Select Committee on International Development Third Report


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; and,
  • ensure that donors and developing countries address climate risk in the priority areas of food, access to water, health and management of coastal zones.

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Prepared 23 July 2002