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Joint action on climate change: Key resources
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  • Joint action on climate change: Key resources

Copyright: Tim Smith / Panos

Who’s linking climate change, development, and disaster reduction? Ilan Kelman rounds up vital sources and voices.
Many useful and mainly free online resources reflect the links amongst climate change, development and disaster risk reduction — the following are some key organisations and documents.

Focus on climate change

Climate change science has been much debated. The full history of the science is laid out by the global warming timeline on the website of the American Institute of Physics. The website Skeptical Science compiles, summarises, and discusses objections to the science. The peer-reviewed paper The myth of the 1970s global cooling scientific consensus deconstructs the global cooling argument against human-driven climate change.

In the international policy sphere, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) publishes articles, podcasts, and other resources, including the latest news related to the Conferences of the Parties (COP). COP21, to be held in December in Paris, will seek a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, a major international treaty on climate change.

Within these negotiations, the UNFCCC has established a group devoted to supporting the least developed countries (LDCs), the LDC Expert Group, especially for adaptation programmes. The Alliance of Small Island States looks out for countries that are particularly vulnerable to climate change — the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) — publishing relevant news, photographs and policy documents.

The Many Strong Voices programme, a collaboration of more than 20 organisations, supports SIDS and Arctic peoples in international meetings, disseminates information and conducts relevant research.

The reports released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change present assessments and syntheses of climate change science to which member governments have agreed. These reports are published every 5-6 years, so cannot present the most recent research.

Many peer-reviewed journals are devoted to climate change disciplines, with many articles fully accessible.

Journalistic discussions of climate change science, policy, and practice are found on the websites CarbonBrief and Responding to Climate Change. Another network for sharing science is the International Climate Change Information Programme, led by the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences in Germany.

Many other free resources show how climate change intersects with other topics. One such topic is migration, often suggested as a major climate change impact. A wealth of material shows the subtleties and nuances of that link: see the online research database Climig (Climate and Migration), the EU-funded knowledge platform Environmental Migration Portal, and the UK Climate Change and Migration Coalition.

Another topic is health. The top medical journal, The Lancet, publishes a Health and climate change page, as does the World Health Organization, which also provides statistics and information about its climate change-related work.

On gender and climate change, useful resources include the Global Gender and Climate Alliance, the GenderCC Platform, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization’s climate change resource page, and  BRIDGE, from the UK’s Institute of Development Studies.

Linking disaster risk reduction and climate change

The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction has outlined connections with climate change in the Global Assessment Report and the voluntary international agreements for disaster risk reduction (the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction), valid from 2015-2030.

A series of peer-reviewed articles in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Science, including one on climate change, provides a preliminary analysis of the framework.

The online information platform PreventionWeb publishes a wealth of free disaster risk reduction material including a page focusing on climate change. The ProVention Consortium, which ran from 2000-10, has now made available an archive of its rich and still-relevant resources on these topics.

There are several major international networks working to ensure that climate change is enfolded within disaster risk reduction work.

The Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for Disaster Reduction ensures that civil society voices are heard. Others include the Gender and Disaster Network and Radix (for radical interpretations of disaster and radical solutions), a non-institutional network of researchers. Important regional networks exist: LA RED for Latin America, Duryog Nivaran for South Asia, and Periperi U for Africa have contributed immensely to knowledge and action on disaster risk reduction, including climate change adaptation.

The World Disasters Report, published every year by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, brings together knowledge and case studies at local, national, regional, and international levels. The 2014 report focused on culture and risk, explicitly noting climate change challenges and strategies in reducing disaster risk.

Several academic journals increasingly publish freely accessible papers on climate change and disaster risk reduction connections.

Several organisations work on both climate change impacts and disaster risk reduction. The Nansen Initiative is “a bottom-up, state-led consultative process” for dealing with disaster-related displacement. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre publishes data, policy briefings, and discussion papers on internal displacement. PEDRR: Ecosystems for Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction, an alliance of UN agencies, NGOs, and other institutions, provides countries with technical and science-based expertise.

The online information service Eldis provides background documents and articles on climate change and disaster risk reduction. The Information and Knowledge Management for Disaster Risk Reduction (IKM4DRR) network, which is part of PreventionWeb, develops and shares guiding principles on knowledge management. The Natural Hazards Center disseminates information in which climate change is well-represented.

Sustainable development, including climate change

Sustainable development has long embraced climate change concerns and opportunities. The UNFCCC was founded at the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) (the Earth Summit) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. Even 20 years earlier, at UNCED’s 1972 conference in Stockholm, Sweden, the conference report recommended “that Governments be mindful of [pollution] activities in which there is an appreciable risk of effects on climate”.

The Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015) incorporated climate change even though it was not mentioned explicitly. Indicators for Target 7A address the “proportion of land area covered by forest” and carbon emissions. The Sustainable Development Goals (2015-2030) have a specific goal on climate change, Goal 13: “Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”, with a footnote that assigns responsibility for this to the UNFCCC. This separates policy on climate change from other sustainable development policy. Many argue against this — one free book making the case is Thinking beyond sectors for sustainable development.

Numerous information sources and networks integrate climate change into sustainable development issues. One is the online magazine Mother Pelican. Another is the media platform Devex. The Earth Negotiations Bulletin is a top source for daily reporting and overall analysis of international development negotiations and events, particularly renowned for its work during the UNFCCC COPs.

The Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere connects research and action, highlighting behavioural changes needed for sustainability, and using mitigation and adaptation (and their links) as prominent examples. The Climate and Development Knowledge Network helps developing country decision-makers integrate climate into development considerations by offering research, advice and knowledge management services. The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) conducts research for policy and grassroots action with climate change as a main area of focus.

The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), based in India, conducts international research and provides policy advice on sustainable development with strong links to climate change. TERI’s annual Delhi Sustainable Development Summit attracts government ministers, researchers, and practitioners from around the world.
Indices and reports provide quantitative and qualitative analyses for how climate change affects development. They include the UN’s Global sustainable development report, which synthesises evidence about sustainable development globally, and another UN publication, the Human development reports, which uses indices and discussion to highlight how well-being goes beyond economics. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment is a synthesis of the science on the world’s ecosystems. The Worldwatch institute’s State of the world reports and the World Bank’s World development reports summarise development challenges. And the World happiness report, published by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, uses science to survey and explain personal and national happiness.

There are long lists of journals — some with free online access — covering sustainable development generally or as specific topics, including climate change.

Many not-for-profit and for-profit organisations working on sustainable development take an active interest in climate change. Well-known international NGOs with advocacy work include Greenpeace, particularly active in lobbying against Arctic petroleum extraction. Small centres such as the Future Centre Trust in Barbados explore how to use less electricity and fuel day-to-day.

The UK-based Transition Network is creating local initiatives to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions and the International Institute for Sustainable Development publishes policy research. Both cover a wide range of development topics, addressing climate change directly as part of sustainability work. There are many other groups that are sector-focused, such as the CGIAR for agriculture.

In the private sector, many companies have sustainability plans, ethical principles, and corporate responsibility departments. One consortium is the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, while the UN Global Compact is a voluntary programme that works with the private sector towards societal goals including human rights and environmental protection. In addition to initiatives such as supporting low-carbon entrepreneurship and local business networks, both organisations are heavily involved in bringing the private sector to COP21.

Ilan Kelman is a reader in risk, resilience and global health at the Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction and the Institute for Global Health, University College London, United Kingdom. He can be contacted via and through Twitter @IlanKelman

This article is part of our Spotlight on Joint action on climate change

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