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Climate Action for Sustainable Development: Why joining forces?


Human made climate change poses a major threat
to life on planet earth. A temperature rise of only a few degrees puts
the livelihoods of billions of people at risk. In 2015, world leaders agreed in Paris to
limit global warming to well below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels, and to do their
best to limit it to 1.5°C. In the ‚Paris Agreement‘, countries committed themselves
to self-defined plans and targets in which they commit to climate action – for example
to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, climate activities, which governments
have promised in their national policies and their pledges under the Paris Agreement to
date, are not enough. Even if all promises by all governments are
kept, the world would still be more than 3 °C warmer by the end of the century. It is clear that more action by more actors
is needed. The good news is: Thousands of cities, regions,
and businesses are already committing to reduce their emissions, and to help communities to
adapt to climate change. And their potential is tremendous! For example by using energy more efficiently,
investing in climate-smart infrastructure, and low carbon transport. This is especially the case where all actors
join forces in international initiatives to combat climate change. If all of their commitments are fully implemented,
these climate initiatives have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to
18 Gigatons CO2/year by 2030. An amount close to the 2014 emissions of USA
and China combined. A 2°C pathway may be within reach, and the
gap to a 1.5 pathway may be significantly narrowed. This should be a strong signal for governments,
that achieving the goals set under the Paris Agreement is possible, if they: First, embrace forces with other climate actors and
climate initiatives, and Second, are more courageous to accelarate the implementation
of climate policies This is especially important as climate action
is also vital for sustainable development. Without effective climate action, sustainable
development will be impossible. However, sometimes, climate action can lead
to unintended side effects and trade-offs. In our empirical work on international climate
initiatives we found that: Action for energy efficiency can have multiple
benefits for sustainable development. It can:
*increase energy access and reduce energy expenditure (SDG 1, 7) *improve health (SDG3) *reduce water pollution (SDG 11,12,14,15)
*and increase economic productivity (SDG 8,9) In some cases, however, there can be trade-offs. Some of them eventuate immediately, others
with a delay. Some of the highest risks for trade-offs,
we found in cities. For example, when switching electricity generation
from fossil to alternative sources like hydropower or bioenergy. This may lead to:
*displacements of people living in watersheds as an immediate trade-off (SDGs 1,2,8,11), *water pollution, taking affect rather in a delay (SDG 6) *and reduced access to clean water (SDG 6, 2) and ecosystem services (SDG 15) Overall, effective climate action is imperative
for sustainable development. Even though shortterm negative effects may be necessary to avoid longterm impacts caused by climate change. Hence, all climate actors must be aware of
potential trade-offs of their actions in order to design it with minimal negative effects. We therefore call for an integrated approach
and credible action on both: sustainble development and climate action! *To achieve coherent policies that maximise
synergies between actions that combat climate change and foster sustainable development. *To ensure strong climate partnerships of
diverse actors that contribute to a low-carbon future, and at the same time
to a future that is sustainable and beneficial for all.

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