The Environments of the Poor in the Context of Climate Change and the Green Economy - Making Sustainable Development Inclusive

Closing remarks by Ursula Schaefer-Preuss, ADB Vice President, New Delhi, India

Mr. Kirit Parikh, Member of the Prime Minister's Advisory Council
Mr. Suman Bery, Director General, NCAER, and Advisor to the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council
Ms. Sachiko Yamamoto, Regional Director (Asia Pacific), ILO.

Dear Colleagues:

Thank you very much for your active contributions to this timely conference. While the title of the program is a long one, there is a clear message behind. Let me try to summarize our wide-ranging discussions, findings and recommendations in 6 key messages:

First, poverty in Asia and the Pacific is increasingly related to environmental factors. And climate change is further worsening ecological poverty, because the poor live in marginal areas particularly exposed to hazards. On Wednesday we discussed the geographic areas in which poor people live. Rural poverty is increasingly found in the dryland, upland, coastal, flood affected wetlands, while urban poverty is increasingly related to poor housing and living conditions in congested slums. Continued degradation of the environment, combined with more frequent and intense natural disasters — such as droughts and floods — this figure can be expected to rise further in the coming years. These developments argue strongly for bringing the poverty reduction, climate and environmental agendas closer together. Economic growth in the region needs to be made both inclusive and sustainable from the environmental and social standpoints.

Second, poor and marginalized populations are already adapting to a changing environment through migration, diversification of income, and even modified consumption patterns. However, public adaptation strategies — and also respective programs — need to be more focused and more inclusive.

Third, I was particularly inspired by the speech of the Honorable Minister Ramesh in his opening remarks when he emphasized that we need to change the terms of debate on climate and growth into a public health discussion. Colleagues from WHO, UNICEF, and JICA citied data on increasing respiratory diseases among children, epicenters of cancer because of land degradation and water pollution, heat strokes, and the increase in water born diseases due to more flooding. We discussed in both the health and transport sessions the fact that the poor breathe different air in the cities, where the elderly, children, women , and low income groups are particularly vulnerable.1

Fourth: Climate change has gender and youth dimensions. This conference brought out a few examples highlighting these dimensions. Women have a central role in both adaptation and poverty reduction programs. Women are more affected by climate change because they are more likely to remain in geographical areas where hazards occur. This is one side of the equation. As Honorable Minister Ramesh noted two days ago, for adaptation to become a factor of social change, the power of women must be given greater consideration. I cannot agree more.

Fifth: Conference discussions pointed out that some sector-specific interventions can create strong "triple wins" for the climate, the environment, and poverty reduction mainly through the generation of green jobs. Green jobs developed with poverty and job creation in mind can include labor intensive programs to protect our forests, water and land. The Indian Employment Guarantee Act is a very interesting example of such an approach. It is also worth recalling that, as we have heard, not all green growth is necessarily pro-poor, and that green jobs held by the poor are often dirty ones (such as waste pickers). Such jobs have to be turned into decent green jobs.

Sixth: Private partnerships can contribute to technological and financial solutions to climate change, and help make green growth more pro poor. There were some very stimulating discussions on what the private sector can do to promote climate relevant solutions at the bottom of the pyramid. Collaboration between the public and private sectors through various forms of partnership is the only way to go.

I would wish to highlight the discussions on financing for climate change, the environment and for poverty reduction. The debate on whether or whether not climate change takes money away from the poverty agenda continues to remain without resolution. Looking forward, we should take advantage of better integrating the discussions and strategies for addressing the environment, climate change and poverty reduction.

In the coming days the international media will be filled with stories around the climate talks in Cancun. It is my personal hope that these talks contribute to more sustainable solutions to global, national and local ecological problems aggravated by climate change with "poor people first" — approach.

Let me close my remarks with a concrete suggestion: A few months from now, the Government of India — through TERI and others — will organize the next Delhi Sustainable Development Summit. I think the Summit would benefit greatly by incorporating the learnings of this conference, particularly those focused on how to forge a more inclusive sustainable development path. The Government of India has been a great champion of inclusive growth, and the people of this country are contributing in highly important and influential ways to the thinking, debate, and action on promoting such growth. The Summit provides an ideal high-profile platform for advancing the case for people-centric approaches to addressing the environmental threats confronting our planet. ADB is ready to contribute to this critical endeavor.

I would like to thank all of our partners who made this program possible, especially UNDP, UNEP, ILO, JICA, DFID, AfD, ADBI, the TEEB Network, SANDEE, TERI, CDIA, the Asian Institute of Management, GMS-ECO, and the Energy for All partnership. Special thanks goes to our host country partner institution, NCAER, including Mr. Suman Bery and his team.

Finally, I would like to thank the Honorable Minister Ramesh, Professor Pachauri, and Mr. Parikh and other members of the Government of India for making their valuable time available.

Lastly, I want to thank the participants for their active and energetic engagement in the conference.

Thank you very much.


1 ADB TA-7407 REG: Managing Climate Impacts on Health in Water and Agriculture Sectors and Disaster Risk Reduction. Cofinancing from SIDA, $140,000.