Development or climate change; development while solving climate change


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By Beverly Natividad

Indonesia’s vast deforestation of its tropical forests is also connected mainly to the extraction of palm oil. Photo: Ryan Woo

The way climate change is often reported it seems like it is an issue that clashes with development. 

For example, climate adaptation money being funneled to poor nations is feared to compete with development aid from rich nations. Thus the principle that climate finance should be new and additional to development aid already given to poor countries.

Greenhouse gas emission cuts of Annex I countries – despite knowledge of a tipping point – are not getting deeper due to apprehensions that limiting the emissions of industries might affect local development.

The emerging economies China and India for example have even debated with developed nations on how they should still be allowed to use up atmosphere space for local development, despite listing mitigation commitments.

Development and climate change, clearly, are intertwined but not in opposition. 

Prof. Nicholas Stern, speaking at yesterday’s Global Updates session of Forest Day 4, couldn’t have put it any better: the climate change issue is also a story of development. 

Stern – whose significant report on climate change and the world economy warned of the economic and social costs of climate change – said that managing the problem of climate change should always go together with managing poverty. 

In anticipation of a REDD+ agreement out of Cancun, he said that its wise implementation could be a good opportunity to incorporate development issues. 

He set Congo as an example where people are mostly dependent for wood for their fuel needs. If the forests are to be protected from fuel extraction then, he said, forest dependents should be given a new fuel source that would steer them away from cutting trees. 

“The battle for deforestation and the battle for development should not be separated,” he said. 

Indonesia’s vast deforestation of its tropical forests is also connected mainly to the extraction of palm oil, Stern said. 

If Indonesia were to make REDD+ work then it should address the activities of the palm oil industry as much as it regulates the cutting of trees in its huge forest tracts.

Nature is a resource and as such should be utilized for development. But as what had happened the abuse to the environment, while it may bring certain economic benefits, also diminishes the resource itself. 

Development and climate change go hand in hand and climate negotiators should not choose one over the other. Stern’s words remind the climate players that the business of reducing greenhouse gas emissions is also an opportunity to steer economies towards type of development that is not harmful to the planet.

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