The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its Fifth Assessment in 2014, summarizing the work of thousands of scientists across the world. The message was, in the panel’s own words, “unequivocal”. Climate change will exacerbate poverty in most developing countries. This is due to a complex range of factors, but particularly food price increases. It notes that, in the years since its previous report in 2007, there have been rapid food price increases, following climate extremes in key producing systems.
A similar picture emerges on health. A study, by The Lancet and University College London, stated that climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. Climate change influences disease patterns, food, water, sanitation, extreme events, shelter and human settlements, which in turn affect health outcomes. Infant mortality is closely linked to under nutrition and food insecurity, both affected by climate change.
Reducing carbon emissions will help to mitigate these effects; meanwhile, there are economic, health and social opportunities in low carbon development pathways. Decentralized low carbon energy, for example, such as solar and wind, can provide electricity for the 70 per cent of sub-Saharan Africans who currently have no access. Growth in off grid solar has given 2.5 million households in Kenya access to energy.
The Paris Summit in December 2015 provides a crucial opportunity for India to lead, aligning development goals with action on climate change, and given the discussions around the Sustainable Development Goals. 196 countries will meet to sign a new climate change agreement, which needs to acknowledge the importance of climate change mitigation to development and the necessity of finance, both to adapt to climate change and to invest in low carbon economic pathways. But how likely is it that it will be meaningful and make a difference to climate action on the ground?