Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs


  Climate change is the result of unsustainable development and substantial cuts in greenhouse gas emissions will be needed to stabilise concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The Kyoto Protocol provides a framework for international action to tackle a global problem but it is only a first step. Developing countries, particularly the poorest and the most vulnerable people within those countries, will be the most severely affected by the adverse impacts of climate change. These impacts will exacerbate global problems such as drought, famine, disease, vulnerability, insecurity, and population displacements, and seriously impede poor countries' efforts to develop sustainably and tackle poverty. Without serious action to mitigate climate change and to integrate its consideration into all areas of policy, action to achieve the Millennium Development Goals will be in jeopardy. Whilst developing countries must have the right and opportunity to develop and developed countries must work in partnership with them to eliminate poverty, effective mitigation will—in due course—require action and participation by all countries, if the worst impacts of climate change are to be avoided


Climate Change and Sustainable Development

  1.1  The concept of sustainable development was first introduced in the IUCN/WWF/UNEP World Conservation Strategy of 1980. It proposed the preservation of nature from human exploitation by physical segregation of the seemingly conflicting goals of environmental sensitivity and economic growth. The World Commission on Environment and Development's 1987 Report, Our Common Future, sought to end this dichotomy through the marriage of environmental and developmental goals under a single definition. Sustainable development was formally defined as meeting "...the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs".

  1.2  The 1999 UK Government Sustainable Development Strategy interprets the 1987 Brundtland definition as "...ensuring a better quality of life for everyone, now and for generations to come" —which requires meeting four objectives at the same time, both in the UK and the world as a whole:

    —  social progress which recognises the needs of everybody;

    —  effective protection of the environment;

    —  prudent use of natural resources; and

    —  maintenance of high and stable levels of economic growth and employment.

  1.3  Although meeting economic, social and environmental objectives together should be the aim, conflicting impact—particularly in the short term—will arise. Where potential conflicts are identified, efforts should first be made to find creative solutions—including reviewing goals and re-evaluating options. Mitigation measures should be considered, eg compensation, substitution. Trade-offs should be a last resort but should always be made transparent and accessible. To ensure opportunities are grasped wherever possible, action to promote and integrate sustainable development in policy development and implementation is needed at all levels—global, national and local.

  1.4  At global level, problems such as climate change, poverty, migration and disease have become new challenges for the international community as they are too big for nationals to tackle alone. There is broad consensus that global solutions are needed to global problems—although this does not of course absolve individual countries and actors from taking appropriate action. The problem of climate change—which is the result of unsustainable development—requires co-ordinated action because of the nature and the scale of the problem and the difficult issues and judgements required to tackle it. For example, assessing the relative economic, social and environmental costs and benefits of the options for action, and the relative weight attached to the wellbeing of current generations compared to those of the future. Action to tackle climate change is intimately linked to achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, as without effective action on the former progress to reduce poverty and vulnerability will be jeopardised. The rate of climate change will bring more intense and unpredictable impacts that will be felt across the world. For example, sea-level rise threatens the existence of some small island states and puts millions of people at risk from flooding. Temperature increases, drought and flooding will affect people's health and way of life, and cause the irreversible loss of many species of plants and animals. The economic, human and environmental costs are likely to be large and could create political tension within and between countries, exacerbating regional instability.

DEFRA's Role and Responsibilities

  1.5  The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has lead policy responsibility within Whitehall for both climate change and sustainable development—but DFID clearly has a key role, interest and expertise in issues pertaining to sustainable development in developing countries. The Deputy Prime Minister also continues to play a role in international climate change discussions and negotiations on behalf of the Prime Minister. More recently, the Prime Minister has asked the Deputy Prime Minister to take on a similar role in preparation for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) to be held in Johannesburg in 2002.

  1.6  In developing policy and implementing initiatives, DEFRA works closely with a wide range of government departments and the devolved administrations. The UK Delegations that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs led during the international climate change negotiations in 2001 included officials from DEFRA, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Cabinet Office (CO), the Department for International Development (DFID), and the Scottish Executive. British High Commissions and Embassies also make an important contribution to the pursuit and attainment of the UK's goals through regularly communicating the views of local interlocutors on key issues to London-based officials and vice versa.

