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The relationship of climate change with sustainable development





The idea of global climate change is a conceptualization which emerges against a background of

vulnerability, threat and risk to the global environment. The natural scientists initially framed climate  change as a problem related to the long-term disturbance in the biosphere and its effects on global  climate. In the 1990s, with the emerging threat to global environment, climate change became an  issue of public and political interest and the growing environmental challenges to extensive  industrialization brought a significant shift in developmental thinking towards a mode of  development termed as “sustainable development”. The idea of sustainable development emphasized the promotion of social and economic development by avoiding environmental degradation, pollution or over-exploitation of natural  resources. However, the mainstream theories of development and underdevelopment tend to pay more attention to economic advancement and global market situation and give less importance to the environmental crisis that poses an alarming challenge to sustainability. From a socialist and capitalist standpoint of development, one of the most fundamental indicators of growth and advancement is industrialization. Due to the increased global market competition, the industrialization process is becoming more extensive in advanced industrialized countries but critiques point out that, the pursuit of bigger profit limits is leading to severe exploitation of natural resources such as water, forests, lands, which are consequently causing alarming ecological and

environmental degradation.The neo-liberal strategy principally aims at increasing economic growth and production on the basis of market competition. Thus, to conceptualize development, the neo-liberals have a propensity to over-emphasize economic growth and understate the weight of environmental sustainability and economic equality. For Fieldman (2011:159) “the neo-liberal system produces vulnerability to climate-induced changes and effectively incapacitates effective responses”. The emerging neo-liberal ideological and paradigmatic move towards more market based strategies in the industrialized countries suggest spread out of market forces, increase of mass production, maximizing of consumption, facilitating of open competition, magnetizing of foreign investment.

Thus, neo-liberal regimes advocate industrialization that cause environmental degradation and  globalize consumerism. maximize consumption of environmentally detrimental products, which multiply the global carbon emission and threaten sustainable development objectives. Following neo-liberal market-intensive policy formulas of highly industrialized countries (United States and

Britain), most African, Asian and Latin American countries reformed their state policies and shifted towards more market-oriented policies. State policies of many developing countries have been replaced by market-oriented strategies including privatization of state ventures, deregulation of market control, and liberalization of trade and investment. According to Haque (1999:204), following the neo-liberal prescription of stabilization and structural adjustment, most of the developing countries withdraw welfare benefits, shrank subsidies and laid off workers. Consequently poverty and inequality conditions have risen in these countries, particularly in Africa and Latin America. UNDP titled such market-based economic growth as “jobless growth”- a growth trail that has failed to increase employment in many developing countries such as India, Pakistan, Ghana, Egypt and “ruthless growth”- a growth that increased poverty rate simultaneously despite the otherwise higher economic growth rates, particularly in Latin American countries.These experiences of the developing countries have led to a widespread criticism of the idea of growth derived from neo-liberal theory. Redclift (1987:56) states “a direct result of growth itself is resource depletion and unsustainable development”. Explaining this situation, Hempel (1996)

comments, “poverty often leads to various forms of ecological damage as the poor people often have no choice but to over exploit forests and croplands for food and fuel”.To reduce vulnerability to climate change different policies and actions have been taken globally.Agenda 21: Agenda 21 is the first global-political action plan related to sustainable consumption linked to the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) report held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 which emphasized taking actions globally and nationally to reduce environmental stress by promoting sustainable pattern of production and consumption. Kyoto Protocol : The Kyoto Protocol is a legally binding protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted in Kyoto, Japan in 1997. Identifying the industrialist countries as the main culprits for the alarming rate of green house gas emissions, Kyoto treaty sets targets for industrialized countries to reduce their collective emissions on average by 5% over the five-year period of 2008-2012 (UNFCCC 2012). Three project-based market mechanisms have been established under the Kyoto Protocol – Carbon trading, Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Joint Implementation (JI).Under CDM and JI, Industrialized countries can meet their emission reduction targets by funding emission reduction

projects in developing countries. According to the treaty this mechanism stimulates sustainable development and emission reductions (UNFCCC 2012). Though the treaty goes in favor of developing countries, critics say the conditionality of the protocol will not be effective firstly because the USA took a strong stance to oppose any greenhouse agreement that did not include developing countries (China and India) for their emission reduction.

Secondly, the treaty includes no effective enforcement mechanism because the industrialist

countries are shifting their major industries to developing countries which will increase pollution

anyway. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): IPCC is a leading international body established by UNEP in 1988 for the scientific assessment of the risk and impact of climate change and adaptation and mitigation options. However, critiques say that IPCC’s assessment on climate change appears to be over-optimistic and conservative because greenhouse gas emission are presently mounting at a rate higher than it is projected by IPCC. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): Responses to climate change are linked to MDG 7, which addresses the need to create growth through sustainable development strategies and to help to slow or reverse the trend of climate change. However, climate change is apprehended as a potential

threat to achieve the Millennium Development Goals because most of the individual goal of the

MDG’s will be hampered by climate change impact.

Role of Global media and INGOs: Global media (i.e. BBC, NHK) and international non-governmental  organizations such as: the Northern Alliance for Sustainability, A friend of the Earth, Environmental

Justice Foundation, Care International are working for awareness building and policy advocacies on

climate issues during the last two decades. Some Transnational business companies like Royal Dutch

Shell, British Petroleum (BP) and Chevron are also working on climate change management as part

of their respective corporate social responsibility. The adverse impact of climate change on human

society is globally recognized. The whole world will be affected by climate change since the atmosphere is shared globally. The  vulnerability of countries depends not only on the climate stress but also on the capacity of affected  societies to adapt with such stress. In this regard adaptation and mitigation is considered as the best

effective and sustainable mechanism which can combat climate change.

The writer is Assistant Registrar, Department of Cooperatives, Ministry of LGRD & Cooperatives