Climate and Sustainable Development


Climate change is fundamentally intertwined with development. On the one hand sustainable and low-carbon development is necessary to mitigate greenhouse gasses, and prevent dangerous climate change. On the other hand, the impacts of climate change often have detrimental effects on sustainable development and the well-being of communities, in particular in developing countries.

Climate action on mitigation and adaptation, through ‘co-benefits’ can potentially increase resilience in developing countries and stimulate sustainable growth. Galvanizing the Groundswell of Climate Action’s work stream on sustainable development and climate action aims to (1) promote climate action that also benefits resilience and sustainable development in developing countries; (2) strengthen developing countries’ leadership and participation in climate action; (3) link sustainable development and climate processes at every level, local, national, transnational, and multilateral. 



(1) Promoting climate action with resilience and sustainability

Increasing the visibility of climate action in the Global South

Many activities are taking place in developing countries, however, at international venues (such as the COP, and other climate conferences), these activities are often scarcely represented. Moreover, many actions may not be internationally known, leading to the perception that climate action by non-state and sub-national actors is mostly led by, and taking place in developed countries. GGCA will aim to showcase climate action in the global South and led by sub-national and non-state actors based in the global South. (A possible course of action is to argue for the continuation and the expansion of initiatives such as Momentum for Change).

Making information accessible on climate actions in developing countries

Currently, information on climate actions in the global South is scattered and not systematically collected. This inhibits the sharing of lessons learned and the scaling up of particularly effective climate actions, e.g. across different countries and regions. (A possible course of action is to create a website or page dedicated to climate action in the South, listing and providing information on scalable best practices in developing countries, possibly in the form of a database.)


(2) Strengthening developing countries’ leadership and participation in climate action

Supporting climate action initiatives led by actors in the global South

The best way to make climate action “work” for the global South is for Southern cities, businesses, civil society groups, and governments to design and launch climate action initiatives. The vast majority of climate initiatives are designed and headquartered in the global North, even though numerous actors from the global South participate in them and help to shape their activities. Initiatives like the Southern Climate Partnerships Incubator are helping to fill this gap, and should be scaled up and strengthened. While there is a critical need to increase the leadership and ownership of Southern actors on global climate action, the focus should not only be on initiatives that are solely operating in developing countries, and only with developing country based actors; it should rather emphasize complementary and mutually beneficial roles of actors from the global North and South within the same actions. Topics such as investment and climate finance are important and interesting to both North and South based actors. 

Understanding opportunities and challenges to climate action across the global South

There are very few studies that focus on non-state and sub-national climate action in the South, therefore knowledge is scattered and difficult to generalize. This limits the possibility to detect opportunities to roll out action across the global South. Moreover, the knowledge should be specified for specific (types of) developing countries. For instance, small island development states probably need significant investments in infrastructure to adapt to higher sea levels, while emerging economies have greater opportunity to ‘leapfrog’ towards a low-carbon economy, skipping dirtier development paths other countries have taken before them. (A possible course of action is to conduct both case studies and large-N studies.)

Track climate actions in terms of their effectiveness and benefits to communities in developing countries.

The few studies that concentrate on the ‘effectiveness’ of climate action are primarily concerned with their mitigation potential; much less attention has been given to e.g. the number of livelihoods improved, income effects, risk reduced, etc. (A possible course of action is to track climate actions in the global South, observing regularly whether and how they implement, and to which extent they contribute to sustainable development.)

Additional knowledge gaps

Particularly relevant questions for climate actions in the global South are:

  • How to engage small and medium enterprises – that make the bulk of economic activities in most developing countries?
  • How to engage state owned enterprises that play a big role in some of the emerging economies?
  • How to build capacity for climate action in developing countries?


(3) Linking multilateral and national sustainability and climate processes that engage all actors

Linking (I)NDCs and climate actions

Climate actions could help governments of developing countries to implement their NDCs and create room for improvements in progressive cycles of national target setting, both regarding adaptation and mitigation. (A possible course of action is to organize regional and national forums for national policy makers and representatives of climate action.)

Linking global sustainable development and climate policy processes

Both the 2030 Development Agenda as well the climate agenda are moving towards implementation. Sustainability and climate actions could play a major role in the implementation of both agendas. International organizations – in particular the UN – could support and promote actions by sub-national and non-state actors through a range of measures; e.g. mobilizing actors in support of sustainable development goals. The multiplicity of measures employed by the UN (platforms, summits, side-events, forums, etc.) should be mutually supportive to ensure greater effectiveness. (A possible course of action is to advice different ‘orchestrators’ to get together to combine efforts on sustainable development and climate change).