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“Global yet equitable: Combating climate change, enabling development,” a new report from German stakeholders

14 December 2010

Michael Reder

Climate and development policy have reached an impasse. The international community’s political efforts are not even close to producing adequate responses to these momentous challenges. One important aspect is to bring together climate change mitigation and development policy.

This has prompted four different partners to join forces: Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the Institute for Social and Development Studies in Munich, Misereor – the German Catholic Bishops’ Organisation for Development Cooperation, and the Munich Re Foundation. Together, they released the report this year, Global aber Gerecht: Klimawandel bekämpfen, Entwicklung ermöglichen.

In this project, the scientific community, development cooperation practitioners and the insurance industry worked collaboratively on the basis of scientific facts and reached a consensus on common positions and demands.

At the same time, all four partners embarked on a dialogue with those at the heart of this debate – the people directly affected, often the poor, in the countries of the global south.

Climate change will cause shifts in regional climatic conditions and a series of grievous impacts. The consequences of a global rise in temperature exceeding 2°C will, in all probability, have massive consequences for many people alive today as well as in the future. Especially in poorer regions of the world, this could make it impossible to adapt to the changes successfully. Therefore, the target of limiting warming of the climate to no more than 2°C is a persuasive orientation point for future climate policy.

From an ethical perspective, it is important to be mindful that the worldwide distribution of harmful climate impacts is inequitable. Even now, and all the more in the future, those who are worst equipped to adapt to the impacts will be hardest hit (life situations, regions with extreme climate).

Considered in historical terms, growing affluence has always been very closely linked with high CO2 emissions. Without fossil energy sources, forget prosperity! Quite rightly, newly-industrialised countries fear that a drastic climate policy would constrain their scope for economic growth. Therefore, it is unjustifiable to demand that developing countries lower their CO2 emissions and forego economic growth, while this remains a precondition for the fight against poverty.

At the other extreme, catch-up development, where all the developing and newly-industrialised countries emulate the energy-hungry, emissions-intensive economic model of the global north, is no solution because it would unleash unrestrained climate change with unpredictable consequences for humans and nature.

Thus, all countries must step up their energy efficiency and switch to low-carbon energy generation as quickly as possible.

In view of the manifold linkages between global poverty and the impacts of climate change, an integrated vision is indispensable. On this basis, a new era of global cooperation needs to begin.

Michael Reder

Taking human rights as a starting point, three dimensions of justice can be identified: the satisfaction of basic needs, the aspiration towards equal opportunities, and fair processes. The industrialised countries have a special responsibility in this regard; not so much because they have caused disproportionately more greenhouse gas emissions in the past, but because they have the financial, economic and technical capacities and the necessary political influence that are so vital in order to solve these problems.

The financial and technical challenges of climate change mitigation, adaptation and development can be overcome collectively. However, this requires the international community to demonstrate the requisite political will and to coordinate its various measures. Any such Global Deal must consist of five pillars:

  • Capping, allocation and trading of CO2 emissions allowances
  • Sustainable use of forests
  • Promotion and transfer of climate-smart technologies
  • International support for adaptation
  • Strengthening of development policy

The realisation of the Global Deal is reliant on political leadership and a broad alliance of forces in society. Only then can a new era of international cooperation be heralded. The Global Deal can serve as a route map for creating the necessary institutional preconditions and for sharing out the unavoidable burdens as fairly and equitably as possible.

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