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Rio+20: Climate protection and poverty reduction both depend on a new global treaty

The Rio+20 summit could help pave the way towards a new global accord that links the crucial issues of climate protection and prosperity.
“If the world wants to mitigate dangerous climate change, the discussions in Rio have to go beyond the very broad sustainability issue and the very narrow green growth notion,” says Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), who is going to attend the summit.

Scientists of PIK and the Institute for Social and Development Studies (IGP), together with the organization for development cooperation Misereor and the Munich Re Foundation, point out key options for linking climate and development policy in a new book now published. It provides scientific input for the runup to Rio+20 and provides pathways to solve the climate change challenge in a fair way.

“As climate policy currently seems stuck in paralysis, science might bring the impulse to recreate momentum,” Schellnhuber says. “Raising awareness about the planetary boundaries and providing options to tackle global warming are key to finding sustainable development pathways and greening the millennium goals.” To this end, Schellnhuber will be co-chairing an interdisciplinary Nobel Laureates Panel in Rio.

While the policy target to limit global warming to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels has become an important reference point in the international climate policy arena, a suitable policy framework for achieving this target is still under debate. The new book develops such a framework, but also looks at costs and risks. Today, “the atmosphere has to be seen as a global common – so its management is an economic challenge, but also a crucial matter of global justice,” says Ottmar Edenhofer, chief economist of PIK. “While socio-economic development up to now has been closely coupled to emission increases, we try to show that a new growth path is possible.”

The much applauded concept of green growth alone will not be sufficient, says Edenhofer. It needs to be complemented by a global policy framework of binding emission reductions which sets long-term incentives for investments. Edenhofer and his co-authors in their book outline a post-2012 treaty. It involves a global cap-and-trade scheme for emission allowances, public support for technology transfer to developing countries, measures including payments to reduce emissions from deforestation, and financial support for adaptation in least developed countries.

“Poor people are especially vulnerable to climate change,“ Thomas Loster of Munich Re Foundation says. “Since 1980, more than 80% of the people killed by weather extremes lived in developing countries, our data shows.” To increase the resilience of populations hit by climate-change-related droughts or floods, he argues, microinsurance for instance offers an opportunity to deal with shocks. “So financial instruments could be an important part of adaptation,” he says. “But a new risk perception is needed - both locally and globally.”

“The fight against poverty and against climate change will be won – or lost – together,” says Bernd Bornhorst of Misereor. As an organization for development cooperation, “we see in our daily work how development in poor countries is closely linked to combating global warming.” The new book “provides both glasses for the short-sighted and a map indicating ways towards sustainable development,” he says. But what is known about the preparations for Rio+20 in many states “raises doubts that those gathering in Brazil are really willing to turn towards sustainability.”

“With an appropriate design and implementation, the post-2012 treaty we propose in the book could also support the poor,” Johannes Müller of IGP points out. “The outcome in terms of climate change mitigation, adaptation, and sustainable development would be effective, efficient, and equitable.”

Book: Edenhofer, O.; Wallacher, J.; Lotze-Campen, H.; Reder, M.; Knopf, B.; Müller, J. (Eds.): Climate Change, Justice and Sustainability – Linking Climate and Development Policy. Springer, June 2012, ISBN 978-94-007-4539-1

Weblink to book:

For further information please contact:
PIK press office
Phone: +49 331 288 25 07

Mareike Schodder | PIK Potsdam
Further information:

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