Structure of Memorandum

  1.7  The remainder of this memorandum is structured in six parts. The first section summarises the key scientific findings on climate change, describing the latest IPCC projections and their implications and the possible impacts of climate change on developing countries. The second section describes the policy response to this problem at three levels—international, European Union (EU) and the UK. Section four examines some of the main aspects of the Kyoto Protocol and associated decisions that are of relevance and interest to developing countries. The fifth section looks ahead to describe the next steps and future challenges, and the final section draws the preceding strands together.


The Third Assessment Report (TAR)[6]

  2.1  The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) TAR projected temperature rises, using a full range of socio-economic scenarios (1999), of 1.4-5.8ºC by 2100. Such rises in temperature and climate change will have widespread impacts that will be more severe the greater the temperature rise. Developing countries are especially vulnerable to climate change that will hinder their efforts to develop. A sustainable approach requires that greenhouse gas concentrations are stabilised in the atmosphere at a level which avoids dangerous climate change. For stabilisation to occur emissions will eventually have to drop well below current levels. However, it will be impossible to stabilise concentrations unless all countries including developing countries, eventually take on emission reduction or limitation targets.

  2.2  The TAR notes that, with regard to the climate system, "the basis for determining what constitutes `dangerous anthropogenic interference' will vary among regions—depending both on the local nature and consequences of climate change impacts, and also on the adaptive capacity available to cope with climate change—and depends upon mitigation capacity, since the magnitude and the rate of change are both important". Whilst there is as yet no internationally agreed limit on atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, the EU has indicated that a level lower than 550 ppm of CO2, which is about twice the pre-industrial concentration, should guide global limitation and reduction efforts. The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP) has also recommended that concentrations of 550 ppm should not be exceeded. This may be a useful interim guideline but it is not necessarily the final answer. The choice of an upper limit for carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is one for which there is no international consensus and indeed no clear scientific guideline.

  2.3  The TAR notes the range of temperatures that could result for different stabilisation levels. At 550 ppm the range is approximately 2.0-5.2ºC above 1990 levels depending on the sensitivity of the climate system to the additional radiative forcing due to CO2. This range poses difficulties in assessing the impacts of a particular stabilisation level. The scientific uncertainties are such that for low sensitivity relatively modest globally aggregated impacts may be found at 550 ppm, although there is still potential for significant local/sub-regional impacts. However, at high sensitivity there are considerable risks that significant damage could be experienced. The global aggregation of impacts is controversial as they treat gains for some as cancelling out losses for others and because the process requires considerable subjectivity.

  2.4  Assuming middle range climate sensitivity, mitigation costs show a fairly gradual increase down to stabilisation at 550 ppm but a significantly faster increase for lower stabilisation levels. Additionally the TAR makes a tentative assessment of the impacts of climate change that may be associated with different temperature levels.

Impacts on developing countries

  2.5  The IPCC's TAR confirms that:

    —  regional changes in climate, particularly increases in temperature, have already affected a diverse set of biological and physical systems in many parts of the world;

    —  projected impacts, including the impacts of future changes due to extreme climate events, tend to fall disproportionately on the poor;

    —  adverse changes in seasonal river flows, floods and droughts, food security, fisheries, health effects and loss of biodiversity are among the major regional vulnerabilities and concerns of Africa, Latin America and Asia where adaptation opportunities are generally low;

    —  those with the least resources have the least capacity to adapt and are the most vulnerable; and

    —  the majority of people will be adversely affected by climate change even for small increases in temperature. For example:

      —  increased risks to life, health and property from extreme events and potentially large-scale population displacements;

      —  increases in vector diseases such as malaria;

      —  widespread increases in flooding due to more extreme precipitation and sea level rise;

      —  more landslides and avalanches;

      —  reduced crop yields in the tropics;

      —  increase in crop yields in mid latitudes up to a few degrees of warming (about 2-3ºC) than reductions;

      —  increases and decreases in water availability in water scarce regions;

      —  some possible benefits in particular regions or sectors for small increases in temperature, eg reduced winter mortality due to reduced cold periods;

      —  climate change is likely to have increasingly negative impacts on GDP for developing countries at all temperature rises, with mixed effects on developed countries up to a few degrees and negative above.

  2.6  Advances in understanding of impacts and adaptation made since previous IPCC reports indicate a need for initiatives to begin designing adaptation strategies and building adaptive capacities. Further research is required, however, to strengthen future assessments and to reduce uncertainties in order to ensure that sufficient information is available for policymaking about responses to possible consequences of climate change, including research in and by developing countries.


