Climate Change and Development Policy: competing aims?

Author:Huang, Yongfu

The climate change crisis and development needs of the world's poor require us to acknowledge the necessity and urgency for both continued growth at the current pace, and rapid greening of this growth strategy. But are the aims of growth and environmental protection irredeemably incompatible?

Recent history of economic growth has largely been achieved at the expense of the environment. Thus serious environmental problems such as ecosystem disturbance, climate change, water and air pollution, and rising sea levels, can be seen as the unintended consequences of the development process. The threat of human-induced climate change poses a serious question to humanity: how can the world achieve well-rounded human development in the future without degrading our environment?

Do we need to trade off our environment for development?

Compared to developed nations, developing countries are much more vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to their low capacity to adapt and their disproportionate dependency on natural resources for welfare. As pointed out by Roberts and Parks (2006), developing countries actually suffer 'a double injustice'; environmental degradation and climate change will impinge on the poor countries hardest, at the same time, they are required to be 'part of the solution' by cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at the expense of their economic development.

However, an economic slowdown in developing countries can jeopardise their ability to address pressing problems such as poverty, lack of adequate health care, high unemployment and gender inequality. Environmental degradation can only intensify these existing development problems. For example, increased maximum temperatures and changing rainfall patterns are already exerting negative impacts on the agriculture and food security of many low-income communities, while several coastal nations are suffering from damage to their ocean fisheries brought on by ocean acidification (Howes and Wyrwoll 2012). On the other hand, if growth continues on what has been called the 'business as usual' development path it is likely to exaggerate existing development problems, and compromise the wellbeing of present and future generations. Growth enables human development which includes non-income dimensions such as education, health, gender equality, and freedom of expression, which are essential for human wellbeing. At first glance it looks like whichever path developing countries choose...

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