Marching into May talks: LDCs lead the way on climate change

Guest post by
Blogs, 4 May 2017

The world's poorest countries champion long-term, emissions-neutral development strategies, and several are leading by example. Ahead of the UN climate talks, the LDC Group chair reflects on recent marches.

Thousands of scientists attended the March for Science in Washington D.C. to protest against political attacks on climate science and evidence-based research. Similar protests were held in over 600 cities around the world (Photo: Adam Fagen, Creative Commons via Flickr)

The protest marches across Europe and the United States in support of science (22 April) and climate justice (29 April) are welcome signs for the world's poorest countries that the vital issue of climate change has not been forgotten. Action on climate change is right, necessary and makes economic sense.  

I am a meteorologist by training and come from Ethiopia. I also chair the group of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in the UN climate change negotiations. The 48 LDCs are the poorest nations on earth. The nearly one billion people living in LDCs already experience the impacts of climate change in our daily lives. We've done the least to cause this problem and yet we will suffer its worst impacts.  

LDCs span the continents of Africa and Asia, and include small low-lying islands and nations in mountainous and coastal areas – all of which are particularly vulnerable to climate change. 

Our countries are characterised by low levels of development, severe financial constraints and limited institutional capacity. Developing sustainably to meet the needs of our people is challenging. Climate change exacerbates these challenges, significantly limiting our efforts to reduce poverty and hunger, build up our infrastructures and cities, and make strides to promote the health and education of our people.

However, LDCs are among the countries leading the actions to combat climate change. Ethiopia is one of more than 20 countries that have pledged to put forward a long-term, carbon neutral sustainable development pathway. 

The ambitious Climate Resilient Green Economy strategy aims to reach net zero emissions and lift Ethiopia from LDC status by 2025. Bhutan has been committed to remaining carbon neutral since 2010. And Tuvalu has pledged to generate 100 per cent of its electricity from renewables by 2025. 

The LDCs act not only because it is right to do so, but because it makes economic sense. Investing in emissions-intensive infrastructure and locking in high-carbon pathways will not inspire economic growth in the long term – and increasingly, it will not produce growth in the short term.

Economic development must be sustainable and climate-resilient development – which is best for people and the natural resources they depend on. It is the way of the future. Those who are not on board with this transition will lose out.  

More countries need to come forward with long-term, emissions-neutral development strategies, which align with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

This is the message the LDC Group will take to the UN climate change negotiations, which start in Bonn, Germany next week until 18 May. I look forward to joining my voice to those of the marches as the negotiations begin on Monday.  

Gebru Jember Endalew is chair of the Least Developed Countries Group at the UNFCCC.