 concrete action plans for safer schools and hospitals should be developed and implemented in all disaster prone countries. Similarly, disaster risk reduction should be included in all school curricula by the same year.”

In relation to the “missing MDG”-energy- further attention needs to be accorded to elaborating a set of global goals to spur concerted international action. The 2007/2008 UN Development Programme’s HDR report and 2009 World Economic Social Survey have already raised the profile and proposed an indicative set of energy-related targets, namely:

1. develop international cooperation to enhance access to modern energy services and reduce dependence on biomass, the primary source of energy for about 2.5 billion people;
2. create an enabling environment for renewable energy through ‘feed-in’ tariffs and market regulation, with a 20 percent target by 2020 in renewable power generation;
3. increase energy efficiency through regulatory standards for appliances and buildings; and
4. reduce CO2 emissions from transport through stronger fuel efficiency standards in the European Union, with a target of 120g CO2/km by 2012 and 80g CO2/km by 2020, and more stringent Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards (CAFE) in the United States with the introduction of taxation of aviation.

A key element for the successful outcome of Copenhagen will be securing a deal on climate financing. At the present moment the approach is to negotiate global finance targets, however, if we examine the UN Development Programme’s HDR report, we will find a number of clearly enumerated poverty and climate-related finance goals, namely:

1. at least US$40 billion will be needed by 2015 to strengthen national strategies for poverty reduction in the face of climate change risks;
2. by 2015 at least US$44 billion will be required annually for ‘climate proofing’ development investments (2005 prices);
3. provide at least US$86 billion in ‘new and additional’ finance for adaptation through transfers from rich to poor by 2016 to protect progress towards the MDGs and prevent post-2015 reversals in human development; and
4. expand multilateral provisions for responding to climate-related humanitarian emergencies and supporting post-disaster recovery to build future resilience, with US$2 billion in financing by 2016, under arrangements such as the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund and the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery.

However, before the international community can move forward on an MDG-type approach for climate and development, negotiators at Copenhagen must first agree on the most important of all targets –“to reduce developed country emissions, by 2020, of at least 40 per cent below 1990 levels, and, by 2050, by between 80 and 95 per cent below those levels.” Without such an agreement, the option of a set of climate and development goals will easily be misconstrued as an attempt to bypass intergovernmental agreement, and could be manipulated by forces unwilling to support legally binding international action. Second, assuming that there is agreement in Copenhagen, the UN system, working under the Chief Executive’s Board for Coordination, should initiate work on an indicative set of climate and development goals, in coordination with the UN Environment Programme’s work on developing a comprehensive framework of already agreed set of intergovernmental global environmental goals. This work could serve as an important contribution to the expected 2012 UN High Level Event on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), as well as discussions on how to take the existing MDGs beyond 2015.

Richard Sherman is the Programme Manager for IISD’s Africa Regional Coverage Project and an advisor to Stakeholder Forum for our Common Future. He writes in his personal capacity.


ILO.2009. Global Jobs Pact; Internet: http://www.ilo.org/public/libdoc/il...
UNDP. 2008. Fighting Climate Change: Human Solidarity in a Divided World, Human Development Report 2007/2008; Internet: http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR_20...
UN.2005. World Summit Outcome Document; Internet: http://www.who.int/hiv/universalacc...
UN.2009. Millennium Development Goal 8, Strengthening the Global Partnership for Development in a Time of Crisis, MDG Gap Task Force Report; Internet: http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/p...
UN.2009. World Economic and Social Survey: Promoting Development, Saving the Planet; Internet: http://www.un.org/esa/policy/wess/w...
UNISDR. 2009. Second Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction; Internet: http://www.preventionweb.net/global...
Vandemoortele, J. 2009. Taking the MDGs Beyond 2015: Hasten Slowly, May, Internet: http://www.eadi.org/fileadmin/MDG_2...

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