Derviş responds to IPCC Report on climate change

01 May 2007

United Nations Development Programme Administrator Kemal Derviş expressed support for the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, calling on governments, donors and development agencies to better recognize the existing capacities of the people and communities of the developing world to adapt to meet the challenges of global warming, and to bolster support to those most vulnerable to its damaging immediate effects.

New Horizons - “For many people in the developing world, particularly small island developing states and least-developed countries, climate change means drought, famine and the loss of their homes, land, or even their lives,” Derviş said. “These people have been coping ably with the variability of weather patterns for many years. Now, they face a challenge of adaptation they simply cannot deal with alone. With better support from their own governments and from their partners in development, they can and will deal with this challenge.”

The IPCC report, released on 7 April 2007 in Brussels, paints an unsettling picture of the advance of climate change—and its potential harm to the lives of millions. The assessment projects that many millions more people will be threatened by serious flooding every year by the latter part of this century, especially in densely populated, low-lying areas, where adaptive capacity is relatively low, and which already face other challenges such as tropical storms and local coastal subsidence. Indeed, the IPCC report highlights the particular vulnerability of small islands: With “very high confidence,” it concludes that sea-level rise is expected to exacerbate inundation, storm surge, erosion and other coastal hazards, threatening vital infrastructure, settlements and facilities that support the livelihoods of island communities.

Derviş echoed the report’s conclusion that sustainable development can reduce vulnerability to climate change, and that climate change could impede achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. “Wider distribution of sustainable forms of economic growth will be a powerful ally in our adaptation efforts. It is clear that as societies advance and become more prosperous, they become better able to cope with climate change. As we approach the halfway mark to the 2015 target for the Millennium Development Goals, this is yet another powerful motivation for us to redouble our efforts to foster sustainable development, and to achieve the Goals.”

The assessment states that vulnerability to climate change can be exacerbated by the presence of other stresses like “poverty and unequal access to resources, food insecurity, trends in economic globalization, conflict, and incidence of disease such as HIV/AIDS.” UNDP, which is focusing its annual global Human Development Report this year on climate change, can support governments’ response to this composite challenge by helping them weave climate-change adaptation integrally into their national development strategies, said Derviş: “Global warming can’t be looked at as an environmental issue anymore: It is undoubtedly a threat to human development as a whole. All development strategies must therefore account for climate-related risk.”

UNDP, the broader UN family, and their partners in development must themselves adapt to effectively address the challenge of climate change, Derviş said. “We need to do more, more effectively, to support poorer nations and people as they continue to adapt. As we continue the process of UN reform, we will all keep in mind the contents of the IPCC report, and what’s at stake in our work: The difference between prosperity and poverty for millions of people who are now suffering from the effects of climate change right now—people in places like Dira Dawa, Ethiopia, where more than 300 people died and 10,000 were made homeless by flash flooding last August induced by the region’s heaviest rains on record. Adaptation is a challenge for the development community, too. UNDP is ready to do its job effectively and efficiently to meet the challenge.”