Addressing the vulnerability of the poor to climate change: a systemic inquiry

addressing vulnerability poor climate changeThis 15th of January 2015, Verteego attended the conference ‘Addressing the vulnerability of the poor to climate change: a systemic inquiry’, organized in Paris by the Chaire Développement Durable de Sciences Po, the Chaire Développement Durable de l’Ecole Polytechnique, the Alliance Program, and Columbia Global Center Paris. This conference, that we found utmost interesting, gathered Shyama V. Ramani as the a main speaker, François Bourguignon as a discussant, and Theresa Ribera as the chair.

Two major issues were raised by Theresa Ribera (Director of IDDRI, former Secretary of State for Climate Change in Spain’s Government): how to finance development, and how to ensure the quality of development.

Shyama Ramani (United Nations University, Founder of the NGO Friend in Need) started her talk with some very striking figures. In 2004, 262 million people were affected by climate-related disasters, and over 98% of them live in developing countries. Today, 62% of Asia still does not have access to sanitation. Access to sanitation or to washing machines for instance, is what Shyama Ramani calls sustainable development and vulnerability to climate change indicators. Shyama Ramani thinks, in order to solve these problems in a climate-friendly way, we need to address them in a systemic way. Systemic meaning that all stakeholders must be involved, including nature and the poor themselves. However, a lot can be ‘lost in translation’ in terms of both language and people. From the United Kingdom to India, from universities to villages, all parties must be included, must understand the climate discourse, and must find an interest in climate change mitigation.

François Bourguignon (Paris School of Economics, former chief economist at the World Bank) then addressed the topic from a more macro-economic point of view. Using the notion of EDEI (Equally Distributed Equivalent Income, which is the level of income that would lead to the observed level of social welfare if it were distributed equally in the population) François Bourguignon demonstrated that the cost to climate change is higher in poor countries than in rich ones. François Bourguignon concluded that to reach the 2-4°C reduction objective, the world will need some severe mitigation in developing countries; which is likely to generate significant additional cost.

At Verteego we really enjoyed listening to Shyama Ramani’s feedback on her field work in India, as well as the underlying theory stated by François Bourguignon. Nowadays, climate mitigation is more and more linked to poverty alleviation, and there seems to be a very clear correlation between the two.