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FEATURE: Raising the ambition: How the global climate agreement can affect the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals

CDKN’s Helen Picot and Nicholas Moss outline how ambition in tackling climate change could help deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals, which are due to be agreed by the world’s governments in 2015.

Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges the world faces today. It affects all aspects of the development agenda, from poverty eradication to health care, and from economic growth to disaster risk reduction.   The poorest and most vulnerable people are likely to be most affected, unless significant efforts are made to create models of development that can mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

In late 2014, the UN Secretary-General released his Synthesis Report on the Post-2015 Agenda. The report launched the negotiations process to determine the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) this coming year. Also during December 2014, Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) met in Lima to set the level of ambition for a global climate agreement to be negotiated by December 2015 in Paris.

The outcomes of both of these processes will be crucial for global action on both climate change and development. The convergence of timelines in 2015 offers a unique opportunity to align international policies on climate change and sustainable development.

Critically, the decisions taken at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP21) in Paris will have a significant impact on global development by 2030, even before the resulting impacts on climate are felt. A climate agreement which provides a clear policy and legal framework for ambitious action on climate change could incentivise international cooperation and mobilise additional finance and resources for mitigation and adaptation activities supporting climate compatible development. But a climate agreement which ignores emerging evidence on the critical links between climate change and development could put many of the most vulnerable nations at risk of failing to achieve the SDG targets by 2030. Likewise, the development of SDGs that do not address climate change or climate resilience could mean that achieving the SDGs would not ensure long term climate compatible development.

In order to better understand the potential impact of the climate agreement on countries’ ability to achieve the SDGs, CDKN has commissioned research to better understand the important inter-linkages between the two. The research, by HR Wallingford and Metroeconomica, considers the projected impacts of the agreement on development, including economic impacts. The researchers are looking at two scenarios: a high ambition agreement (aiming to minimise global warming to 2°C by 2100) and a low ambition agreement (to minimise global warming to 3-5°C by 2100), with associated policies and levels of investment in mitigation and adaptation. Deep dive case studies will also examine the impact of the agreement in one country from each of the three CDKN regions.

We hope the research will provide quantitative evidence of the impacts that a climate deal could have on the SDGs. The research will be useful for negotiators and the development community to advocate for a stronger climate deal and to ensure that the SDGs deliver climate compatible development for climate vulnerable countries. HR Wallingford has just released initial findings in a short paper: Raising the ambition – How the global climate agreement can affect the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals

Initial findings highlight that the climate agreement and associated policies and financing decisions can affect the likelihood of achieving each of the 17 draft SDGs. Crucially, it demonstrates that a high ambition deal is able to increase the likelihood that countries will achieve the SDGs. In particular, a high ambition climate agreement is most material to achieving the SDGs relating to poverty, inequality, climate change and global partnerships for sustainable development.

The research team presented initial findings from the research at the CDKN-sponsored event ‘Zero Poverty Zero Emissions, Within a Generation’ in Lima last month. Now the team is analysing further  evidence to provide insights and case studies on the impacts of a climate agreement on the achievement of the SDGs at country level. The findings will be available in April/May 2015.


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