Climate Change, Global Poverty, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
The UN’s post-2015 sustainable development agenda focuses on addressing global issues relating to the 5Ps — People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, Partnership — through 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets. In terms of climate change, the UN has pledged its commitment to taking urgent action so that the planet can support the needs of the present and future generations.
While so far action on climate change has not lived up to previous global targets, there has been a lot of progress over the last 30 years in the global fight against extreme poverty. For the first time, the World Bank forecast that global poverty will fall below 10% by the end of 2015, but admits that major barriers remain in reaching the number one 2030 goal of eradicating extreme poverty. One of these barriers is climate change, which tends to have a more adverse impact on those living in poverty. As World Bank President Jim Yong Kim put it:
“ . . . This new forecast of poverty falling into the single digits should give us new momentum and help us focus even more clearly on the most effective strategies to end extreme poverty. It will be extraordinarily hard, especially in a period of slower global growth, volatile financial markets, conflicts, high youth unemployment, and the growing impact of climate change . . .”
Climate change is a particularly acute problem in the war against extreme poverty given that most extreme poverty remains concentrated in sub-saharan Africa and South Asia; these regions are largely dependent on commodity exports and lack access to advanced power and transportation infrastructure, and are therefore particularly vulnerable to climate impacts such as increased drought or extreme weather. Moreover, without the strong economic growth trajectories of other parts of the world, these regions seem poised to continue to face adversity from climate change.
What is to be done?
The best way to manage climate change risks is to take a two-pronged approach that includes mitigation and adaptation. To help address both, 501Carbon and our partners are engaged in building agricultural waste-to-energy plants in two of the world’s most vulnerable regions: southeast Africa and South Asia. These projects are designed to do three things: First, foster economic development by creating jobs and building new markets for agricultural waste streams. Second, decrease GHG emissions by preventing methane (a powerful greenhouse gas) emissions from decaying farm waste. And third, improve soil — and crop — quality by enriching soil with fertilizer created using waste-to-energy plant byproducts.
In our small way, we believe that 501Carbon is doing its part to achieve the UN's 2030 SDGs. We hope to demonstrate that poverty and climate change (as well as other SDGs) can be addressed simultaneously, with projects that take existing practices, such as agriculture, and create more economic value while mitigating and adapting to climate change. The practice of producing renewable energy and fertilizer from agricultural waste has the potential for enormous impacts, particularly in the most poverty-stricken regions.
501Carbon will continue to further its efforts in the development of biomass energy projects through our partner, EnMassEnergy. Stay tuned for some exciting news as EnMass prepares to launch a new website and accelerate its project development work.