The UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Land Locked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (OHRLLS) considers the issues pertaining to climate change as paramount to the developmental challenges faced by the most vulnerable groups of countries – LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS. There continues to be the need for greater emphasis to be placed on incorporating climate change into development priorities at the national and regional levels. Likewise, additional resources, earmarked to address climage change issues in the most vulnerable countries is required from the international community.
Least Developed Countries (LDCs) have particular concerns in dealing with the effects of climate change, climate variability and extreme weather events. They are recognised – along with Small Island Developing States – under Articles 4.8 and 4.9 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as being the most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. Article 4, paragraph 9 of the Convention particularly requires that “Parties shall take full account of the specific needs and special situations of the least developed countries in their actions with regard to funding and transfer of technology.”
For the LDCs in Africa and Asia, climate change will result in flooding of low-lying coastal areas, increased water scarcity, decline in agricultural yields and fisheries resources, and loss of biological resources. The IPCC has predicted that yields from rain-fed agriculture in Africa could be reduced by as much as 50% by 2020. Water shortages and the shrinking of land suitable for agriculture would cause other social and political disruptions, including forced migration and conflict.
Compared to other developing countries, LDCs emit relatively small amounts of greenhouse gases, the main cause of global warming and climate change. However, LDCs are extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change as they lack the necessary resources to adapt. The IPCC (2001) describes the requirements for a high adaptive capacity as follows:
- A stable and prospersous economy;
- A high degree of access to technology at all levels;
- Well deliniated roles and responsibilities for implementation of adaptation strategies;
- Systems for the national, regional and local dissemination of climate change and adaptation information;and
- An equitable distribution of access to resources.
Clearly, LDCs do not meet these requirements, which speaks to their low adaptive capacity.
The international community has recognised the vulnerability of LDCs to climate change and their low adaptation capacity. This is evident in the Marrakech Accords where a special LDC Fund has been established for the purpose of assisting LDCs to adapt to climate change.
According to the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), most of the anticipated climate change effects would be felt across teh African continent, which contains 34 LDCs. The IPCC concluded that:
- Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to climate change and climate variability – a situation aggravated by the interaction of multiple stresses occurring at various levels, and including low adaptive capacities;
- Current adaptations to climate change and variability in farming may not necessarily be sufficient for future changes of climate;
- Agricultural production and food security in many African countries and regions will most likely be severely compromised by climate change;
- Climate change will aggravate the current state of water stress that is present in some African countries, and will place other African countries at a higher risk of the same, owing to alterations in water resources as a consequence of climate change and climate variability;
- Changes in the structure and composition of ecosystems are taking place at a rate that was not anticipated;
- Climate change and sea-level rise could result in the inundation of low-lying coastal areas and settlements;
- Human health could be further negatively impacted by climate change and climate variability – as evidenced by occurrence of maliaria in Southern Africa and the East African highlands.
Over 70% of the population in LDCs resides in rural areas and is dependent on income from agriculture. People in LDCs are therefore more exposed than those in other countries to the effects of land degradation, drought, desertification, deforestation, as well water and air pollution, which are associated with climate change. The effect of climate change on agriculture is likely to deprive large sections of the population in LDCs of their livelihoods, condemning them to perpetual poverty.
The Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) have specific needs and problems due to their disadvantaged geographical location: lack of coastline to the sea, remoteness and isolation from major international markets and high transport costs. They are distributed throughout Asia, Africa, Latin America and represent 10 percent of the total population of the world in development. They are approximately 350 million people, and represent about 40 percent of the population living on less than one dollar a day according to recent statistics. The LLDCs are among the countries most marginalized in the global economy. The economic performance of landlocked developing countries
reflects the direct and indirect impact of their geographical situation on their economic and social development. For these reasons, the LLDCs are among the poorest of the developing countries with weak economic growth, as evidenced by the fact that of the 31 LLDCs 16 are classified as LDCs.
LLDCs continue to face significant challenges related to climate change. For instance, LLDCs experienced increased deforestation between 2000 and 2010, with five LLDC countries experiencing a decrease in their forest coverage of more than 25 percent. Furthermore, climate change has exacerbated desertification and loss of biodiversity and is having a negative impact on transport infrastructure. LLDCs are also vulnerable and highly sensitive to natural disasters.
The Almaty Ministerial Declaration (2012) called for international support to address the negative impacts of climate change on the availability of natural resources, in particular water and arable land. Furthermore, the Declaration underscored that climate change adaptation and acess to climate friendly technology have become priority issues for many LLDCs. The international community needs to adopt and implement pertinent measures that aid LLDCs, consistent with the UNFCCC commitments, to adjust to the impacts of climate change. The transfer of green technologies is vital to the efforts of LLDCs to adapt to climate change and the Astana Green Bridge Partnership Programme is vital in this regard. LLDCs, being heavily reliant on the agricultural sector will require the means to climate-proof this vital area in order to achieve progress towards food security.
Small Island Developing States (SIDS) – for the most part – have common economic concerns. They are typically more vulnerable to internal and external shocks such as social conflict, extreme climatic events, reliance on few and distant markets, heavy reliance on a handful of industries such as tourism and fisheries, heavy dependency on imported petroleum products, low levels of foreign direct investment, vast distances to markets and a handful of trading partners.
Why is climate change so important to SIDS? The climate of SIDS is greatly influenced by large oceanic and atmospheric interactions that includes trade winds, El Niño and monsoons while tropical cyclones are also important components of the climate alongside the impacts of sea-level rise. The particular climatic conditions in combination with socio-economic vulnerabilities ensures that SIDS are amongst the most vulnerable countries when it comes to adapting to the adverse effects of climate change. While for the time being SIDS are heavily reliant on fossil fuels, they account for less than one percent of global green house gas (GHG) emissions.
These small nations are amongst the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and indeed the international community at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 acknowledged the special case of the vulnerabilities of SIDS. While these countries are the least responsible for climate change, they are likely to suffer most from the adverse effects and could in some cases become uninhabitable.
The Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of SIDS (BPoA) and the Mauritius Strategy for the further Implementation of the BPoA (MSI), guide the implementation of sustainable development in SIDS and both explicitly recognise the threat that climate change poses to SIDS. Recommendations on actions to be taken to help SIDS adapt which were suggested in the BPoA are strengthened in the Mauritius strategy and include:
- Greater energy efficiency and development of renewable energy sources;
- Dissemination of new technologies and ideas to SIDS;
- Raising the scientific capacities of SIDS with the support of the IPCC; and
- Greater investment in monitoring of global and local climate changes.
Although Small Island Developing States vary in their geography, climate, culture and stage of economic development, they have many common characteristics which highlight their vulnerability, particularly as it relates to sustainable development and climatic change. These characteristics include:
- Limited physical size, which effectively reduces some adaptation options to climate change and sea-level rise (e.g., retreat; in some cases entire islands could be eliminated, so abandonment would be the only option);
- Generally limited natural resources, which are, in many cases, already heavily stressed from unsustainable human activities;
- High susceptibility to natural hazards such as tropical cyclones (hurricanes) and
associated storm surge, droughts, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions;
- Relatively thin water lenses that are highly sensitive to the sea-level changes; in some cases, relative isolation and great distance to major markets;
- Extreme openness of small economies and high sensitivity to external market shocks, over which they exert little or no control (low economic resilience);
- Generally high population densities and in some cases high population growth
- Frequently poorly developed infrastructure (except for major foreign exchange earning sectors such as tourism).
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