Last week, New York was inundated once again with heads of state, civil society leaders, billionaires, corporations, finance institutions, philanthropists and activists all gathering around a UN session on the Millenium Development Goals (MDG’s) – a set of objectives to increase the wellbeing of people hardest hit by poverty, disease, natural disasters, and lack of education.

I spent most of the week dashing between the Clinton Global Initiative, The Mashable Social Good Summit, and Climate Week NYC to partake in talks and panels by the some of the biggest players in the climate world.

In 2010 climate change has, in a sense, left the nest. For decades climate discussions were defined within an environmental context, but it has become abundantly clear that climate change is not only our greatest environmental issue, it is also may be our greatest human rights issue.

The World Bank now estimates that as many as 2 billion people will lack sufficient drinking water by mid-century as a result of climate change, with 100-400 million people experiencing severe poverty. A new report by GCCA and Realizing Rights delves into the interconnection between poverty and climate change. 

I was able to catch Andrew Steer of the World bank who spoke eloquently about the convergence of climate and the MDG’s (video to be posted soon):

"In today’s world if you care about poverty, you care about climate change. Developing countries will bear more than ¾ impacts of climate change and they are the least equipped to deal with it. Even with tough mitigation efforts... 1-2 billion people will no longer have enough water to meet their needs."

Andrew went on to describe how climate mitigation has now become the top priority of nearly every developing nation in the war on poverty. In 2000-2005 only 1/4 countries that received support from the World Bank had climate strategies in place. In the past few years that figure went up to 2/3. And in the last 12 months 88% of developing nations engaged with the World Bank have made climate change mitigation a policy cornerstone.

He also laid out what needs to happen next to make a real difference in the escalating impacts of climate change:

  1. The $30 billion in fast track funding promised at Copenhagen needs to be honored
  2. The role of forests in carbon markets needs to determined 
  3. There needs to be more momentum in accounting agriculture's role in climate and soil carbon
  4. Energy efficiency & renewable energy investments need to continue
  5. Carbon markets need to be reformed and extended (including forests)
  6. Broad principles of financial architecture for financing climate change mitigation must be agreed
  7. Need to leverage public funds to attract private investment
The last point ended the the talk on an optimistic note. Mr. Steer cited a remarkable 1:10 leveraging of public funding in the cleantech sector. One public cleantech fund of $4 billion attracted $40 billion in private equity in under 12 months.

It's clear progress is happening even without a global climate treaty, but the question is will it happen fast enough?

Poverty and Climate Change converge at MDG week in New York
Climate change now emerging a core issue in the fight to end poverty.