Press release

Climate Policy Should Consider the Needs of the Poor

April 5, 2007

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded in Brussels on Thursday that climate change is inevitable, adaptation to it is critical and that those who contributed least to the problem will suffer the most.

"Even if, by some miracle, we could stop emitting greenhouse gases today, we will still experience climate change in the next few decades, making adaptation unavoidable. On the other hand, without any effort in mitigation we are likely to reach a level of climate change that makes adaptation impossible for some ecosystems, while for people it could involve very high social and economic costs." Richard Klein, coordinator of climate policy research at the Stockholm Environment Institute and a coordinating lead author of the IPCC.

One of the political dilemmas of climate policy is the fact that the costs and benefits of climate change are not distributed equally around the world. Saleemul Huq, director of the climate change programme of the International Institute for Environment and Development, and also a coordinating lead author, points out that for some countries, particularly the poorest countries in Africa and the small island developing states, adaptation is more important than mitigation. For countries like China, India and Brazil, the combination of the two strategies is essential, according to Huq.

John Drexhage, director of climate change and energy for the International Institute for Sustainable Development, and an expert reviewer of the IPCC report, agrees: "This report confirms a message we have been stating loud and clear for a few years now: namely that those least responsible for global warming — the poor, the indigenous communities — are the ones to be the most immediately and severely impacted by it. This is a core equity issue that must be addressed in the international negotiations."

Tom Downing, director of the Oxford office of the Stockholm Environment Institute and a lead author of the IPCC: "Many of these linkages are opportunities to promote sustainable development and alleviate poverty. We found relatively few examples where decision-makers made explicit, economic trade-offs between mitigation and adaptation."

The report from Working Group 2 of the Fourth Assessment of the IPCC was released in Brussels on Friday April 5, 2007. Working Group 3 will present its findings on May 4, 2007 in Bangkok and the final synthesis report will be released in November of this year.

Klein, Huq, Downing and Drexhage, and the three institutes they represent, The Stockholm Environment Institute, The International Institute for Environment and Development and the International Institute for Sustainable Development, have joined forces in addressing the challenge of climate change and development. As the Global Initiative on Climate Change (GICC), they provide knowledge to policymakers to ensure that climate change is seen as a development issue as well as an environment issue.

Contact Details

  • Dr. Richard J.T. Klein
    Stockholm Environment Institute
    Stockholm, Sweden
    Phone: +46 8 6747054

  • Dr. Saleemul Huq
    International Institute for Environment and Development
    London, UK
    Phone: +44 20 73882117

  • Dr. Thomas E. Downing
    Stockholm Environment Institute
    Oxford, UK
    Phone: +44 1865 426316

  • Mr. John Drexhage
    International Institute for Sustainable Development
    Ottawa, Canada
    Phone: +1 613 238 9820
    Cell: +1 613 276 7794

About IISD

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is an award-winning independent think tank working to accelerate solutions for a stable climate, sustainable resource management, and fair economies. Our work inspires better decisions and sparks meaningful action to help people and the planet thrive. We shine a light on what can be achieved when governments, businesses, non-profits, and communities come together. IISD’s staff of more than 250 experts come from across the globe and from many disciplines. With offices in Winnipeg, Geneva, Ottawa, and Toronto, our work affects lives in nearly 100 countries.