Beyond its tangible effects on the natural world, climate change also sets limits on economic growth and social development. Elliot Harris, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development and Chief Economist at the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), warns that the UN can identify risks and provide frameworks, but action must come from member-states.
"I think climate change exacerbates some of the socio and economic factors that can lead to tension in societies, tension between societies and that tension, if unresolved, can sometimes unfortunately lead up to conflict. It affects the basic background, the foundations of economic growth. It affects the livelihoods of people. Unfortunately it affects primarily and immediately the livelihoods of those who are most vulnerable in societies. And it sets a limit on the long term growth and development potential, especially in terms of sustainable development, because it continues to undermine the factors that we need for sustainability.
And so I think it's really very important that the international community focus on this potential threat that emanates from climate change. It's not only the environmental consequences, but it speaks to socio and economic development potential that is being actively damaged by the climate change developments that we see going on. I think the UN has the capacity to do analysis that identifies where the risks lie. And that points out to governments what types of steps and measures can be taken to minimize the risk. We spend a lot of time trying to prepare countries to reduce the risk of disaster.
The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction is an important tool in our arsenal of measures that we can help with. But the fact remains that action has to happen on the ground. It is up to the governments supported by partners, supported by civil society, supported by stakeholder communities to take the steps that are necessary to minimize the risks to respond to the dangers of climate change. And I do think that while we can provide guidance, we can provide experience from other countries, we can exchange lessons of good practice, the action itself has to come from the member states. It cannot be done centrally and globally on behalf of all."