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Climate change

Introduction Climate change is one of the most critical challenges facing humanity today. The process of change unleashed by the rapid rise of atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions, historically and today, has the capacity to alter our economic systems, ecological networks and social relationships. To minimize the adverse impacts of climate change, significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are needed on an urgent basis. Yet achieving these reductions will be challenging given current reliance on fossil fuelbased energy systems for the achievement of economic development. Combating climate change therefore requires finding answers to fundamental questions such as:

How do we significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions while still meeting the growing energy needs of developing countries? How to we reduce the vulnerability of communities to the impacts of a changing climate? How do we do this on an urgent basis?

Creative policy responses based on solid research, shared knowledge and strong partnerships are needed to provide answers to these questions. IISD is working to provide progressive policy solutions in North America and at the global level that are supported by individuals, companies and governments that have the capacity to take concrete actions. Our work includes:

Developing well-designed, market-based mechanismssuch as effective emission trading systemsto reduce the costs of emission reductions, incentivize the deployment of low-carbon energy technologies and encourage technology transfer to less developed countries. Identifying ways in which trade policy can effectively contribute to climate mitigation efforts and areas of potential conflict between the global climate and trade regimes. Promoting sustainable agriculture and forestry practices to simultaneously enhance carbon storage and reduce vulnerability to the impacts of a changing global climate. Providing intelligence, advice and analysis to governments and private sector clients on the continual evolution of national and international climate policy.

As well, through our work in the area of adaptation and risk reduction, we are:

Designing and implementing tools, actions and policies able to help communities and governments in developed and developing countries prepare for and respond to the impacts of climate change. Understanding the potential for climatic changes to exacerbate social tensions and violent conflictsincluding the role that adaptation actions may play in either promoting or undermining peace-building efforts.

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Climate change and security

In recent years, climate change has come to be viewed as a core development challenge that carries potentially serious implications for international peace and security. Climate change will redraw our coastlines, alter where we can grow food, change where we can find water, expose us to fiercer storms or more severe droughts and likely force large numbers of people to move from their homelands. Climate change will undermine the economic and agricultural base of many countries, particularly the most vulnerable developing countries. Meanwhile, warming temperatures are changing the strategic balance in the Arctic by opening up new shipping routes and uncovering the oil and gas supplies previously under the ice. Globally, climate change will stress existing mechanisms for sharing resources like transboundary rivers and migratory fish stocks. It is clear that climate change holds the potential to exacerbate existing tensions and even trigger new ones. IISD's work tries to understand how climate change could affect political and economic stability and to develop effective ways to address those problems. It attempts to cut through the rhetoric with clear analysis of locations of concern, and hopes to add nuance, texture and detail to the debate on the security implications of climate change.

Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Most governments provide some kind of financial assistance to boost energy supply or reduce prices for certain energy consumers. When those subsidies are applied to fossil fuels or fossil fuel-based energy, they are both a colossal waste of scarce financial resources that could have been better spent, and a powerful driver of increased greenhouse gas emissions. At a time when governments are trying desperately to apply the brakes on climate change, fossil fuel subsidies represent hundreds of billions of dollars worth of acceleration in the wrong direction.

Developing Country Actions

Achieving sustainable development in a changing climate
Climate change has the potential to significantly influence the probability of developing countries breaking out of poverty and achieving their sustainable development objectives. It will influence the process by which they achieve industrialization and present new obstacles as changing weather patterns impact key economic sectors such as infrastructure and agriculture. Like all other countries, low- and middle-income countries will need to progressively transition to a low-carbon pathway to development if the global community is to reduce the release of greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently to avoid catastrophic climate change. This transition will

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be particularly challenging for developing countries because of their desire to rapidly increase energy productionboth to expand their industrial and manufacturing sectors and to meet the needs of the estimated two billion people who currently rely on traditional biomass for cooking and do not have access to electricity. At the same time, developing countries, particularly the least developed countries and small island developing states, are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The current economic, demographic, political and environmental conditions in many developing countries weaken their capacity to cope and adapt to the projected consequences of climate change. Overcoming this vulnerability will require the integration of climate change considerations into development processes that strengthen economic systems, enhance the robustness of ecosystems, promote equitable social relations and enable effective governance structures. Working with national and local governments, multilateral organizations, research institutes and non-governmental organizations, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is identifying means by which developing countries can make the transition to a low-carbon development pathway by improving trade and investment systems, strengthening market mechanisms for climate protection, and improving the management of forest and agricultural lands. At the same time, through our work in the area of adaptation and risk reduction, the institute is working with developing-country partners to develop methods and tools needed to strengthen their capacity to address the impacts of climate change.

