Development climate

OECD Observer

It may seem obvious that development influences climate change and vice versa, but do experts on climate change and development really have any influence on each other? If not, they should, as was demonstrated at a recent OECD Global Forum on Sustainable Development: Development and Climate Change, held at the OECD on 11-12 November 2004.

In fact, interaction between the climate and development experts has been all too limited, preventing some common issues from being addressed more quickly. This Forum, which is part of the OECD Global Forum series, provided a platform for representatives from the likes of the World Meteorological Organisation, the World Bank and the OECD Development Assistance Committee to meet and discuss common ways forward, just a few weeks ahead of the UN conference on climate change in Buenos Aires in December.

As OECD deputy secretary-general, Kiyo Akasaka, who chaired the Forum, pointed out: "Climate change requires all our efforts, across the globe, across society, from all disciplines and walks of life. Bringing environment and development experts and decisionmakers closer together at the Forum was a first, and psychologically important, step."

Climate change is not new, so the Forum’s 150 participants – from government, business, international organisations, NGOs and research from around the world – focused on ways to “mainstream” responses to climate change by building them into routine development planning and assistance.

Several presenters at the Forum pointed to cases where the impacts of climate change are already being felt, in the Andes and the Himalayas, for instance, where melting glaciers are leading to a risk of floods, affecting energy and water supply, farming and tourism. In islands and coastal regions, salt water intrusion may affect drinking water supply and agriculture.

Infrastructure is set to become a major challenge, with the building of highways, dams, railroads and electricity grids needing to take future climate change into account. Failure to do so would greatly increase maintenance costs, experts said.

Agriculture and forestry were another key issue for debate, since they are highly sensitive to changing climatic conditions, like rainfall patterns and temperature. But these changes can bring new opportunities as well, with farmers being able to sow crops normally associated with warmer climes, for instance. Though the challenges are daunting, people have already been coping with climatic shifts for years, and as the Forum heard, much can be learned from traditional coping strategies.

Keynote speeches at the Forum were delivered by Rajendra Pachauri, Chair, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); Joke Waller-Hunter, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); and Warren Evans, Sector Director, Environment Department, World Bank.

©OECD Observer No 245, November 2004

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