• Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

Why Action on climate change could be the key to reinvigorating the movement to eradicate poverty

ByLouis Fenner

Feb 2, 2024
image of climate change protestors holding signs

The end of the 20th-century was a time of significant global change. Following the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of the USSR, the stark ideological divide between East and West which had dominated the preceding decades was all but destroyed. This would precipitate a fundamental shift in how donor communities would justify and structure their aid and development programs. The basis for many of the existing programs, ensuring countries remained on the right side of the political divide, was no longer applicable and the reassessment of these programs invigorated global movements on a range of issues in the 1990s. Global Conferences on “Education for All”, “Population and Development” and “World Food” would lay down the framework for International Development Targets, from which governments such as Tony Blair’s New Labour, could fashion programs for international development.  Development programs, freed from the ideological split of east vs. west, were able to thrive. Global poverty rates would subsequently fall by more than half between 1990 and 2008 from 37.8% to just 18.8% (World Bank). 

This is a world that is distant from the one we have today. The rise of China, 2008 financial crash and failed, illegal wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, have undermined the supremacy of liberal free-market economics, returning us to a more closed off and ideologically divided world. In the UK, commitments to spending 0.7% of GDP on aid have been dropped, Trump in the US represents the new wave of isolationist American politics, while climate change threatens to move an additional 130 million people into poverty in the next ten years (World Bank). In this transformed global landscape, the challenge is to rekindle the momentum in the movement to eradicate poverty. 

This is a challenge I believe can be resolved by placing the issue of poverty as central to the debates around climate. International action on climate and conferences such as COP, although like everything else still riddled with geopolitics (particularly if Donald Trump is re-elected), offer some opportunity to cut through the ideological division which has taken the air out of the movement against poverty. John Kerry, US Presidential Envoy, stated before COP late last year that; “climate cooperation with China should be a standalone issue, separate from their disputes.” Action on climate change could provide both the resources and more importantly effective international structures that will be required to combat poverty. Joe Biden’s $1 billion infusion to the U.N. Green Climate Fund, made in April last year, only represents a small amount of money that is going into combatting this global issue. In a world where aid and development is so entangled within debates over “soft power”, with the concept of a “debt trap” being all too familiar. Placing poverty as a core issue within the climate debate seems to be the only solution to both getting momentum back into the movement to eradicate poverty and preventing the inevitable devastating impact that changes to our climate are and will have on the world’s poorest.

Cop 27 Climate Justice Demonstration” by Tim Dennell is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.