The International Framework

  3.1  The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change entered into force in 1994. It represented the international community's initial response to the problem of climate change. The ultimate objective of the Convention is the "...stabilisation of greenhouse gases at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system" (although this level has yet to be agreed). Underlying this is the principle that countries should take action in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. Developed countries (known as Annex 1 countries) agreed to take the lead under the Convention, given their responsibility for the largest share of historic and current emissions. In line with this, they committed themselves to the aim of returning their emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000 and the UK was one of small number of countries that achieved this.

  3.2  The Convention established a framework for future co-operation and, in recognition that more demanding commitments were needed from developed countries than those under the Convention, Parties to agree a more ambitious Treaty in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol. Under the Kyoto Protocol, Annex 1 countries agreed to reduce their combined emissions of a basket of six greenhouse gases by a least 5 per cent compared to 1990 levels by 2008-12. The Protocol provides for three market mechanisms (described in paragraph 4.6) which allow developed countries to meet their commitments more cost-effectively by "buying" or generating emission reduction credits in other countries. Developed countries are also permitted to reduce credit towards their emissions targets through certain land use, land use change and forestry activities (also known as "sinks").

  3.3  The Protocol provided the framework for further international action but did not address the many detailed questions that needed to be worked out to facilitate the Protocol's implementation. In view of this, the international negotiations since 1997 have focussed on developing the necessary rules. They culminated with the adoption of a political agreement at the Sixth Conference of the Parties (COP6bis) in July 2001 ("the Bonn Agreement") on the framework giving effect to Kyoto, which was translated into legal decision texts ("the Marrakech Accords") at COP7 in November 2001. This deal was a tremendous political achievement. For the first time, there are clear and agreed rules governing how developed countries could take action to fulfil their emission reduction and limitation targets. The US's withdrawal from Kyoto (see paragraph 5.6) has reduced the reductions achievable under Kyoto. However, even without US participation, the effect of climate change policies of countries with such binding targets should be equivalent to a reduction of about 9 per cent in total developed country emissions below business as usual in 2010 (or almost 2 per cent if excess assigned amount units and sinks credits are stripped out of the calculation). More significantly, Kyoto's entry into force will put in place a global framework for future action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The European Union

  3.4  Under the Kyoto Protocol, the EU collectively agreed to cut the level of its greenhouse gas emissions by 8 per cent compared to 1990 levels by the end of the first commitment period (2008-12). This collective target was distributed between Member States under a burden-sharing agreement (under which Member States targets ranged from -21 per cent for Germany and Denmark to a limitation target of +27 per cent for Portugal).

  3.5  Negotiations within the EU on a number of issues crucial for taking forward the Community's work on climate change are currently ongoing. Specifically, discussions involve:

    —  A proposed EU Emissions Trading Directive—This would establish a Europe-wide emission trading scheme, which would be regulated through a permitting procedure setting limits on carbon dioxide emissions between 2005-07 initially.

    —  The European Climate Change Programme—This package of common and co-ordinated policies and measures will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the EU, and has been prepared in discussion with Member States and other stakeholders from business and NGOs.

    —  Council Decision on ratification of the Kyoto Protocol—This sets out the emission commitments agreed by Member States, and places an obligation on each to take the measures necessary to comply with their respective commitments.

  3.6  Through its development programmes, the EU is also seeking to assist developing countries tackle and adapt to climate change. Close co-operation will be required with other donors and multilateral institutions in taking forward this work and climate change considerations will need to be fully integrated in the EU's policy, and programme and project design cycles.

The UK

  3.7  Under the EU burden sharing agreement, the UK is committed to reducing its emissions of greenhouse gases by 12.5 per cent by 2008-12. However, the Government estimates that it could deliver a 23 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels by 2010, which is well beyond our Kyoto target. The UK's strategic approach to tackling climate change is set out in the UK's Climate Change Programme (CCP), published in November 2000. The programme focuses on practical action to reduce emissions over the next decade and contains a package of policies and measures covering all sectors of the economy. There is also a range of measures that cannot currently be quantified, for example, action by local authorities and public awareness programmes. The UK was one of the first countries to publish its Third National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change on 30 October 2001. The Communication provides an update on the substantial progress that has been by the Government with implementing the policies in the programme. Copies of both the CCP and Third National Communication can be found in the library of the House.

  3.8  In addition to the provision of assistance through the UK's bilateral development programme, the UK also supports research into climate change and its impacts on developing countries (see Annex A) and a range of projects through the joint DEFRA-FCO Climate Change Challenge Fund (see Annex B).

