Select Committee on International Development Third Report


133. Climate change is here, it will be with us for decades, and the changes already underway are irreversible. Adaptation is a necessity, not an option. And it must certainly not be regarded as an alternative to mitigation.

134. The greatest barrier globally to action on climate change is not funding, a lack of knowledge or a lack of consensus but the lack of political will. Developed countries will need to change patterns of consumption and patterns of wealth generation drastically. But there are a number of 'win-win' and 'no-regrets' scenarios that can be identified without further research and these should be acted upon now. The precautionary principle should guide action.

135. Inequity between the north and the south has overshadowed the entire climate change debate. DFID should champion greater equity in international debate and help move negotiations from discussing how to minimise impacts on polluters to how to build systems that will benefit developing countries. The impetus for action on mitigation should remain with developed countries. However, as their emissions rise, developing countries will eventually have to take steps to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. There must be a greater focus on adaptation as many developing countries will face dramatic impacts over the next few decades regardless of the success of mitigation policies.

136. Climate change is a development issue that requires a multi-disciplinary approach. Climate scientists, environmental groups and development agencies must all cooperate and work across traditional boundaries. DFID itself can play a part in raising awareness and should encourage other donors, both bilateral and multilateral, to do the same. Better international cooperation and coordination is needed, especially between donors.

137. Both developed and developing countries need to recognise the ways in which climate change will affect development. They must take action now to ensure that their policies to cope with climate change and ensure climate protection are cost effective, properly resourced, fully integrated and mutually reinforcing. Economic growth and poverty reduction must be the top priorities for developing countries. But, to be sustainable beyond the short-term, the policies to deliver them have to take account of climate impacts. Climate protection offers countries a chance to consider development strategies and policies from a different perspective.[356]

138. It is important that all government actions take account of climate change considerations, otherwise the good done by one policy will be wiped out by another (ECGD credits for fossil fuel projects must balance the need for development against the potential to increase concentrations of greenhouse gases).

139. Reducing vulnerability is really about risk management and risk reduction. Maladaptation through inappropriate development policies must be avoided. This requires a climate risk assessment of current policies, plans, programmes, and projects to identify the likely climate impact of a project and the impact climate might have on longer-term objectives and longer-term sustainability. Proposals for new work should be subjected to a climate risk assessment at an early stage in planning.

140. DFID treats climate change as just another environmental problem. But its global nature, the differentiated liabilities and vulnerabilities, and inter-generational element prevent it from being just another environmental issue. To treat it as such risks losing any focus on the longer-term solutions needed, as attention is diverted to other environmental issues that have short-term impacts and solutions. Loss of biodiversity, desertification and loss of habitat have long-term consequences in the same way that climate change does and they too might lose out to competing short-term environmental priorities if they are treated just as a number of environmental issues. Climate change must maintain a distinct identity within DFID's programmes and the Environmental Policy Department should seek to mainstream and integrate it into other policy areas. We do not believe that DFID needs to make any major change in its development policies to address climate change. Actions on governance, institution building and capacity building should continue but DFID needs actively to promote consideration of climate risk and adaptation to climate change. DFID believes that economic growth and strengthening institutions will reduce developing countries' vulnerability to climate change but given the pattern of economic development over recent years we doubt that it can occur fast enough to make a difference.


141. The next two decades are critical to establishing an effective mitigation regime and ensuring sustainable development is on track. Priorities in several areas have emerged from this inquiry:

Significant effects are possible but much uncertainty remains despite good monitoring programmes. Actions need to be guided by the precautionary principle and donors and recipient countries need to adopt flexible approaches to keep options open.

  • Policy agendas

There is a need to put climate change on the agenda of developing countries and aid agencies.

  • Policy integration

Developmental, environmental and social goals need to recognise climate change and take account of likely impacts. Recognising climate change offers an opportunity to adapt and reform current sub-optimal systems using a 'no-regrets' approach.

  • Building capacity

Human and institutional capacity needs strengthening. DFID should focus on helping developing countries to identify their needs and to develop their own capacity to carry out analysis and planning based on their own priorities, rather than responding to donor fashions.[357] Linkages between developed and developing countries for training and research will be helpful. Capacity should be built within existing institutions that already have responsibilities for resources likely to be affected by climate change. There is little need to build separate capacity devoted solely to climate change. There is a need for institutional capacity building at local and national levels and the focus for capacity building work will have to be wider than national government level. Research institutes and NGOs can form a bridge between local action and international policy/markets, especially in relation to building resilient communities. But those institutions and NGOs will also have their own capacity building needs.

  • Monitoring progress on climate change

Indicators on climate change, for measurement of capacity building, and for the evaluation of the effectiveness of DFID programmes and projects will have to be developed.

  • Disasters and extreme events

The increased frequency and magnitude of extreme events poses risks to life and health, and could lead to significant social and macroeconomic impacts, and massive displacements of population. Reducing vulnerability to natural disasters and extreme events is essential.

  • Promoting low carbon use and energy efficiency in production

Policies must be integrated, for example by linking technology transfer, CDM, and export credits. Developing countries lack a viable and affordable alternative energy source to fossil fuels but they should be encouraged and helped to be as energy and carbon efficient as possible. The opportunities to benefit from the Clean Development Mechanism, Activities Implemented Jointly and other mechanisms should be reviewed, enhanced and partner organisations should be encouraged to participate in these mechanisms.

  • Priority areas

Donors and developing countries need to take steps to ensure that climate risk is addressed in areas such as coastal management, access to water, sustainable livelihoods, agriculture and health.

356  Linkages between climate change and sustainable development, Beg et al, 2001 (submitted to Climate Policy in October 2001 revised December 2001) Back

357  Ev 72 [para 15] Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 23 July 2002