The threat of devastating climate change should global temperatures rise more than 2°C would undermine all other efforts to eradicate poverty and ensure a safe and productive world for this and future generations. Currently, global negotiations on climate change have been pushed solely towards the UNFCCC process and expected agreement at the COP21 event in Paris in December. However, to truly achieve sustainable development, action on mitigating and adapting to climate change must be mainstreamed across all proposed Sustainable Development Goals and the implementation of the recently agreed Hyogo Framework for Action on Disaster Risk Reduction too.
Integrating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions with other social and environmental objectives has the potential to bring about many other multifaceted development co-benefits, including health, nutrition, reduction of disaster risks, improved ecosystems, and economic development.
- Ending hunger and promoting sustainable agriculture
Climate and poverty are the two dominant causal factors in food insecurity in southern Africa, and across the continent climate change is projected to contribute to declining nutrition: the number of under-nourished children under five years of age is projected to rise from around 5 million to around 52 million by 2050, due to climate change and other socio-economic factors. Tropical and sub-tropical countries are set to experience the worst losses and they also have some of the highest poverty rates, meaning their communities are the least able to cope.
The existing SDG target on strengthening ‘capacity for adaptation to climate change’ to create resilient agriculture is welcome, but the framework also needs to address the impacts climate change is already having. Policy makers need to recognise and address these issues and ensure the Global North meets its mitigation commitments and addresses the causes of climate change; and the Global South improves its agricultural productivity through better use of existing capacity and resources, including smallholder farmers, so they benefit from agriculture and adapt to changing climates whilst contributing to national food security.
- Resilient cities
Rapid urbanisation, especially in the global South, presents many challenges to climate resilience. Urban poverty is likely to be made worse by the impacts of extreme weather events on housing, infrastructure and on food prices.
The SDG goal on Urban Development needs to incorporate clearer and more ambitious targets to promote adaptation to the substantial impacts climate change is already having on human settlements. Flood protection and relocation of vulnerable populations, even with a very small rise in global temperature, will be critical to the sustainability of cities and settlements. Urban development – infrastructure, building, consumption patterns and the transport sector – also plays a major role in generating GHG emissions, so the role of cities in mitigation should also be addressed in the goal.
- Reducing the risk of disasters
Climate change is rapidly exacerbating the risks posed by natural hazards, including floods, droughts and other extreme weather events. The impacts and losses associated with such disasters can set back development decades in affected communities, and can stymie any future development of those regions. We are calling on all governments to sufficiently finance actions on mitigating the risks of disasters and ensuring the poorest and most marginalised communities are able to build resilience to dynamic climatic conditions. Investments in disaster risk reduction can save up to 8 times the same value in post-disaster recovery. This includes sufficient additional financing of the nascent Green Climate Fund up to the agreed $100bn per anum investment.