  3.9  Other relevant work that the Government is engaged in includes its Sustainable Energy Initiative to promote low carbon energy in developing countries following up the work done by the G8 on renewable energy and the establishment a Climate Change Projects Office (CCPO) in May 2001. The CCPO's aim is to facilitate and promote the participation of UK businesses in Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Joint Implementation (JI) projects, and to enhance UK industry's ability to capitalise on the significant anticipated commercial climate change opportunities.


Developing country commitments

  4.1  Although developing countries have not taken on legally binding emission targets, they have to have other obligations under the Framework Convention and the Kyoto Protocol. For example, under the deal that was reached in Marrakech, developing countries are required to publish national greenhouse gas emissions inventories, and to put in place national programmes containing measures to mitigate climate change. The Clean Development Mechanism (see paragraphs 4.6—4.11 below) provides an opportunity for developing countries to participate directly in projects to reduce emissions.

  4.2  In addition to reducing or limiting their greenhouse gas emissions, developed countries are also required to provide assistance to developing countries under the Convention and Protocol. For example, the UNFCCC requires developed countries to help particularly vulnerable developing countries meet the costs of adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change, to assist the transfer of environmentally sound technologies to developing countries and economies in transition, and to support capacity building. This approach recognises that it is essential that economies are allowed to grow and develop whilst providing assistance to developing countries which should ensure that their economies develop in a more sustainable way.


  4.3  In order to meet their commitments, developed countries agreed to provide new and additional financial resources to help developing countries meet their Convention obligations. The Bonn Agreement invited the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to establish three new funds to provide assistance to developing countries:

    —  Special Climate Change Fund—to finance activities to assist developing countries, including in the fields of adaptation and technology transfer.

    —  Least Developed Countries Fund—to support a work programme for least developed countries (LDCs), including the preparation and implementation of national adaptation programmes of action (NAPAs).

    —  Kyoto Protocol Adaptation Fund—to finance adaptation projects in developing countries that have become parties to the Kyoto Protocol. The fund will be financed in part by a share of the proceeds from the Clean Development Mechanism.

  4.4  In addition, the EU, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland made a joint political declaration at Bonn committing themselves to increase their climate change funding for developing countries to $410 million a year by 2005. Funding that will be counted towards this target includes: contributions to the Global Environment Facility (GEF) climate change-related activities; funding for the three new funds detailed above; and bilateral and multi-lateral funding that is additional to current levels.

Least Developed Countries

  4.5  In Marrakech, a number of decisions were agreed on issues of special significance to Least Developed Countries (LDC). The adoption of guidance on the operation of the LDC Fund should make it the first of the new funds agreed in Bonn to begin funding projects. The Seventh Conference of the Parties also agreed to the establishment of a special body to assist LDCs in adapting to the problem of climate change—the LDC Expert Group. This has particular significance, as no other groups were established representing any of the other special interests recognised under the Convention.

The Clean Development Mechanism

  4.6  To assist countries in meeting their Kyoto targets as cost effectively as possible, the Kyoto Protocol provides for three market mechanisms. The basic idea behind them is that the effect on the global environment of reducing or limiting emissions is the same wherever the emissions come from, so it is better to take action where the cost is lowest. The three mechanisms are:

    —  International Emissions Trading (IET)—Parties with targets under Kyoto can participate in international emissions trading or can authorise their legal entities to take part in international emissions trading. In order to meet their target, Parties (or their legal entities) can either make "in house" emission reductions (and can sell any reductions surplus to their requirements on the market) or they can buy tradable emission allowances as a way of meeting their targets.

    —  Joint Implementation (JI)—JI involves two Annex 1 countries with targets under Kyoto. Country A could invest in a project in country B that reduced the emissions of Country by x tonnes. Country B would then transfer x tonnes of its assigned amount units (ie units that correspond to its permitted level of emissions under Kyoto) to Country A. Transition countries are most likely to want to host JI projects.

    —  The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)—Like JI, the CDM is a project based mechanism. Parties can undertake emission reduction or avoidance projects in developing countries. These projects can generate Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs) that can be used by developed countries to meet their Kyoto targets.

