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Opting for Sustainable Development

By Danica Marie Supnet

What is sustainable development?  How can we relate it to climate financing?

I am now sitting with over a hundred participants in Central Jakarta, Indonesia. From senior officials from finance and planning ministries of different countries in Asia to international non-government organizations, civil society organizations, and development partners I am here at the Asia-Pacific Regional Forum on Climate Change Finance and Sustainable Development to take part in development of key messages for countries to take forward in the context of Sustainable Development.

A quick read of the Brundtland report (1987), Our Common Future, defined sustainable development as “development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs—an envisioned action due to the accelerating deterioration of the human environment and natural resources and the consequences of that deterioration for economic and social development[1].” This definition reinforces the targeted paradigm shift from Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) through a shared vision of where we want to see the world in terms of economic, social, environmental, and governance.

It is the second day of the event, so far, I have no answers. As a matter of fact, I have more questions.

How do we scale up to this agenda?

It is emphasized in the forum that this year, 2015, the global development community will leverage an agreement of sustainable development agenda and associated SDGs achieving economic development that changes direction away from a “business-as-usual” focus to a more socially inclusive and environmental friendly[2]. Furthermore, the crucial issue is stressed on understanding SDG’s connection to climate change finance.

Plenary discussions revolved around country specific practices in utilizing and accounting climate finance –public and private, domestic and international fund flows—that have been effective in both meeting the climate goals as well as contributing to sustainable development.

Interesting discussions include tools and mechanisms; such as the Climate Public Expenditure and Institutional Reviews (CPEIR), Adaptation Finance Accountability Initiative (AFAI), etc. that were (can be) adapted by countries (including the Philippines) to mainstream climate change into the budgeting and planning process. Also, there are presentations from development organizations centered on thoughts of an effective public and private budget and financing lens sharing. The most important among the discussions is the strong action of ensuring that these climate change funds are utilized for effective programs and projects that meets the needs of the most vulnerable.

Recalling the conversations with the different participants during “buzz group” sessions and the “South-South Pasar”[3]; the government officials (ministries) and development dignitaries tandem is seen as the most important key players to strengthen public-and private finance partnership to ensure that the focus are achieved.

The fixation of the discussions on the top down international and national perspectives is a subtle indication of the forum’s limitations. The roles of civil society organizations, academic institutions, and stakeholders in the planning and implementation processes were not discussed in the magnitude they deserved. In essence, capacity building should be in line with the tenets of sustainable development and the country’s national agenda on climate change. Furthermore, the call for action is critical in engaging multisector key players.

An end to poverty and increase environmental justice?
The long road to optimal sustainable development is an on-going construction. Every country and institutions are continuously testing and improving modalities that might help in achieving these goals, the rest is still uncertain.  As one of the speakers said, “We could be the first to end poverty but may be the last generation to save the earth.”



[1] World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987. Our Common Future. Oxford: Oxford University Press
[2] Asian-Pacific Regional Forum on Climate Change Finance and Sustainable Development. September 1-3, 2015 Jakarta, Indonesia
[3] “South-South” means triangular discussion. “Pasar” means market place in Bahasa. South-South Pasar is a session set-up like a market place wherein participants showcase their success stories and products