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Climate Change

Time (GMT +00) 13:00 14:30
Saleemul Huq, Group Head, Climate Change, IIED
Farhana Yamin, Research Fellow, IDS
Cecilia Luttrell, Research Fellow, ODI
Camilla Toulmin
, Director, IIED

Simon Maxwell introduced the second meeting in this IDS, IIED and ODI joint series, stating that it represented a great opportunity for the three institutions to learn from each other.

Camilla Toulmin, in the chair, opened the meeting and introduced first speaker, Saleemul Huq, Group Head of Climate Change at IIED.

Saleemul Huq

1. Saleemul Huq gave an overview of the climate change debate, both past and present, with particular reference to:

(i) The nature and history of debate, from the first Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which increased awareness of the issues relating to climate change, to the second report calling for specific targets for reducing emissions and leading to the Kyoto Protocol. The third report at the turn of the century stated that some climate change is unavoidable, even if greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were to cease tomorrow. This requires a twin strategy - adaptation to changed climates and mitigation of further climate change through action now.

(ii) The impact the adaptation and mitigation agendas will have on developing countries. The adaptation agenda is particularly important for poor, as they are the most climate sensitive (even in developed countries, as evidenced by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina).

(iii) The growing importance of climate change to the development agenda. Research institutes were among the first to take on board CC issues in their work, but now a much wider spectrum of development stakeholders are engaging with the issue - DfID had a whole section on Climate Change in the 2006 White Paper, NGOs were very well represented at United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) Conference of the Parties (CoP) in Nairobi (November 2006) for the first time.

(iv) The pace at which developing countries themselves have taken on the CC agenda. Developing countries had previously viewed CC as a global, long-term issue. This perception is changing. The CoP being held in sub-Saharan Africa was very significant, with lots of African ministers attending and much media coverage.

2. Huq continued by outlining some of the challenges to be faced:

(i) How to meet the financial cost of adaptation to a changed climate.

(ii) How to reduce GHG emissions while meeting the aspirations for development of developing countries, in particular China, India and Brazil.

(iii) Kyoto Protocol currently covers period to 2012 and sets targets only for developed nations. Post 2012 target discussions are already underway, will be difficult to agree on what targets are for developing countries.

Farhana Yamin

3. Farhana Yamin from the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), presented some important background to the background Nairobi CoP, summarised discussions and issues arising and some areas of future developments:

(i) The G77 group of developing countries is the largest political grouping, encompassing diverse countries, political situations and strategies. This creates tensions - e.g. countries which are major fossil fuel producers have previously been obstructive to discussions. Holding the CoP in Africa is an achievement as it makes developing nations more central to the debate.

(ii) There is a growing realisation that CC is not a long-term, gradual problem - for example, papers being assessed for the next IPCC report are arguing that the window of opportunity for mitigation is 10 years or so.

(iii) There is an increased resolve from Kyoto Protocol signatories to carry on the efforts to meet targets and there is a recognition that the adaptation agenda was under-developed in the protocol.

(iv) Provision was made as part of the Kyoto Protocol for a review of its activities, which was to be carried out at the CoP. Despite tension as to how the review would be carried out, it was completed - another review will be held in 2008 and in the meantime countries will be able to make submissions on the scope and activities this should cover.

(v) Many countries are looking for re-engagement in climate change debates from 'laggard' nations (in particular, the US), before developing a framework for post-2012 activities and targets.

(vi) It was not expected that the CoP would set out a framework for future efforts to tackle CC. It was focused more on overcoming previous divisions between nations, both developed and developing (for example, US refusal to engage with Kyoto Protocol agenda, lack of attention from developed countries to desire of developing countries for adaptation assistance).

(vii) The pattern of negotiations on CC will be different in future: they won't have the same levels of timeframes and deadlines associated with previous climate change regimes. This is partly due to the interest in seeing what the position of the US becomes. This could be useful as it means that countries don't have to take formal positions but background discussions can continue to explore options for regimes that could be agreeable to all parties, including US and developing countries. These could form the basis for future discussions.

(viii) The press has discussed the 'glacial' pace of progress in CC at the CoP. It is important not to underestimate the amount of effort it has taken to not go backwards under the pressure of divisions. There was a lot more progress than appeared on the face of it.

