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Future development depends on fixing climate change

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© WWF / Simon Rawles / Planting pine trees on Mbiwo Constantine Kusebahasa's land, Kasese District, Rwenzori Mountains, Uganda. WWF has helped 574 farmers in the region plant 700,000 trees in its 5-year programme to replenish bare hills.© WWF / Simon Rawles

By Samantha Smith

Yesterday marked the end of long and complex negotiation on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. World leaders signed off on 17 global goals that aim to 17 Sustainable Development Goals which aim to eliminate poverty; create food, energy and water security; protect biodiversity; build green cities; and tackle climate change.

The inclusion of climate is important. It is one of several “environmental” targets in the 2030 Agenda, including the ocean, freshwater and forests, and it shows recognition of the deep connections between people and planet.

World leaders will next meet in Paris in eight weeks to finish another long and complex negotiation – a new global deal tackling climate change. Its ultimate aim is keep global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures. Governments must now keep momentum from the new sustainable development deal as they prepare for the climate negotiations in Paris.

By including climate change throughout the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, governments have acknowledged that climate action will be a driving force behind future development. It is also a killer assumption for development efforts: a healthy climate is an essential precondition to further development, while unchecked climate change threatens to roll back development gains.

This is important because climate change hits everybody, but poor people most of all. It is a threat to life’s basics: Water, food and health. It multiplies these threats and conflicts, and makes any economic, social and environmental crisis worse.

Anything less than a strong, science-based global agreement in Paris that sees a rapid drop in carbon emissions will deflate the ambitions of the development agenda.  Among the 2030 Agenda’s targets are a substantial increase in renewable energy use and a rise in global energy efficiency. It also puts the responsibility on wealthy countries to provide assistance against climate-related hazards in vulnerable countries and to fulfill their promise to raise US$100 billion annually by 2020 to help developing countries cut carbon emissions through the Green Climate Fund.

In Paris, 196 countries have the opportunity to change climate change. No one expects Paris to be the end of the struggle, but with the right political will it can be an important milestone.

Samantha Smith is the leader of WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative. She is based in Oslo.

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