Irreversible changes are occurring in our climate
as concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere rise.
Tackling this problem will require action on an unprecedented
scale. Measures to reduce emissions of
greenhouse gases must go hand in hand with efforts to adapt to
the impact of climate change. Despite a broad agreement on the
direction of climate change, most scientists acknowledge that
significant uncertainties remain. The precautionary principle
should underpin action.
Adaptation will be necessary to moderate adverse
impacts and maximise benefits. Developing countries are particularly
vulnerable and lack the capacity and resources to adapt. Poor
people are particularly vulnerable to climate change. The Department
for International Development (DFID), along with other donors,
needs to help build adaptive capacity in developing countries,
targeting the most vulnerable.
A well-established international process for dealing
with climate change exists but is dominated by the interests of
developed countries. It focuses mainly on mitigation and largely
ignores adaptation. Political differences have hampered progress.
Inequality between developed and developing countries has become
ingrained into the international process.
Environmental issues and poverty are closely linked.
They have to be tackled together. Meeting the Millennium Development
Goals requires polices that address climate change and ensure
sustainable development. Donor activities should be subject to
a climate impact assessment that assesses both the impact of climate
change on their programmes, and the impact of their programmes
on future climate risk.
A lack of policy integration has undermined action.
Policies in developing countries, including Poverty Reduction
Strategy Papers and National Strategies for Sustainable Development,
contain little that addresses climate risk. Unless developing
countries establish policies to deal with this risk, climate change
could undermine development. DFID does not have a policy on climate
change per se but sets it alongside several other environmental
issues. Its policies to reduce poverty, encourage growth and build
capacity will help to reduce vulnerability to climate change.
However, DFID needs to mainstream the issue through all its development
polices and ensure that the longer-term risks posed by climate
change do not lose out to short-term environmental priorities.
We conclude that there is a need to:
- ensure that climate change is on the agenda of
developing countries and donor agencies;
- promote flexible options that make good environmental
and economic sense in their own right;
- build human and institutional capacity, particularly
scientific capacity, in developing countries;
- reduce vulnerability to climate extremes;
- promote low carbon use and energy efficiency;
- ensure that donors and developing countries address
climate risk in the priority areas of food, access to water, health
and management of coastal zones.