Cecilia Luttrell

4. Cecilia Luttrell from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), presented ODI research that could provide lessons relevant to the CC debate, and thoughts on future research areas and challenges:

(i) Work in South Africa on the changing nature of risk and vulnerability for the poor has identified increasingly risk averse behaviour by farmers in reaction to increasing drought frequency (changing cropping patterns and investing less in inputs).

(ii) Work on the impacts of risk and shocks on international and regional prices, economic production and trade is raising questions on whether more protectionist trade policies in developed countries result from environmental issues and have trade-offs with raising growth and reducing poverty in developing countries in the short-, medium- or long term.

(iii) Governance issues concerned with water supply and management particularly where there are pronounced variations in the rainfall and major problems of access to water for the poor and marginalised.

(iv) Work on a 'rights-based approach' to flood management and climate change that examines commitments which are being made by governments to accept accountability to those who are increasingly at risk from flooding.

5. She continued by offering some views on links between the development and climate change agenda:

(i) CC is characterized by huge risks and uncertainties of impact, due to the global and long term effects. This is different to other pressures researched in development, such as market failure, political upheaval or other environmental stresses and may require a different response.

(ii) The physical impacts and implications of CC tend to lead to a technical starting point, which has resulted in a particularly limited frame to the development response. The initial dominance of a technical approach defining CC as a scientific problem is giving way to an increased focus on development.

(iii) Saleem's work has raised the need for the incorporation of 'climate proofing' into development planning. This concept is increasingly being mainstreamed into the debate, as shown by discussions at the CoP. On the other side, are development principles being mainstreamed enough into the debate surrounding climate change and the resulting policy and financing mechanism?

6. It is interesting, she noted, to consider whether the design and financing of responses to CC could draw on the new architecture of aid and principles for development financing (i.e. The Paris Declaration in 2005, which reflected agreement between more than 100 donors and developing countries).

7. She went on to question whether climate change mitigation efforts can ensure wider development benefits, despite this not being their primary objective. As an example, she cited the capital flows from the voluntary carbon forestry market (i.e. those outside of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)). These could benefit the developing world and provide new opportunities for growth and poverty reduction, but are they merely satisfying global concerns and commercial interests elsewhere?

8. She raised some further questions about what is institutionally realistic in addressing the CC issue:

(i) Bio-fuels and carbon forestry require land and raise questions concerning tenure, with increasing risks for the poor in absence of effective land administration (particularly the case in areas subject to customary claims).

(ii) How can opportunities for value addition to the 'raw material' at the developing country level be increased? The locations of service providers, (such as carbon investment funds, insurance brokers, legal and advisory services) are located almost exclusively in the north.

(iii) What form of international oversight (if any) should exist over standards (for example in 'self-regulated' voluntary carbon offset projects)? How can oversight be firmly rooted in legitimate national structures, respond to national needs and avoid manipulation of the debate away from a clear evidence basis?

(iv) Proposed solutions to CC that provide development benefits rely on strong national policies and procedures. For many countries such systems are not in place. How can mechanisms work effectively in countries which are known for severe governance problems?

9. In conclusion, she wondered whether solving the 'development' problem is a fundamental pre-requisite to addressing the 'climate change' problem, or can trends to address adaptation (increasing links being made between environment and security, moves to integrate trade and environment institutions) be used to solve wider development problems?


10. Points covered in the discussion included:

(i) The links between development and whether people at the meeting see themselves as primarily development or CC-focused. Most were development-focused.

(ii) The importance of getting agreement on the price of carbon to incorporating CC into development research. The CDM and other mechanisms do offer approximations of costs of carbon (or the cost of not using units of carbon).

(iii) The strength and innovation in the CC regime with targets, regular assessment and holds people to account - all of which could be used more in the development community.

(iv) How to resolve the challenge that climate change offers to approaches to development (e.g. attitudes to growth). This is being worked upon, as shown by China, which has one of the most ambitious renewable energy programmes in the world, and Brazil's use of ethanol. Any response to climate change through an international framework must be responsive to individual country needs. It will have to be a complicated and flexible system.

(v) The opportunity that responding to climate change offers the developing world in using technology, transport and spatial planning better suited to the modern world without locking it into technologies so prevalent in the developed and difficult to wean people off.


This event gave an overview of the climate change debate, looked forward to the Nairobi Conference of the Parties (CoP) and looked at future research areas and challenges.