Parallel tracks, same destination: how the post-2015 agenda and climate change are converging

Parallel tracks, same destination: how the post-2015 agenda and climate change are converging

New York—28 July 2015

For some time, international negotiation to combat climate change and negotiations to put forward a post-2015 development agenda have proceeded along two separate tracks.

No longer. The two processes are converging, driven by the increasing recognition that success in one cannot be achieved without success in the other.

David Nussbaum, Chief Executive of the Worldwide Fund for Nature in the UK, described what many in the international system now see as an unbreakable link between combatting climate change and achieving the proposed sustainable development goals (SDGs), using an analogy:

“If we look at the SDGs as analogous to putting out some of the fires that are burning around the world – poverty, malnutrition, etc. – then climate change, if you will, acts like petrol being poured on those fires, making them burn more intensely.”

Mr. Nussbaum’s comments came on 28 July 2015 at an informal breakfast meeting on the topic of “Sustainable development and climate action: Interlinkages between post-2015 and UNFCCC processes.”

Held in the offices of the Baha’i International Community, the meeting was the 27th in a series designed to bring together diplomats, UN officials, and civil society representatives to discuss the post-2015 development agenda.

Ronald Jean Jumeau, the Ambassador for Climate Change and Small Island Developing State Issues of the Republic of Seychelles, opened the discussion, saying recent UN meetings have increasingly – but not adequately in his view – established clear links between the two processes.

At the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD), held in July in Addis Ababa, for example, he said the outcome document explicitly connects development financing to the fight against climate change.

And the latest draft of the SDGs, produced in late July, he noted, states: “Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time and its adverse impacts undermine the ability of all countries to achieve sustainable development.”

Ambassador Jumeau said he hoped world leaders will do more when they meet at the UN in September to adopt the SDGs. He urged them to “send a collective message” to climate change negotiators who will gather in Paris in December “that the success of the post-2015 development agenda and the SDGs depends on them delivering an ambitious and meaningful agreement.”

Janos Pasztor, the UN Assistant Secretary-General on Climate Change, agreed that the two processes have become increasingly convergent, noting that this has occurred despite their different historical backgrounds and negotiating processes.

The SDGs are being brought together by member states, with a lot of support from civil society, he said, in what is a largely a “bottom-up process” focused on poverty eradication.

Whereas, he noted, the climate agreement is a treaty, and governments are legally bound by its terms, which aim to “put the world on a low carbon, climate resilient pathway.”

“But while these have very different backgrounds,” he said, “there is only one overarching agenda and that is the sustainable development agenda and the question is how we bring these it together.”

Serik Tokbolat of the Baha’i International Community, who moderated the meeting, noted that while the two processes indeed have “differing mandates, starting points, and political realities,” there is nevertheless a common understanding now: “That we cannot deliver sustainable development without addressing climate change, and we cannot address climate change without tackling the root causes of unsustainable patterns of development.”

As with previous post-2015 breakfast meetings, the event was co-sponsored by International Movement ATD Fourth World, and a lively, off-the-record conversation among participants followed. Notes of the meeting can be found here.