Global Resources

HDR 2007/2008

Publisher: United Nations Development Programme
Publication Date: Jan 2007
According to the Human Development Report 2007/2008, the consequences of climate change for some of the world’s poorest people could be devastating. The report seeks to identify the nature of policies that will tackle the causes of climate change and enable effective adaptation, particularly for those who are most vulnerable to its impacts.

The first chapter argues that energy-related carbon emissions could rise by more than 50 per cent over the 2005 level by 2030. It notes that the rising carbon emissions trend since 1990, combined with limited progress in global mitigation, could trigger large-scale reversals in human development, undermine livelihoods and cause mass displacement. It refers to the challenges in ensuring developed countries reduce and stabilise their emissions – for example, some developed countries have not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, and many of those that did so are not on track to achieve the prescribed reductions.

The second chapter examines the unequal effects of ‘climate shocks’ (droughts, floods, storms) on risk and vulnerability. It outlines ways in which climate shocks place added pressure on coping strategies and access to vital resources. It predicts, for example, that melting glaciers will result in seven of Asia’s great river systems experiencing increased flows, and several countries in the Middle East (as well as other water-stressed areas) having considerably reduced availability of water. The third chapter explores strategies for mitigation, suggesting that a sustainable global emissions pathway will only be meaningful if it is translated into practical national strategies and national carbon markets – for example, by putting a price on carbon emissions. The chapter argues that, while carbon markets are a necessary condition for the transition to a low carbon economy, governments also need to support low carbon research, development and deployment.

The final chapter illustrates how developing countries are facing far more severe and inevitable adaptation challenges. For example, global warming is changing weather patterns in the Horn of Africa, resulting in crop failure and famine and causing women and young girls to walk further to collect water.

The report concludes that the current economic model of carbon-intensive and unregulated growth is ecologically unsustainable and that consumption and economic activities need to take into account the finite nature of resources required to fuel them, as well as their potential impacts on the environment and climate. The report calls for governments to translate rhetoric on the global threat of climate change into action. It also calls for a binding international agreement to reduce GHG emissions, to which all countries are party.