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Climate change and development are closely intertwined. Poor people in developing countries will feel the impacts first and worst (and already are) because of vulnerable geography and lesser ability to cope with damage from severe weather and rising sea levels. In short, climate change will be awful for everyone but catastrophic for the poor.
Preventing dangerous climate change is critical for promoting global development. And saving tropical forests is essential to doing both. Frances Seymour and Jonah Busch's new book, Why Forests? Why Now?, illustrates how today—more than ever—saving forests is more feasible, affordable, and urgent.
Historically, the responsibility for climate change, though, rested with the rich countries that emitted greenhouse gases unimpeded from the Industrial Revolution on — and become rich by doing so. Now, some of the most quickly developing countries have become major emitter themselves just as all countries are compelled by the common good to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A major challenge of reaching a global deal on climate change was to find a way for poor countries to continue developing under the planetary carbon limits that rich countries have already pushed too far. That will involve scaling up finance to deploy clean technologies, to adapt to the effects of climate change, and to compensate countries that provide the global public good of reducing emissions, especially by reducing tropical deforestation.
CGD’s research and policy engagement on climate and development has had two aims: to strengthen the intellectual foundation for a viable international accord to come out of the COP 21 in Paris and to provide data, research, and analysis that policymakers and others can act upon even in the absence of an international agreement.
Last Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court decided, by a 5 to 4 vote, to allow states to temporarily stop preparing to implement the Obama administration's signature regulation for cutting greenhouse gas emissions until a series of lawsuits against the rules have been decided. This casts uncertainty on climate policy actions both in the U.S. and internationally, as many developing countries are only willing to take climate action if the US shows leadership.
As well as being the beginning of a new year, this is also the start of CGD’s 15th anniversary year, so what better way to kick off than to invite our president Nancy Birdsall to cast her gaze back to 2015 and forwards to 2016.
Climate change will have profound effects on development, poverty, health, and well-being in coming years. Rejuvenated by the recent Paris agreements, efforts to channel the international funding commitments need channels for cost-effective mitigation. The Green Climate Fund (GCF) represents the best current opportunity to address climate change effectively with international funding. Unlike other institutions, the GCF is relatively new and is still developing its policies and procedures.
Last week marked the transition from commitments to compliance for a number of companies that have pledged to get deforestation out of their supply chains. Wilmar International, the world’s largest trader of palm oil, set a December 31, 2015 deadline for suppliers to adhere to its path-breaking “No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation” policy. December 31st was also Jim Bob Moffett’s last day at work as the chairman of Freeport-McMoRan, the company that developed one of the world’s largest copper and gold mines in eastern Indonesia. The coincidence of these milestones leads me to reflect on the changing norms of corporate leadership, and my brief interaction with Mr. Moffett 20 years ago.