Towards zero carbon and zero poverty

integrating national climate change mitigation and sustainable development goals

By Tara Caetano, Harald Winker & Joanna Depledge 

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In the historic year of 2015, 196 Parties came together under the Paris Agreement in a commitment that may well transform their development trajectories, including to limit warming to ‘well below’ 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to ‘pursue’ efforts towards 1.5°C. In the same year, all United Nations Member States adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030 (UN, 2015). The combined vision of the SDGs and the Paris Agreement is ambitious: Achieving the Paris temperature goals requires rapid and deep decarbonization to achieve net zero CO2 emissions around 2050 (IPCC 2018), while SDG 1 is to ‘end poverty in all its forms everywhere’ (UN, 2015). In order to reach these ambitious goals of carbon neutrality and sustainable development- zero carbon and zero poverty – underlying developments paths must change (Cohen et al., 1998; Robinson et al., 2006; Altieri et al., 2016; Bataille et al., 2016; La Rovera et al., 2015; Michaelowa et al., 2018).

Despite global agreement on the need for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to rapidly decrease (IPCC, 2018; UNFCCC, 2015: Art 4.1) to achieve the zero carbon goal, climate change policies at the national level are not being implemented at the pace and scale required, leading to frustration among vulnerable groups, youth and local governments, many of which are at the forefront of transformative change. Fears over perceived high costs often constitute a primary barrier to strong national policies (Karlsson et al., 2020). Such cost concerns tend to overlook the co-benefits of climate mitigation policy, including for achieving the SDGs, in such areas as health (SDG 3), air quality (SDG 11), the local environment (SDG 11, 15), energy security (SDG 7), and others (Karlsson et al., 2020). Such co-benefits, as already documented in better-researched fields such as health and air quality, often equal or surpass the cost of mitigation, but tend not to be considered in decision-making processes, which leads to socially and environmentally inefficient policies (Karlsson et al., 2020). Co-benefits are just one of the ways in which climate policy and sustainable development are interlinked, with strong synergies (and, at times, potential trade-offs) along many dimensions. How best to integrate climate change mitigation and sustainable development goals into coherent national development and mitigation pathways, in the context of diverse political, economic and social circumstances, provides the focus of this special issue of Climate Policy.

This Guest Editorial introduces the papers to the special issue. It begins with a brief summary of each paper, before drawing out some of the key themes that run through the collection, centred on the concept of policy integration.

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With best wishes,

Miguel SaldiviaEditorial Assistant, Climate Policy Journal

Climate Policy is a leading international peer-reviewed academic journal, publishing high-quality research and analysis on all aspects of climate change policy, including adaptation and mitigation, governance and negotiations, policy design, implementation and impact, and the full range of economic, social and political issues at stake in responding to climate change. It provides a platform for new ideas, innovative approaches and research-based insights that can help advance climate policy in practice.

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