Building REDD Capacity in Developing Countries

Encouraging Effective Actions in Developing Countries to Address Deforestation and Forest Degradation
There is broad recognition that reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation in developing countries (REDD) will be an important element of the emerging international climate change regime. Global deforestation is estimated to be the source of 20 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions per year. At the same time, some argue that forestry has the highest potential of any sector to provide low-cost greenhouse gas reduction solutions between now and 2030. Momentum has built quickly to strengthen the inclusion of REDDa way to address environmental degradation and encourage enhancement of forest carbon stocks by assigning an economic value to intact forests and peat swampsin the international climate regime. Developing and developed countries see REDD as a positive way to contribute to global mitigation efforts. However, REDD is also a highly technical and rapidly evolving subject and many developing countries require support to develop options and negotiate effective modalities and processes that could be included within an agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

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To provide developing countries with this support, IISD has partnered with the Alternatives to Slash and Burn Partnership for the Tropical Forest Margins at the World Agroforesty Centre (ASB-ICRAF) to deliver a series of workshops that aim to increase understanding of the REDD negotiations. They also aim to provide information on actual experiences in the forestry sector to lay the technical and policy foundations for better REDD programs. The workshops encourage South-South sharing of information, and bring together negotiators and stakeholders from countries receiving support from UN-REDD and the World Bank Forest Carbon Partnership Facility. The post-Copenhagen workshops, REDD after Copenhagen: The way forward, were held in:

Nairobi, Kenya, Workshop 2010 Hue, Vietnam, Workshop 2010

The policy brief, Key Messages on REDD (PDF - 196 KB) provided messages for ministers and negotiators, and the Norway-France Initiative on Forests and Climate. The first set of workshops, REDD at the Copenhagen Climate Talks and BeyondBridging the Gap between Negotiations and Action, were held in:

Hanoi Capacity-Building Workshop 2009 Nairobi Capacity-Building Workshop 2009

The policy brief, Key Messages for Copenhagen (PDF - 244 KB), was the main outcome of the workshops. The key messages were presented at an IISD-hosted side event at Development and A third set of workshopsone in Asia and one in Africawill be held in early 2011. Generous support for this project has been provided by the Norwegian Government.

Global Climate Actions

Achieving progress though the UNFCCC and the other international processes
The Earth's atmosphere is shared by all peoples of the world, with emissions of greenhouse gases in any one location affecting the global process of climate change. Collective action is therefore required to effectively implement the measures needed to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Through strong partnerships among countries, organizations and people it will be possible to develop and transfer innovative technology solutions, establish international emission trading systems able to deliver real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in a cost-effective manner and introduce innovative ways of investing in climate change solutions. Multilateral processes can also support the development and sharing of strategies for reducing vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, particularly with respect to cross-border issues such as watershed management, migration and conflict. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) provides a basis for collective action that respects the common but differentiated responsibilities of developed and

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developing countries. Its work is increasingly complemented by commitments made through bilateral, regional and multilateral forums such as the Group of Eight, Group of 20 and the Major Economies Forum, and by numerous initiatives of development assistance organizations, multilateral agencies and civil society organizations. The growth of international activity outside the UNFCCC process in part reflects the increasingly urgent need to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Given the inherently protracted nature of the UNFCCC negotiations, which require unanimity among all participating countries, these complementary venues for promoting international cooperation may have greater potential to meet the need for decisive action on climate change. Through its involvement with the UNFCCC and other international initiatives, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) seeks to promote constructive solutions to climate change problems and challenges. Our work emphasizes the need to integrate climate change considerations across the full range of international policy spheres, including diplomacy, energy security, trade and investment, and development cooperation. It also aims to facilitate transparency within multilateral climate change discussions.

Investment and Climate Change

Investment is critical to addressing climate change. The UNFCCC has estimated that by 2030 we will need more than $200 billion per year invested in changing the way we produce, transport, consume and dispose of goods and services, over and above the baseline levels of investment and finance, if we are to lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions to the highest level estimated as safe by the IPCC. Equally massive investments will be needed to adapt to climate changeto reduce our vulnerability to unavoidable climate change-driven impacts. IISD's work in this area has focused on trying to determine what governments might do to help catalyze the huge flows of private investment that will be needed. At the international level this involves taking a fresh look at the international investment agreements that govern the flow of commercial investment, or at the ways in which multilateral development banks might contribute. At the domestic level it involves policy reforms to attract and successfully govern more climate-friendly investment.

Climate Change and Agriculture

Mitigation in the agricultural sector is gaining in profile in the UNFCCC negotiations. The agricultural sector has the potential to contribute substantially to greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions with potential ranges from 5 to 20 per cent of total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2030, and a global mitigation potential (excluding fossil fuel offsets from biomass) ranging from 5.5 to 6 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent per year by 2030. The IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report shows that agriculture is a relatively cost-effective option for significant GHG emission reductions in the short term, and most of the mitigation potential arises from sink enhancement through soil carbon sequestration. The required transformation in energy systems and

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infrastructure will take time to put in place, meaning that agriculture could have a significant role to play in meeting short- to medium-term GHG emissions reduction targets. Emission reductions in the agricultural sector can be a meaningful way for many developing countries to contribute to the goal of the UNFCCC and participate in a future climate regime. The IPCC report estimates that 70 per cent of the mitigation potential in agriculture is in developing countries. Sustainable agricultural practices that mitigate carbon can have important co-benefits, including increased soil fertility and productivity, enhanced resistance to drought and extreme weather and better capacity to adapt to climate change. Sustainable agriculture can contribute significantly to increased food production, as well as make a significant impact on the welfare and livelihoods of rural people. Despite the significant potential and important sustainable development benefits, minimal progress has been made to capitalize on opportunities in this sector, mainly because of complexities, perceived or otherwise, around accounting, monitoring, verification, non-permanence and other issues. IISD's work related to climate change and agriculture has been supported by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

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