By: Matthew Cordell on September 24, 2007 By Olav Kjorven, Assistant Administrator and Director, Bureau of Development Policy, UNDP, and member of the UN Secretary General’s climate team Today at the United Nations, the world is coming together, at the request of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, to address a truly global challenge. Climate change is the kind of issue that the UN was created to deal with. Today, we’ll address the climate challenge with words. Of course, it’s going to take much, much more than that to ensure a sustainable future for our kids, their kids, and beyond, but if today’s discussions inject energy, purpose, and will into the global response to climate change, as the Secretary-General and indeed, we all hope they will, then they will have served a valuable purpose.The threat of climate change is an unprecedented challenge for humanity: We have never faced a global, self-made calamity such as this before. Increasingly this is understood by policy makers around the world, and despite inertia, distractions, and the complexity of the issue, Monday is their chance to rise to the occasion and demonstrate their sincere readiness to deal with this challenge. I really think that we will see a new climate for serious, results-oriented negotiations after today. UNDP’s raison d’etre is human development: Helping developing nations and communities build the skills and knowledge to function better, and enjoy economic and social advance. The gravity of the climate threat means we and our partners have to approach development differently. Climate change can no longer be seen as one of many environmental problems: It affects all aspects of human development, from agricultural sustainability to public health. It is indeed a challenge at the center of what public policy is ultimately about: securing safe and secure living conditions and economic opportunities for all people. If we at UNDP do not take climate change seriously, we do not take development seriously. And climate change should be broadly recognized as a moral issue. Those least responsible for climate change are feeling its most painful and immediate effects, and are least equipped to deal with it. No matter what we do to limit emissions in coming decades — and we must significantly reduce emissions if we are to have any hope of coping with climate change, of course — the poorest and most vulnerable nations are going to see disastrous impacts. Helping these communities adapt to climate change will be a tremendously important part of our response. We also need to ensure that all countries that ask for it get help in making climate risk management an integral part of their strategies for development. This is about much more than making infrastructure more robust, or about being prepared for the next natural disaster. It is about coming to terms with fundamental shifts in terms of where crops can grow, where fish stocks will be found, how much water will flow in rivers, where pests and disease will strike. Species and ecosystems will be on the move, with all sorts of complex societal and economic consequences. Poor communities will be particularly affected, and governments will have to be able to come up with workable solutions. We in the UN need to be able to provide assistance in this regard. Let me briefly turn my attention to one very important region for some specifics in terms of response. Africa can contribute very little to reducing emissions; African countries don’t emit very much at all. But African countries can contribute to taking carbon out of the atmosphere. Through its forests and soils, and the conservation and rehabilitation of them, Africa can help the climate and adapt to climate change. These things can also help reduce poverty and foster human development. We have to make carbon finance flow to Africa’s forests and soils. That would be doing development differently. I, for one, am really optimistic that today is going to become the first chapter in a success story. A substantial portion of the world’s leaders are here, ready to begin work toward reaching a global deal on emissions by 2009. Climate change is getting record prominence in the media and in the public consciousness. Everyday citizens know about climate issues — and care about climate issues — like never before. And they’re expecting their leaders, with the UN, to act — to turn today’s words into a thoughtful, cooperative and effective response to this most serious of global problems.