  4.7  Of the three mechanisms, the CDM is the one of most interest to developing countries. The modalities and procedures for the CDM were adopted at COP7. Unlike IET and JI, the CDM has a dual purpose—to assist Annex 1 Parties meet their Kyoto targets and to assist developing countries in achieving sustainable development. Consistent with the latter objective, CDM project proposals may only be registered if the host country has confirmed that the project activity assists it in achieving sustainable development. The rules governing the CDM project cycle also require project developers to consult local stakeholders and to analyse the environmental impacts of their proposal and, if they are significant, undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment.

  4.8  The CDM is the only Kyoto mechanism to enjoy a "prompt start" which means that it is possible for projects starting from the year 2000 to generate Certified Emission Reductions. However, to be eligible, projects must be additional—ie result in a greater reduction (or avoidance) of GHG emission reductions than would have resulted from under the "business as usual"/without project scenario. Many developing countries hope that the CDM will help them to attract greater foreign direct investment. However, the amount of investment expected through the CDM has been adversely affected by the US's withdrawal from Kyoto in March 2001.

Equitable Distribution of CDM Projects

  4.9  Developing countries (particularly in Africa) have also been concerned about the equitable distribution of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects. Evidence suggests that 80 per cent of CDM investment will go to a very few countries (eg India, China, Brazil). Some Parties (especially in sub-Saharan Africa) will have problems attracting any CDM projects as their very low (ie non-fossil fuel) emissions baseline gives fewer opportunities for projects and the same barriers to foreign direct investment (FDI) in LDCs are likely to apply to the CDM as well.

  4.10  Analysis suggests that poorer developing countries would be more likely to attract small, as opposed to large, scale investment, and that smaller scale projects have the potential to achieve higher development benefits, in particular higher poverty reduction impact within developing countries. However, the transaction costs associated with complying with the modalities and procedures of the CDM have been estimated to be as much as tens of thousands of pounds. As these costs are unlikely to vary significantly with the size of the project, they will comprise a larger percentage of the total costs of a small-scale project. This may make small-scale environmentally additional projects economically unviable and have an adverse bearing on the equitable distribution of CDM projects.

  4.11  In recognition of this, it was felt that the key to improving the chances of LDCs hosting projects was to make small-scale projects attractive to investors by minimising transaction costs. This could be achieved through the development of simplified procedures for small-scale projects and this was something the EU pressed for with the negotiations. Parties therefore agreed that simplified modalities and procedures should be devised for small-scale project activities and this task has been give to the Executive Board (the body responsible for overseeing the CDM under the supervision of the COP).


  4.12  The UK and other donor countries have resisted providing full funding for adaptation projects before the adoption of credible adaptation strategies by developing countries. The first step would be to provide a national communication on Climate Change Convention objectives, or, for LDCs, a national adaptation programme of action. The UK would consider providing adaptation assistance where the work forms a credible part of an overall poverty reduction strategy. As part of the package adopted at Marrakech (described above), some support for adaptation was agreed. The Government has not yet decided which of the new funds would be the best vehicle for delivering effective support on adaptation.


The Kyoto Protocol's Ratification and Entry into Force

  5.1  The Marrakech Accords should pave the way for prompt entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol. This is triggered once a minimum of 55 countries have ratified the Protocol, including Annex 1 countries accounting for at least 55 per cent of this industrialised group's emissions in 1990. As of 11 December 2001, 46 countries had ratified Kyoto. The UK, along with the rest of the EU, is committed to ratify the Protocol in time to allow its entry into force by the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002.

  5.2  Following the US withdrawal, it is essential that both Russia and Japan ratify the Protocol, in addition to the EU and Central and Eastern European countries (that have signalled their intention to ratify to the same timetable as the EU). Immediately after Marrakech, the Japanese Government announced that it would now press ahead with preparations for ratification in 2002. Russia was also positive about ratification at the final plenary session in Marrakech, but it will be important to secure a clear commitment to ratification. The UK will also strongly encourage other industrialised countries to ratify the Protocol. This is important both from an environmental point of view, and in order to send a clear signal to developing countries that the developed world is serious about tackling this problem.

The World Summit on Sustainable Development and Climate Change

  5.3  The World Summit on Sustainable Development will take place in South Africa from 26 August to 4 September 2002. It will mark the tenth anniversary of the Rio "Earth Summit" which, amongst other things, set in process the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. As one of the most important outcomes from the Rio process the issue of climate change will inevitably feature. However, the ongoing UNFCCC process is the most productive format for taking forward the issue of climate change, particularly given the successful outcomes of Bonn and Marrakech, and therefore we do not expect climate change to be one of the major agenda items of the Summit.

