China Climate Change Partnership Framework Occasional Paper July 2012
The international scientific community has reached an overall consensus regarding the science of climate change and its effects. In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the international scientific authority tasked with informing and advising the global community on climate change, concluded that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal”, and that there is a greater than 90 percent probability that the warming observed since the mid-20th century has predominantly been caused by human activity.
The effects of this are seen through increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea levels. In the international negotiations undertaken in Copenhagen in the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Secretary-General of the United Nations declared that, “climate change is the defining challenge of our era. No issue is more fundamental to the global challenges we face – reducing poverty, maintaining economic growth, ensuring peace and stability”
Climate change presents a challenge to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and sustaining the hard won gains of developing countries. It threatens the environment, the health, and the livelihoods of countries all around the world, and its negative impacts will be most evident in its effects on water resources, human health, agricultural sustainability, natural ecosystems, and in the increased frequency and scale of natural disasters. These are all areas in which developing countries, and especially their poorer inhabitants, are particularly vulnerable. However, given the implications for development, environment, and poverty alleviation, climate change mitigation and adaptation have now become primary challenges for all countries. IPCC analysis indicates that "if warming is not kept below 2ºC (which will require the strongest of mitigation efforts, and currently looks very unlikely to be achieved) then substantial global impacts will occur, such as: species extinctions and millions of people at risk from drought, hunger and flooding, etc"
More recently, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres has stressed, as did several developing countries at the 15th Conference of Parties in Copenhagen (COP-15), that an increase of 2°C would leave low-lying island countries and other coastal countries susceptible to sea-level rise and that global warming should be limited to 1.5°C.
The Stern Review puts the cost of not tackling climate change (termed the “business as usual” scenario) at 5-20 percent of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).For its part, the World Bank estimates at US$ 140 to 175 billion annually the cost of mitigation activities needed in developing countries to limit global mean temperature rise to 2°C.
However, the effects of climate change on natural resources and ecosystems around the world are already becoming apparent, and mitigation alone is not enough to counter against the effects of anthropogenic climate change. With less financial and technical resources at their disposal, adaptation to climate change also poses a great burden on developing countries. It is estimated that adaptation costs in developing countries could amount to some US$ 75-100 billion per year until 2050, with the highest costs borne by East Asia and the Pacific Region.