We can’t make poverty history without environmental resilience

cambodian farmerThis post is by Christine Allen, director of policy and public affairs at Christian Aid.

At Christian Aid we strongly believe that, unless development is also environmentally resilient, we can’t end poverty. The UN High-level panel on the post-2015 development agenda holds its final meeting in New York next week, before reporting to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the end of this month.

Now is the time to ensure that this new framework puts all countries in a position where they can develop sustainably for the long term.

The urgency of this is recognised by developing countries, which are both heavily affected by the impacts of climate change and heavily reliant on the natural environment for their livelihoods and survival.

As Christian Aid’s partner Agua Sustentable from Bolivia has said:

“The consequences of global warming have been unmistakable – more extreme weather events, retreating glaciers, among others – and now it should lead to the necessary consideration of resilient development.”

We hear this clear message from our partners across the world. If vulnerable people are not supported in building environmental resilience now it’s going to be very difficult – and expensive – to try and build it in the future.

A sustainable environment and development are not separate goals
There is increasing recognition that environmental sustainability is central to addressing poverty, not a separate set of goals added on once poverty has been dealt with. David Cameron, in his role of co-chair of the UN High-level Panel, has spoken clearly  about the strong and urgent need for the post-2015 framework to be founded on the principle of staying within planetary boundaries. But this recognition and sentiment must translate across to the final agreed document.

Our work with partners in developing countries has shown that approaches to development must manage environmental risk, whilst at the same time realising opportunities for poverty reduction and a thriving economy. This means making local food systems more diverse and flexible, to increase food security and employment and reduce hunger; and being better prepared for disasters, reducing risks and reliance on humanitarian aid. It means developing decentralised renewable energy, for clinics, schools, businesses and communities; and improving resource security, leading to a more efficient and equitable economy.

The clear benefits of developing environmental resilience
In Cambodia, for example, we have helped to develop drought-resilient agricultural techniques accessible to poor farmers, including integrated farming, where by-products of chicken and fish rearing provide organic fertilisers for vegetable production; and enhancement of aquatic food species (fish, crabs, snails) that naturally live in flooded rice fields.

By adopting these techniques farmers are reducing climate risks, increasing their yields and diversifying their food production. One family we’ve worked with say that, as a result of adopting these new techniques, their farming business is more resilient to droughts and floods, their income has increased and they can now afford to send their children to school. And, using what they’ve learned, they are now training others to do the same.

In Kenya, the local wind pump manufacturing company Davsam, has installed more than 80 wind pumps in arid and semi-arid areas. With frequent droughts, these communities need to find new ways to access water for domestic use, irrigation and all year round farming, and using the energy generated by wind has proven to be a reliable and sustainable alternative to traditional methods.

The benefits to local communities have been substantial: less physical exertion as water is available close by, more time for children to spend learning rather than collecting water, improved health as a result of better diets, employment benefits, such as learning new skills, diversified income generation opportunities and more job opportunities for women.

We are all responsible
But to achieve resilient development, these examples need to be replicated globally. For this to be possible, the post-2015 development framework has to work at all levels: global, national and local, through partnerships between governments, private sector and civil society, each contributing their expertise and perspective. Developing countries must include resilience and resource management in their planning to deliver the post-2015 framework. Most importantly, local communities should be viewed as equal partners and their voices must be heard.

This approach will only work if all countries are responsible for the outcomes of the new framework, challenging them to examine their contribution to the goal of sustainable poverty eradication.

For us here in the UK this means looking at our consumption and questioning the supply chains of the products we use, the food we eat, the fuel we put in our cars, and the clothes we wear – all of which can have both positive and negative impacts on the people and environments of developing countries.

Making sure the framework delivers
There are clear long term gains for all countries in being resource efficient, working towards a resilient global economy, and ensuring all nations are best equipped to manage future shocks to resource security and supply chains.

This is why Christian Aid, along with Green Alliance, RSPB, WWF and Greenpeace have set four environmental resilience tests for David Cameron and the High-level Panel to apply to the post-2015 framework. We expect the report later this month to lead the way towards a fair and sustainable future for all countries, free of poverty and thriving within the natural boundaries of our planet.


 

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