  5.4  The Summit will focus instead on where there have been "gaps" in implementing Agenda 21. The Summit is expected to look at implementation mechanisms for sustainable development, in particular the involvement of the private sector and NGOs, and sectoral issues including energy, transfer of technology, and resourch efficiency, all of which will have linkages to climate change.

The Eighth Conference of Parties (COP8)

  5.5  The eighth Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC—or if, as hoped, the Kyoto Protocol has already entered into force by WSSD, the first session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties of the Kyoto Protocol—is scheduled for 23 October to 1 November 2002. At the Conference, work will continue on developing further rules and guidance on which Kyoto will operate and other issues concerning the implementation of the Marrakech Accords. The UK Government also wants to take forward the debate on the future of the Convention and associated key issues such as the level at which greenhouse gas should be stabilised globally, the depth of emissions cuts needed in future commitment periods, and both developed and developing countries' participation in this process.

The US

  5.6  In March 2001, President Bush announced that the US was withdrawing from the Kyoto because of its impact on the US economy and limited extent of developing country participation. President Bush has recognised that climate change is a serious challenge and the Administration is currently undertaking a climate change policy review to consider what action the US should take. The UK Government is encouraging the US to develop proposals for domestic action that demonstrate the US is serious about tackling climate change and that are compatible with the Kyoto process. Key to this is the need for binding targets and the compatibility of technical details—in particular, greenhouse gas coverage, Global Warming Potentials (GWP) and the technical standards for registries. Serious US action is necessary both to the achievement of the overall objective of the Convention and to the negotiations on future targets. The UK Government would of course like to see the US fully re-engage with the international process to tackle climate change in due course and the door remains open for them to do so at any time.

Negotiations on future targets

  5.7  To achieve the overall objective of the UNFCCC and stabilise concentrations of the greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere, deeper cuts in GHG will be required in the second and subsequent Kyoto commitment periods. The negotiations on the rules and targets for the second commitment period must begin by 2005 and, in this context, it will be important to enter into a dialogue with developing countries about their future rights and responsibilities. As developing countries aspire—and are encouraged—to develop, their emissions are set to rise substantially. Nobody contests the right of, and need for, poor countries to develop to reduce poverty and make progress towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals—the key issue is the manner in which they (and developed countries) do this. To ensure a prosperous future for poor and rich countries alike that respects the quality of life and the environment, development must be sustainable and this requires action to be taken which respects the environmental limits of the planet.

  5.8  There is a need to instigate a debate, and agree on a process, for deciding how responsibility for tackling climate change is going to be shared in future and the form it will take. Future commitments will need to take account of countries' different levels of development and be appropriate to their circumstances. For example, developing countries will need commitments that do not impede growth but ensure it is clean and sustainable and emissions are avoided as well as reduced. And developed countries will need to make deeper absolute cuts in their emissions levels and support developing countries through capacity building, technology transfer and targeted resource transfers for activities such as adaptation. Clearly any serious domestic action by the US (alongside the measures other developed countries will take under the Kyoto Protocol) will be critical if developing countries are to be willing to take on further commitments of their own in the future.


  6.1  Climate change is a threat to sustainable development in all countries but, due to the uneven geographical impacts of climate change, resource shortages and capacity problems, developing countries are likely to be the most vulnerable, particularly the poorest. Action is being taken to tackle climate change and the achievements to date should not be underestimated. However, they represent only a first step and much deeper cuts in greenhouse gases will be needed if the most severe adverse impacts of climate change are to be avoided. That said, even with immediate action, some impacts of climate change are unavoidable due to the current concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere—it is therefore critical that consideratoin climate change is integrated into development policies at all levels to ensure poor countries can adapt as effectively as possible.

  6.2  As well as being affected by climate change, developing countries are also increasingly contributing to increases in anthropogenic GHG emission levels. Under the principle of "common but differentiated responsibility" developing countries are not subject to targets for the first Kyoto commitment period (2008-2012). This reflects the fact that, given their historical level of emissions, developed countries undertook to act first and cut back their emissions to create space for poorer countries to develop. However, the emissions of developing countries are expected to increase rapidly and countries such as China and India are already significant emitters. To stabilise level of greenhouse gases, developing countries have to join developed countries in taking action to reduce or avoid GHG emissions. Key to this is the need to develop a dialogue and a process through which all countries can constructively engage to this end, including the United States.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

January 2002

6   Approved by the IPCC in September 2001. Back

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