UCL expert advises UN on sustainable development strategies
21 November 2007
Economic development expert Dr Le-Yin Zhang (UCL Development Planning Unit - DPU) contributed to a panel discussion on integrating climate change into national sustainable development strategies at the United Nations General Assembly.
Dr Zhang has worked on the economic aspects of climate change since 2003, when the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change secretariat invited her to provide a background paper for their international workshop on Economic Diversification in the Context of Climate Change. Her work forms part of the DPU's long-standing research efforts on sustainable development.
The UN's Department for Economic and Social Affairs asked Dr Zhang to prepare an analytical paper on the linkages between climate change and sustainable development in developing countries. As part of that assignment, Dr Zhang presented her initial findings to the Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on 'Integrating Climate Change into National Sustainable Development Strategies' at the UN Headquarters in New York on 12-13 November 2007.
The EGM was attended by a diverse group of 21 people, representing many stakeholders across the world, including the Vice Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Professor Mohan Munasinghe, a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. After the meeting, a panel of four - Professor Munasinghe and Dr Zhang included - were invited to present before the UN's Financial and Economic Committee of the General Assembly and participate in the subsequent discussion.
During the panel discussion, Professor Munasinghe pointed out that in the last 30 years, greenhouse gas emissions have risen by 70 per cent, and were expected to double or triple at the end of the century. The resulting 30°C rise in global temperature will potentially cause large-scale harm to global health, agriculture, forests, water resources, coastal areas and habitats. The European Union considers a rise in global temperature of 20°C to be a safe limit, but for that to happen, it will be crucial to adjust trade, monetary, fiscal and taxation policies to address climate change without threatening development.
On the other hand, Dr Zhang argued that a greater emphasis on livelihood is needed to integrate climate change into national sustainable development strategies. Greater attention should also be paid to strengthening the capacity to mitigate and adapt at the societal and household levels, rather than simply at the sector level.
Dr Zhang explained: "Failing to solve the livelihood issues of the poor makes it impossible to achieve environmental sustainability, leaving poor households capable of destroying the environment in their pursuit of survival. Climate change increases the vulnerability of the poor, affecting their human assets and their access to natural assets. However, such effects could be modified by developing non-climate-sensitive economic opportunities and improving infrastructure. Given the unequivocal trend of global warming, public policy must focus on reducing vulnerability by strengthening the capacity of societies and households to adapt."
"Adaptation for and through sustainable livelihood - that is my message," Dr Zhang concluded.
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Image 1: Improving livelihood will help to achieve environmental sustainability
Image 2: Dr Zhang