There is no 'Planet B'

By: Gernot Laganda

The eyes of the world are on the UN Secretary General's Climate Summit in New York. Over 120 heads of state are roaming the halls of the UN building, telling the world about their perspectives, actions and intentions on climate change. Although some key players are missing, such as Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, most commentators have good things to say about this Summit. The strategy of the UN Secretary General to request 'bold and decisive action' has clearly left a mark - the announcements countries have made at this Summit to date have mostly been substantive (overview).

In the past, most speeches at this kind of event were simply acknowledging climate change as a defining problem of the 21st Century and inferring that some urgent action is needed. This approach may have helped countries to delay several complex and uncomfortable reforms, such as the phasing-out of fossil fuel subsidies or the taxing of carbon pollution, but it has also led to a huge aggregate delay on concrete global climate action. The inconvenient truth about greenhouse gas emissions, however,  is that they do not stop at national boundaries. As more extreme weather events are being recorded in all parts of the world, more and more alarm bells from climate scientists (IPCC AR5), think tanks (WRI's The Climate Change Connection to U.S. Public Health) and civil society groups are starting to ring. The climate march in New York City last Saturday is a good example: Over 400,000 people took to the streets, many with signs saying ‘There is no Planet B’.

At this week's UN Climate Summit, one cannot help but notice that the tone of some of the country statements has changed. Many countries have had an opportunity to reflect on their own experiences with climate disasters, from floods to droughts to wildfires and tropical storms. US President Obama referred to many recent examples in his statement, concluding that 'we are the first generation who is experiencing the impacts of climate change, and also the last generation that can do anything about it'.  This got amplified by other prominent commentators who shared their frustration about the fact that green technologies are ready to go to scale at affordable prices, but there is still too little political drive and inertia in the status quo to make transformational progress.

For an organisation such as IFAD, which is championing the cause of smallholder adaptation at this Summit, this event has confirmed that we are among the fastest and most decisive movers on climate action. IFAD’s flagship programme for climate change adaptation is only two years young, but keeps getting recognized by donors and agriculture ministers from around the world as one of the most tangible examples of climate action. In 2015, at the 21st Conference of Parties of the UN Climate Change Convention, we hope to realize that our efforts in the field of climate change adaptation are met by equally decisive actions on emission reductions.