For many, a warming climatic system is expected to impact the availability of basic necessities like freshwater, food security, and energy, while efforts to redress climate change, both through adaptation and mitigation, will similarly inform and shape the global development agenda. The links between climate change and sustainable development are strong. Poor and developing countries, particularly least developed countries, will be among those most adversely affected and least able to cope with the anticipated shocks to their social, economic and natural systems.
The international political response to climate change began at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, where the ‘Rio Convention’ included the adoption of the UN Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This convention set out a framework for action aimed at stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to avoid “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” The UNFCCC which entered into force on 21 March 1994, now has a near-universal membership of 197 parties.
In December 2015, the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21/CMP1) convened in Paris, France, and adopted the Paris Agreement, a universal agreement which aims to keep a global temperature rise for this century well below 2 degrees Celsius, with the goal of driving efforts to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
In the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Member States express their commitment to protect the planet from degradation and take urgent action on climate change. The Agenda also identifies, in its paragraph 14, climate change as “one of the greatest challenges of our time” and worries about “its adverse impacts undermine the ability of all countries to achieve sustainable development. Increases in global temperature, sea level rise, ocean acidification and other climate change impacts are seriously affecting coastal areas and low-lying coastal countries, including many least developed countries and Small Island Developing States. The survival of many societies, and of the biological support systems of the planet, is at risk”.
Sustainable Development Goal 13 aims to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impact”, while acknowledging that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is the primary international, intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change.
More specifically, the associated targets of SDG 13 focus on the integration of climate change measures into national policies, the improvement of education, awareness-raising and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warnings. SDG 13’s alphabetical targets also call for the implementation of the commitment undertaken at the UNFCCC and for the promotion of mechanisms able to increase capacity for effective climate –change related planning and management in least developed countries and Small Island Developing States.
The outcome document of the Rio+20 Conference, the Future We Want, underscores climate change as “an inevitable and urgent global challenge with long-term implications for the sustainable development of all countries”. Through the document, Member States express their concern about the continuous rising of emissions of greenhouse gases and the vulnerability of all countries, particularly developing countries, to the adverse impacts of climate change. Given these concerns, Member States have called for the widest cooperation and participation of all countries in an effective and appropriate international response to climate change.