720 million will return to poverty in the climate crisis

24 September 2015

720 million people may fall back into extreme poverty unless we begin to tackle climate change immediately, according to a new report published by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) today.

The report, launched as world leaders gather this week at the United Nations General Assembly to agree ‘Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)’ for 2030, found that the eradication of extreme poverty is achievable if radical approaches are adopted, but cannot be maintained without a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions peak in 2030, and a fall to near zero by 2100.¹

Speaking at Climate Week, which runs in parallel with SDGs in New York, author Ilmi Granoff said “Unchecked, climate change could begin drawing up to 720 million people back into extreme poverty just as we approach the 2030 zero poverty goal.² Poverty eradication cannot be maintained without deep cuts from the big GHG emitters.” ³

The report ‘Zero poverty, zero emissions. Eradicating extreme poverty in the climate crisis’ outlines how ‘low emission’ growth is both necessary for, and compatible with, poverty eradication. ⁴

Notes to editors

1.       Nearly all the IPCC’s mitigation scenarios indicate that the global economy must reach zero net emissions before the century’s end to hold the global mean temperature rise to less than 2oC, the limit beyond which the world will face ‘dangerous anthropogenic interference’ (UNFCCC 2009). 

2.       This estimate factors in only the most quantifiable impacts on the world’s extreme and moderately poor during the period 2030-2050 in a business-as-usual scenario, heading toward 3.5oC mean temperature change by the century’s end.

3.       It is policy incoherent for big GHG emitting countries, especially industrialised ones, to support poverty eradication as a development priority, whether through domestic policy or international assistance, while failing to shift their own economy toward a zero net emissions pathway. The costs of adaptation simply become implausible beyond 2oC.

4.       The achievement of global zero net emissions require action by countries across all levels of development and is compatible with poverty eradication. In the regions of the world home to the extreme poor, studies show that most emissions reductions necessary by 2030 can enhance growth by anywhere between 1.4% and 3.9%.