This week, world leaders are meeting in New York to discuss climate change and the post-2015 development agenda (in separate forums). It’s time to take a step back and remember why these these two issues are being discussed now, but more importantly, how are they inherently interlinked. The following article was written for the Carbon Market Watch Newsletter “Watch This! NGO Voices on Carbon Markets”
Back to the basics:
The current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire next year and will be replaced by a new global development framework, built around a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Climate change poses a critical challenge to achieving the ambitious goals and targets already identified in the post-2015 agenda. Civil society groups around the world are advocating for the inclusion of climate change across the post-2015 framework to ensure that it puts us on a development pathway capable of minimizing both contributions to and impacts of climate change.
In September 2015 global leaders will take decisions affecting the lives of millions of people when they agree the framework that will replace the MDGs. The MDGs have shaped development policy and political agendas for the last 14 years, with some issues seeing real improvements, from reducing the number of people living on very low incomes, to increasing people’s access to medicines for HIV. However, results from other areas such as MDG7 on environmental sustainability have been disappointing. Currently, the international community and stakeholders around the world are engaged in a process to negotiate a new global framework to eradicate poverty through sustainable development: the post-2015 development agenda. This agenda will include an overall narrative and guiding principles, and a new set of global goals, target and indicators to incentivize and measure progress.
In order to achieve a truly transformative and successful post-2015 agenda, it must be built on principles of solidarity, equity, participation and environmental stewardship, and for a holistic approach to development that reflects changes in the global context. Over the past 15 years, the wellbeing of many people living in poverty has deteriorated as a result of processes that have displaced their livelihoods, severely impairing their ability to make a decent living.
Climate change currently poses the biggest challenge to development, with the potential to undermine the international community’s efforts to end poverty and achieve sustainable development. While emissions continue to rise at an alarming pace, the window of opportunity to tackle the problem is closing rapidly. To keep global warming below 2°C, emissions must peak soon and rapidly decline over the lifetime of the post-2015 framework (2015 – 2030). The post-2015 development agenda will be ineffective, even in the short term, if countries fail to accelerate their actions to address climate change. But the post-2015 framework can also become an important contributor to our collective response to climate change and help governments to articulate climate-smart development policies.
Currently, the Open Working Group report on proposed SDGs includes a standalone goal on climate change, and various climate-smart targets under other goal areas such as agriculture, poverty, and energy. However, in the upcoming intergovernmental negotiations, the climate goal will be under threat. In the past, Member States have argued that including climate in the post-2015 agenda risks confusion with the UNFCCC. Attempts to slim down the 17 proposed SDGs to an ‘implementable’ number may see governments argue that a climate change goal is unnecessary given the existence of the UNFCCC. But the post-2015 framework is a voluntary framework aimed at eradicating poverty, and cannot supplant the UNFCCC. Rather, political commitment to tackle climate change through the post-2015 framework could provide momentum for an ambitious, legally-binding climate deal at COP21. World leaders need to connect the dots and recognize that addressing climate change is not only essential for the success of a post-2015 development agenda, but that the new development agenda can lead to substantive climate action through action in important sectors such as energy, water, and agriculture, and ensuring cross-cutting development policies and projects are climate-smart.
The post-2015 process has seen a humble but progressively positive integration of climate action across the SDGs. But our role as civil society is to ensure that the current content remains and its ambition increases during the last phase of the negotiations in the run-up to a post-2015 agreement. CSOs and individuals working on environment, development and human rights issues play a crucial role now in pushing governments to connect the dots. We have the opportunity to ensure that the future sustainable development agenda becomes a powerful and truly transformative tool to tackle climate change, and that this agenda safeguards the rights, benefits and livelihoods of the poorest and most vulnerable people.