Climate policy should consider the needs of the poor

News, 09 April 2007

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded in Brussels on Friday that climate change is inevitable, adaptation to it is critical and that those who contributed least to the problem will suffer the most.

"Even if, by some miracle, we could stop emitting greenhouse gases today, we will still experience climate change in the next few decades, making adaptation unavoidable," says Richard Klein, coordinator of climate policy research at the Stockholm Environment Institute and a coordinating lead author of the IPCC.

"On the other hand, without any effort in mitigation we are likely to reach a level of climate change that makes adaptation impossible for some ecosystems, while for people it could involve very high social and economic costs."

One of the political dilemmas of climate policy is the fact that the costs and benefits of climate change are not distributed equally around the world. Saleemul Huq, head of the climate change group at the International Institute for Environment and Development, points out that for some countries, particularly the poorest countries in Africa and the small island developing states, adaptation is more important than mitigation.

For countries such as China, India and Brazil, the combination of the two strategies is essential, says Huq, who is also a coordinating lead author of the latest IPCC report.

John Drexhage, director of climate change and energy at the International Institute for Sustainable Development, and an expert reviewer of the IPCC report, agrees: "This report confirms a message we have been stating loud and clear for a few years now: namely that those least responsible for global warming - the poor, the indigenous communities - are the ones to be the most immediately and severely impacted by it. This is a core equity issue that must be addressed in the international negotiations."

Tom Downing, director of the Oxford office of the Stockholm Environment Institute and a lead author of the IPCC report, adds: "Many of these linkages are opportunities to promote sustainable development and alleviate poverty. We found relatively few examples where decision-makers made explicit, economic trade-offs between mitigation and adaptation."

The report from Working Group 2 of the Fourth Assessment of the IPCC was released in Brussels on Friday 5 April 2007. Working Group 3 will present its findings on 4 May 2007 in Bangkok and the final synthesis report will be released in November of this year.

Klein, Huq, Downing and Drexhage, and the three institutes they represent, the Stockholm Environment Institute, the International Institute for Environment and Development and the International Institute for Sustainable Development, have joined forces in addressing the challenge of climate change and development. As the Global Initiative on Climate Change (GICC), they provide knowledge to policymakers to ensure that climate change is seen as a development issue as well as an environment issue.

Contact details

Dr. Richard J.T. Klein

Stockholm Environment Institute

Stockholm, Sweden

[email protected]

+46 8 6747054


Dr. Saleemul Huq

International Institute for Environment and Development

London, UK

[email protected]

+44 20 73882117


Dr. Thomas E. Downing

Stockholm Environment Institute

Oxford, UK

[email protected]

+44 1865 426316


Mr. John Drexhage

International Institute for Sustainable Development

Ottawa, Canada

[email protected]

+1 613 2389820

+1 613 2767794