Statement delivered by UNDP Country Director, Ms. Anne-Isabelle Degryse-Blateau, at the launch of the Global Human Development Report 2007

Nov 27, 2007

Statement delivered by UNDP Country Director, Ms. Anne-Isabelle Degryse-Blateau at the launch of the Global Human Development Report 2007

Fighting climate change: human solidarity in a divided world

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Honourable Vice Chairman of the National Planning Commission, Dr. Jagadish Chandra
Distinguished speakers
Distinguished guests, friends, colleagues from the media,
Ladies and gentlemen

It is a great honour for me to be here with you for the launch of the UNDP Global Human Development Report 2007 on the theme of Climate Change and human solidarity.

The Report states that Climate Change will be one of the defining forces shaping prospects for human development during the 21st Century.

Up to now, the scale of the impacts of climate change on the lives of people has been heavily under-estimated. Yet, the tangible signs of global warming are already seen everywhere, in changing temperatures and consequences such as more frequent and longer droughts, flooding, severe storms, melting glaciers, changes in rainfall patterns and the like. Crops are wiped out crops, opportunities for employment reduced, food prices pushed up, property destroyed, and health and security of people affected. The impact on subsistence rain-fed agriculture practices and water resources are of particular concern.

In Nepal, we are already experiencing some of the impacts of climate change. One of our drivers was just telling me how the rainy season used to be June and July, but now rains are continuing even into October. This year, increasing floods and landslides in 28 districts have led to over 100 deaths and above 10,000 displaced families and more than 270,000 people affected across the country, according to estimates of the Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS). The glaciers are melting and retreating at a rate of several metres each year and the lakes formed by melting glacier waters are expanding at an alarming rate. The Tsho Rolpa Lake ,as an example, has increased more than sevenfold in the last 50 years.

Thus we can no longer ignore the facts: climate changes are happening and will continue happening.

They are happening as a result of past human actions, of all the uncontrolled and increasing greenhouse gas emissions emitted by earlier generations, starting with the Industrial Revolution. No mater what we do now, some of these changes will be unavoidable.

The alarm bell is being rung. If no steps are taken, the economic and social consequences and costs to the world could be the equivalent of those associated with the great wars and depressions of the 20th Century. By the end of the century, the spectre of catastrophical ecological impacts could have moved from the bounds of the possible to the probable. A two (2) degree Celsius increase in global temperature would lead to irreversible and widespread ecological disaster and rapid reversals in human development, threatening future generations worldwide.

The report calls for Human solidarity:

The findings underscore that the people most at risk from climate change live in the countries that have contributed the least to the greenhouse gas and that will also be least able to cope with climate changes, making it an issue of inequality and insecurity. The poorest segments of society- 2,6 billion people living on less that US 2 a day, that is 40% of the world population will be affected first and hardest.

Avoiding the unprecedented threats posed by dangerous climate change will require an unparalleled collective exercise in international cooperation. No one country can win the battle against climate change alone, as such collective action is not an option but an imperative.

This action comes in two forms:

-Mitigation : taking strong actions to sharply reduce the emissions, promoting the rapid use of cleaner energy technologies, promoting and protecting carbon sinks.

-Adaptation: understanding the potential and probable impacts of climate change and taking rapid actions to minimize these impacts and take advantage of possible new opportunities.

It is not a question of choosing one type of action or the other. Both are needed. Mitigation for the medium and longer term, bearing in mind that even stringent mitigation will not materially affect temperature changes until the mid 2030s and that average global temperature will rise to 2050, even under a “ good case” scenario. Adaptation, for the short and medium term, by anticipating climate change impacts and taking steps to cope with these unavoidable changes.

And this will require global commitment: not only commitment to action by all actors around the world; but also serious and substantial financial commitments from the richer countries to, among others, facilitate energy sector reforms and technology transfers to developing countries, to assist developing countries in adapting to climate changes and building resilience through investments in social protection, health, education and other measures, to protect progress towards the MDGS and prevent post 2015 reversal in human development. In pure monetary e quivalent terms mitigating the worst effects of climate change would require , today an investment of 1% of global GDP annually. Failure to do so could cost the economy up to 20% of global GDP. This does not reflect the human and irreversible ecological tragedy.

Catastrophic human development setbacks are avoidable. Climate change is a threat that comes with an opportunity, above all, the opportunity for the world to come together in forging a collective response to a crisis that threatens to halt progress.

But the time for action is NOW. The Report emphasizes that the world still has a narrow ten-year window of opportunity to act. If that window is missed, increases in temperature could see an extra 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa go hungry, over 200 million more poor people flooded out of their homes and an additional 400 million exposed to diseases like malaria and denguefever.

In a few weeks, world leaders and Finance Ministers from across the globe will meet in Bali, Indonesia, for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of parties to discuss the post Kyoto 2012 climate change regime. This will be the occasion for more vulnerable countries, like Nepal, to make their voices heard and to advocate for post 2012 stringent emission reductions targets, for developing new markets and new funding for mitigation and adaptation measures, for engaging traditionally non engaged countries in the Kyoto and post Kyoto climate range regime.

With regards to the United Nations, the Secretary General of the UN has made it his personal priority to work with member states to ensure the United Nations plays its role to the full in addressing this global challenge. Allow me to quote our UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Mr Matthew Kahane : “ UN agencies will collectively work with the stakeholders and the development partners in supporting the Government of Nepal’s efforts to minimise the risks of climate change”. As UNDP, we feel very privileged today to be able to bring another contribution this agenda through this Human development report 2007 on Climate change.

Thank you