IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

10.7 Implications for sustainable development

Chapter 20, Section 20.1 of this volume uses the succinct definition of the Bruntland Commission to describe sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Sustainable development represents a balance between the goals of environmental protection and human economic development and between the present and future needs. It implies equity in meeting the needs of people and integration of sectoral actions across space and time. This section focuses mainly on how the impacts of projected climate change on poverty eradication, food security, access to water and other key concerns described above will likely impinge on the pursuit of sustainable development in Asia. In most instances, the reference to sustainable development will be confined to a specific country or sub-region, primarily due to the existing difficulty of aggregating responses to climate change and other stressors across the whole of Asia.

10.7.1 Poverty and illiteracy

A significant proportion of the Asian population is living below social and economic poverty thresholds. Asia accounts for more than 65% of all people living in rural areas without access to sanitation, of underweight children, of people living on less than a dollar a day and of TB cases in the world. It accounts for over 60% of all malnourished people, people without access to sanitation in urban areas and people without access to water in rural areas (UN-ESCAP, 2006). Most of the world’s poor reside in South Asia and, within South Asia, the majority resides in rural areas (Srinivasan, 2000). Greater inequality could both undermine the efficiency with which future growth could reduce poverty and make it politically more difficult to pursue pro-poor policies (Fritzen, 2002).

Coupled with illiteracy, poverty subverts the ability of the people to pursue the usually long-term sustainable development goals in favour of the immediate goal of meeting their daily subsistence needs. This manifests in the way poverty drives poor communities to abusive use of land and other resources that lead to onsite degradation and usually macroscale environmental deterioration. In the absence of opportunities for engaging in stable and gainful livelihood, poverty stricken communities are left with no option but to utilise even the disaster-prone areas, unproductive lands and ecologically fragile lands that have been set aside for protection purposes such as conservation of biodiversity, soil and water. With climate change, the poor sectors will be most vulnerable and, without appropriate measures, climate change will likely exacerbate the poverty situation and continue to slow down economic growth in developing countries of Asia (Beg et al., 2002).