A new report, prepared by TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute), and supported by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), highlights key trends in a growing body of research on the links between climate change and development. Useful for policy-makers, practitioners, and researchers, the “Climate & Development Research Review” draws on a meta-synthesis of hundreds of policy-relevant research papers published between January 2010 and August 2011, and a closer review of almost 100 of those papers.
Background and Purpose
In the 20 years since world leaders gathered at the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro with a pledge to embrace sustainable development, climate change has emerged as a major challenge to both the environment and to development. Scientific understanding of climate change and its potential impacts on Earth’s natural systems and people has advanced rapidly. At the same time, the physical science of climate change holds many uncertainties. Leaders now face tough, and ever more urgent, policy decisions.
The research community has responded by producing a wealth of studies on the links between climate change and development, which span the global, regional, national, and local levels. As a result, a major body of climate and development literature has emerged in the past decade, authored by a wide range of stakeholders. The purpose of the Climate and Development Research Review is to draw the main findings from this body of research to inform policy-makers and practitioners who are working towards climate compatible development.
The Review aims to highlight both where climate and development researchers are currently focusing their enquiry, and the big debates and issues emerging from the literature for the use of policy-makers and practitioners. The Review also pinpoints some of the innovations in climate compatible development captured in the recent literature, in order to demonstrate the frontiers of policy and practice. The Review is informed by research over the past decade but focuses particularly on debates and issues in the published literature of 2010-2011.
All the papers chosen for inclusion in the Climate & Development Research Review spoke to two key questions:
- How does climate change affect development?
- How can development contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation?
Across the papers selected as most relevant and influential for climate compatible development in this period, four major themes have emerged:
- Decision-making in the Face of Uncertainty – How should decision-makers operate in a context of uncertainty around climate impacts, including uncertainty around extreme weather events? How do issues of poverty and power affect decision-making?
- Natural Resource Management in a Changing Climate – How can natural resources be managed most effectively across scales in a changing climate, and how can lessons be best captured and shared?
- Innovative Finance for Climate Action – Are current climate finance mechanisms fit for purpose? What relative contributions could public and private sources make? How can climate finance be generated, managed, and spent effectively?
- Technology Transfer and Division of Effort for the Low-Carbon Transition – How can the integrated use of market instruments and government regulation transform energy systems? How should climate mitigation efforts be distributed among groups and countries as part of the transition to a low carbon economy?
The literature reviewed in the Climate & Development Research Review reflects a growing understanding of the current impacts of climate change; however, their future impacts are still uncertain. This highlights the need for policies to deal with climate-related disasters as well as slow-onset and long-term climate change impacts. Top-down policy approaches are valuable, but must be grounded in local realities, otherwise, maladaptation, ‘policy misfits’ and negative feedback can occur. Institutions play a vital role in determining human stresses on natural resources because they govern access to, and allocation of, natural resources across society.
Innovation and long-term commitment are needed to overcome the continued challenges to the mobilization of climate finance; lack of an agreed definition, lack of clarity on sources, and issues on where and how to channel and manage climate finance. In many cases, this is a question of framing support as a crucial investment opportunity, rather than a case of simple resource allocation.
One-off technological breakthroughs and conventional policy instruments will not be enough to transform energy production and consumption patterns. Far more fundamental public policy change will be required, globally. In developing countries, external investments and technology transfers are needed to support the transition to a low carbon economy.
Finally, adaptation has its limits. In the absence of an inclusive international agreement for ambitious climate mitigation, human society will be tested beyond these limits.
The Climate & Development Research Review comprises three parts: The Executive Summary provides an overview of important research findings in these thematic areas. The Synthesis Report reviews the literature in more detail, and the Abstracts summarize and provide expert commentary on the papers selected for review.