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Climate Change and the Most Vulnerable Among Us: Lessons learned from an AVSI project funded by the EU

EU Workshop Climate Change 42514 260x190A workshop was recently organized by AVSI in collaboration with Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei on the impact of climate change on the most vulnerable, especially in developing countries. It was based on lessons learned from a project funded by the European Commission in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, in connection with the Agenda for Sustainable Development. It included examples of climate mitigation projects taken from a report recently published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).


Extreme shifts in the climate could lead to a sharp decrease in agricultural crop yields, the spread of disease, increased conflict and population movements. These consequences will not be limited to the poorest countries given the intense integration of the world’s economic systems and the phenomenon of migration phenomena at the global level.


In light of these possible consequences, the European Commission organized a workshop entitled “How does climate change affect our lives?” on April 17th in Milan, Italy. In order to better understand how to face the predicted consequences of climate change, examples were taken from the current challenges being faced by the Caribbean. The meeting was attended by nearly one hundred people, ranging from students to environmental and energy experts, institutions, organizations as well as businesses interested in the issues of sustainable development and environment. The panel was chaired by Alberto Piatti, President of AVSI Foundation and included experts such as prof. Carlo Carraro, Director of the Climate Change and Sustainable Development program of Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei, Massimo Tavoni, Deputy Coordinator of the Climate Change and Sustainable Development program of Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei, Melika Edquist, researcher at Columbia University, Denis Caton, Director of the Pic Makaya National Park ,Laura Giappichelli, Policy Officer of the European Union Global Climate Change Alliance, and Gerónimo Chotin, from Instituto Dominicano de Desarrollo Integral (IDDI).


While the world works to define the post 2015 Agenda on sustainable development, a recent study carried out by the Columbia University titled “Studies and pilot initiatives to promote environmental sustainability in Dominican Republic and Haiti” provides concrete recommendations based in experience. The study, funded by the EU and implemented by AVSI, shows that development programs in areas of climate-related disasters must include an environmental dimension along with the social and economic dimension in order to prevent the risks posed by climate change. 


Decreasing the effects of climate change means providing services and opportunities like education while addressing energy poverty. Strengthening a community’s ability to adapt and to be resilient as well as a turning global attention toward human development is key.


After an introduction by Alberto Piatti, Carlo Carraro opened the debate by explaining how climate change impacts the international and financial relations among states as much as the environment:


Climate change is a matter of economic development everywhere; therefore it is related to poverty, and to the needs of developing countries and the developed world. There is an ethical dimension involving cooperation among countries which is crucial to taking effective action both on climate change and global development”.


Massimo Tavoni presented data and analysis on the issue of energy poverty. There are 3 billion people in the world that engaged in a negligible amount of energy consumption because of lack of access, including most of Africa and Asia. Roughly 800 million people are responsible for 55% of total energy consumption. Providing universal and efficient energy access to those 3 billion people would only increase global energy by around 10%, but would have a dramatic effect on the lives of the most vulnerable like in Africa. It is important to note that the associated emissions would have a marginal impact on global climate change.


Laura Giappichelli went on to explain the European cooperation policies for poverty reduction and sustainable development found in the 2006 EU Consensus on Development on through the Agenda for Change launched in October 2011. Giappichelli pointed out that the European Union’s financial commitment from now until 2020 has been tripled, demonstrating the EU’s increasing concern about the effects of climate change.


Melika Edquist presented findings and recommendations from her study of AVSI’s project in Haiti and in the Dominican Republic. Her findings have already catalyzed action to reduce the effects of environmental disasters, and highlight the link between migration and environmental conditions. “In Haiti, climate risk is a secondary factor in the cyclical phenomena of migration. Poverty and lack of basic services are the real causes of population’s movements. Implementing effective actions to address these needs is essential in order to break the vicious circle of poverty and natural disasters”.


Finally, Denis Caton made a significant contribution to the debate by presenting the practical example of the Haitian National Park. The EU-AVSI Environmental Sustainability program has a strong connection with the Haitian National Park, and reaches out to 50,000 peasant families whose livelihoods depend on the natural resources of the area.


To conclude the workshop, Alberto Piatti stressed the key role played by development interventions:


In contexts of extreme environmental risk, it is necessary to take actions that protect and encourage the economic livelihood of local people, starting from agriculture. This is the best way to break the vicious circle of poverty and create resilient communities that can face the consequences of natural disasters. Investing in quality education in this area is a top priority. The positive consequences of education will have an immense value in the long run by effectively reducing the dropout rate in rural areas.”


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AVSI's Program Areas: Environment & Energy