• Climate change has emerged as one of the major threats to development
  • To preserve human development gains, we must ensure that adaptation is a priority
  • Leadership on climate action is needed from all governments

Climate change has emerged as one of the major threats – some would say the major threat – to development. Fundamental transformations in the way the world lives, works, and does business are needed for building the low carbon, climate resilient, green and inclusive economies and societies needed to secure our common future. People are the ultimate beneficiaries of sustainable development, but our well-being can only be secured if the planet on which we all depend is itself healthy. This is the context for the negotiations in Paris at COP21. Everyone on our planet has a stake in this summit succeeding.

Sometimes our dependence on our planet’s ecosystems is oversimplified. It is not only those living directly off the land or from forests who are dependent on the health of ecosystems, critical as their needs are – we all are dependent on ecosystem health.

The current world population of 7.3 billion is forecast to reach 9.7 billion in the next 35 years. Unless we change how we govern and use the world’s resources, we will further threaten the health of the planet which gives us food, nutrition, clean air, and water.

The climate challenge

More severe and frequent climate events are being experienced around the world. To preserve human development gains, we must ensure that adaptation to what is already happening is a priority, alongside mitigation to avert the worst happening and ensure a more stable climate. This matters enormously to developing countries on the frontlines of climate change.

Leadership on climate action is needed from all governments. They can ensure, for example, that their policy and regulatory settings create environments which attract investment into renewable energy and other areas of mitigation. Such investments have the potential to create new jobs, support economic growth, and diversify energy sources.

From talk to action

This week’s conference follows closely on the heels of other major global development-related processes this year. In September, world leaders meeting at the United Nations in New York adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out global priorities for both people and planet, replacing the previous Millennium Development Goals. We also had the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan. If development isn’t risk informed, it won’t be sustainable. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda was adopted at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in July in Ethiopia – money may not be everything, but it does matter rather a lot in achieving development progress.

But finalising global agendas is one thing; implementing them is another. The good news is that our world has more wealth, more knowledge, and more technologies at its disposal than ever before. The challenges we face are mostly human induced. We can tackle them, but not if we keep doing business as usual and expecting different results.

Ours is the last generation which can head off the worst effects of climate change, and the first generation with the wealth and knowledge to eradicate poverty. If each and every one of us is prepared to step up to these challenges, then there’s a chance of achieving sustainable development – and thereby of transforming prospects for people and our planet.

 

FURTHER READING

  • Temperatures rising. The World Bank Group has recognised the importance of addressing climate change to achieve its development objectives. Here, one of its directors, James Close, tells us more about its approach
  • Measure for measure. Melanie Walker explains how overseeing the World Bank Group’s delivery unit is underpinned by the aim to free a billion people from the grip of extreme poverty
  • Open data: unlocking development potential in Africa and Asia. Dr Savita Bailur sets out how open data can empower ordinary people to participate in development
  • Striving for scale. Clean water, deworming a whole community – Evidence Action is leading the charge to deliver evidence-based development interventions, says Alix Zwane
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