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FEATURE: Lima event inspires cross-generational action for zero poverty, zero emissions

Mairi Dupar of CDKN reports from a unique and highly ambitious set of debates in Lima, Peru this weekend.

This weekend in Lima, hundreds of development leaders and citizens gathered to call for ‘Zero poverty, zero emissions, within a generation.’  Spanning in age from school pupils to political elders, their goal was to transform thinking on how we can tackle successfully the connected, global challenges of climate change and poverty.

The event took place on the doorstep of the United Nations climate change talks in Lima, where governments are negotiating towards a new global climate deal; it was also aimed at talks on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which governments are due to agree in 2015.

By the year 2030, when countries measure climate progress and achievement of the SDGs, the teenagers attending the ‘Zero-Zero’ event will already be the new generation of government, business and civic leaders.

The two-day event was co-organised by the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, IIED, ODI and CDKN. Lively interactive sessions and high-level panels  highlighted three urgent areas for global action:

We must coalesce around a few clear calls to action that will move us rapidly towards ‘zero poverty, zero emissions’. We need to cut through the confusing mix of messages from diverse actors saying different things on climate and development. Although climate and poverty are complex problems that require thousands of solutions, focusing the political debate on a handful of critical measures would help galvanise momentum towards the zero -zero goals, said Andrew Steer, CEO of World Resources Institute. Key measures could include, for instance, slashing fossil fuel subsidies (and compensating losers, such as poor households who would see energy prices rise) and setting carbon prices at levels that would drive low-carbon investments.

We need low-carbon innovation, driven by science that says zero net emissions are inevitably required.  Chris Field, the Co-Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said the latest IPCC reports gave an “overwhelming message that zero emissions is required, whatever we do. That is incredibly empowering for innovation.” This means that the field is open for ‘first movers’ who research and develop quickly in low-carbon innovation.

We need new partnerships and institutions to rise to the challenge of ‘zero-zero’.  There is a role for existing  institutions working on environment, human rights and poverty eradication to meet the ‘zero-zero’ challenge, but they will have to talk to each other and to listen to each other better, said Tara Shine of the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice. To achieve ‘zero-zero,’ we may also need new institutions to force a departure from business as usual. “We will have to do something different,” she said, “to be brave and whole lot more imaginative than we’ve been until now.”

The event also highlighted two areas of promise:

Young people’s passion to do things differently and better could be infectious. Around 20 young people from local Lima schools and the Peruvian Red Cross participated in the Zero-Zero event, and injected infectious levels of energy and enthusiasm into the debates. Jorge Brito, a student of Newton College, Lima, said, “we’re not fighting the climate crisis in the correct way; we must do things in an unexpected way, as never before. By changing the way we do things completely, we have the opportunity to do the best for our world.”

Claudia Martinez of CDKN, an advisor to the Colombian government, said “children understand better about climate change than we do. They need an innovative platform to have climate-smart choices. For us as adults, the question is: How do we create ethical minds and support young people’s innovation?”

Getting to zero poverty, zero emissions is achievable. Getting to zero poverty and zero net emissions is not a dream, but is achievable. As Sam Bickersteth, CDKN’s Chief Executive, noted, the New Climate Economy report finds that 50-90% of climate mitigation actions will be ‘negative cost’ (delivering immediate economic benefits) – a finding that transforms conventional thinking on the costs of tackling emissions.

A new discussion paper released by ODI to frame the conference, Targeting Zero Zero, finds that eradicating extreme poverty may depend on achieving zero net emissions. That’s because if we don’t avoid dangerous climate change, then climate impacts will trap some people in poverty and push others into poverty. What’s more, the report says, “a pathway towards zero net emissions has a number of positive benefits for poverty reduction”.  Restructuring economies to reach zero net emissions is compatible with poverty reduction, as long as development policies increase social equity.

Sam Bickersteth said, “We need to aim high and be ambitious to make the necessary transitions in economy and society.”

“I am confident,” said Alejandra Boletin, who has just graduated with her International Baccalaureat from Newton College in Lima and is considering a career in climate policy. “I think coming from all countries of the world we can work together for this common goal.”

Image: Making a solar-powered balloon at D & C Days 2014, courtesy Alex Wynter, Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre.

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